Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Peter Webster
“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” – Aristotle
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those that are.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better and the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Selassie
“Whisper networks arise in a vacuum of justice. They alleviate an untenable condition; they do not actually address it.” – Sarah Jeong
“Life comes without a remote! Get up and change it yourself.” – Anon
Rotten apples cause no problems in the wild, they just rot away all by themselves. However, the moment they are put in a barrel with other apples they go to work corrupting the rest of the barrel. The same concept applies with corrupt human beings.
In the wild, it does not matter how bad humans are, they can corrupt but few others. The problem comes when a corrupt human is put in a civil society with other humans.
Unfortunately, the more “civilized” a society, the more difficult it seems to be to prevent that corruption from spreading. Our civility insulates the corrupters and ties our hands.
The situation is further complicated by the normal distribution curve of a population which takes the shape of a bell with 70 per cent making up the main body of the distribution curve and small minorities contributing to the remainder.
When such a distribution curve is applied to leaders and followers in the population, we find that the 70 per cent in the middle are followers while the leaders are in the minority.
The same applies to the good and bad among us where a huge portion of the curve is made up of the basically good but mainly followers, with the remaining corrupt few occupying the fringe.
The frightening implication of this is the leverage or multiplier effect which the few corrupt ones have on the followers and the population as a whole.
Research suggests that leverage to be more than 20:1 highlighting the crucial need to deal with the corrupters. Examples abound in Nature where the major portion of a population, the followers, waits until the leaders have battled and then follow the winner.
For example, micro-organisms in the soil include a small group of effective microorganisms and a small group of harmful microorganisms. These two small groups are engaged in a constant battle with each other while the millions of other microorganisms wait on the sidelines to see which will win.
Civil society’s difficulty in dealing with the corrupt among us is creating an iceberg of corruption, with most of us only seeing the tip.
In every section of our population, a tiny minority of corrupt persons is causing the rest of us much pain and anguish, and we as a whole seem unable or unwilling to do anything about them. Our civility grants such parasites “rights” way beyond what they deserve and insulates them from natural justice. That is, until some (leaders like Duterte) take matters in their own hands.
Many years ago, I visited a beautiful, small town in a country on a neighbouring continent that was a resort satellite for a major city.
It had more swimming pools per capita than anywhere else on earth. The town’s resident population of 5, 000 swelled on weekends and holidays to over 50, 000 providing a great livelihood for the locals.
Conditions in the town then attracted thieves, con men, drug-pushers and pick-pockets along with their lawyers like flies to a honey pot, and the locals seemed helpless in dealing with them.
The result was dwindling tourists on weekends with diminishing livelihoods for the locals until the latter realized that the civilized authorities could not or would not do anything about it and that it was up to them to deal with the situation.
When they were finished, there was a great “wailing and gnashing of teeth” by the very authorities who had not done anything in the first place.
“How could you do that?” was the vain but too late cry. The residents’ message had been loud, clear and effective “Not here!” The town has been essentially free of crime since then and now needs few lawyers.
This could not happen in Barbados. We are too civilized and have too many lawyers to put out of work despite the seeming vacuum in our justice system, which is a contradiction. Round and round we go…
Peter Webster is a retired Portfolio Manager of the Caribbean Development Bank and a former Senior Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture.