I've been thinking about world events, and this may be kind of a deep post, but hear me out.
It all started with a link on a blog to The Death of Johannesburg
blog, detailing how South Africa has crumbled. Scroll down on the blog and take a look
. Tons and tons of pictures of how run down it has become.
Very, very sad.
I remember talking to a South African Christian in 1989 before apartheid ended, and he said that while he didn't agree with apartheid completely, the fact is that the black population couldn't govern themselves.
I thought he was the most racist person on earth. I now think that he certainly was racist, but there was something in what he said.
It wasn't because the population was largely black. Goodness, many cultures can't govern themselves, and we're rapidly becoming one, as I'm about to show if you keep reading this.
But there was something cultural going on in South Africa, which is also going on in Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, and Egypt, and Venezuela, and Brazil, and China, and many nations in the world.
It's called corruption.
Basically, one group seizes the reins of power, and they keep these reins because they want to enrich themselves and their families with it. So bribes become commonplace. Red tape is everywhere. People aren't interested in the betterment of the country as much as they are in the betterment of themselves.
And so, because of that, these countries start rotting. You can see it vividly in South Africa, but you can also see it in other nations where they build huge government projects which are completely unlivable, like that huge tower in North Korea
which no one can work in because it's so bizarre and unsafe. You see it in places where people can work hard and do everything right and still not succeed because the government can easily shut them down on any pretext because they want to protect a relative's business. In this environment, people lose hope, and when you lose hope, the only thing to do is grab for yourself whatever you can.
Life becomes a free for all, where no one is trying to build for the future. We saw this vividly in Kenya, when we were there last summer, and it was heartbreaking. And speaking to Kenyans about the post-election violence, few show any hope that things will be different if the opposition takes over. All you do is transfer power from one tribe to another. But no one is looking after Kenya as a whole. Corruption will still be the name of the game.
I'm not American, but we've studied the founding documents of the United States in our homeschool. This year I've read Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams
, and it's really interesting. Based on her letters to her husband, the second president, the philosophy of the founding fathers is wrestled out and articulated in a very unique way. But her basic premise is that while freedom is necessary, it is impossible without a moral and responsible citizenry. Without that responsibility, democracy will never work.
I've been thinking about that in relation to some of the new democratic experiments we're had lately, with Iraq and Afghanistan and even South Africa. In some countries it has worked well. Some of the former Eastern European countries have become beacons of freedom and good government, and Uganda and other African nations are really trying. But many are not doing well, because they don't have this idea of personal responsibility.
Which leads us back to ourselves. We may not have corruption in the obvious way that many African countries do. But perhaps, as the Adams family said two hundred and thirty years ago, there is something about democracy that can too easily lead to corruption. And it's this.
The essence of corruption is using government for your own personal ends. We see that when government bureaucrats demand bribes, or shut down businesses they don't like.
But while we don't do that in the West, at least not in large numbers, have we not begun to do that through the electoral process? Our elections are based on how we can get the most government largesse without other people getting it. We're trying to get the government to give us money, while preventing them from giving it to anyone else. We're all out for ourselves.
Now what happens when that occurs in a family? We all know families where the twenty-something kid lives in the basement and does absolutely nothing, figuring out how to scam the system, or scam his or her parents. We've known people that Keith went to school with who have been on disability for years, and are trying to get their kids on disability, too. We keep running into them at expensive restaurants or sporting events. Does this help their moral fibre? Do they contribute? Or do they try to get what they can out of other people? And is that a healthy way to be?
We don't like freeloaders in our families. Yet most of us, in some way or another, try to use the electoral system to do the same thing. We want the government to pay for our stuff, but not other people's. We want electoral corruption, not necessarily bureaucratic corruption. And this can rot a country, too.
We won't be able to survive and thrive as a nation or a society if the main focus is on how to get what we can out of other people. The Baby Boomer generation is famous for that, trying to ensure that Social Security stays large, and health care will be paid for, and drug benefits are all theirs, even though this may very well bankrupt the government and the nation will never be able to afford the same things for their own children. But they fight for what they can get for themselves, rather than looking at what is good for the country.
And we do the same thing. So maybe there's a problem with the way our western countries are now set up. Instead of the doctrine that government should do the necessary, and then bud out, leaving citizens to look after themselves, we've now developed the philosophy that government should fix all ills. And if it's the government's fault, it's not yours.
I am not saying the government should not supply any services, or that people should have to completely fend for ourselves. We obviously need a safety net, and government is the most efficient deliverer of some services (public works come to mind).
Yet if there is no incentive for people to work hard to provide for themselves, then something fundamental is missing. God made us to reap what we sow. That is how we learn lessons. In the farming days, if you did not plant, you starved. If you did not harvest, you starved. People learned not to be lazy, which is an important moral lesson, told over and over again in the book of Proverbs.
So we are rotting from within, too. We may not be doing it as graphically as Johannesburg, but we are rotting. And that's not a good thing.
Labels: social issues