Lord Acton’s words, “All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” are often quoted. The sentences that precede that one are less known. Here they are:
“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.”
Since Lord Acton lived from 1834 to 1902, much has occurred since then, a great deal of which validates his warning.
As threats seem to surround us from every direction, gangsters are very much in evidence. Whether they are those in the Chinese government who chose to allow a deadly virus to spread, rogue policemen who misuse their positions, news reporters who sift, choose and outright lie to promote their agenda, or politicians who sit in their luxurious, protected castles looking scornfully down at lives their policies are ruining, gangsters abound.
Every decent human is revolted by the death of George Floyd. Every decent human being is revolted at how that death has been used to excuse looting, violence and anarchy. I think that actually describes most of us. Decent human beings, unfortunately, are not being given attention. If we consider ourselves in that camp, we must struggle against being manipulated by those who aren’t.
In the now-defunct Soviet Union, people knew that the official newspaper, Pravda, was full of lies. We do not have an official newspaper or news organization in the United States, but we are certainly being fed lies every day. The anger industry serves no productive purpose. The evidence of our eyes that shows us hard-working, good Americans of all backgrounds working and living together in harmony is nowhere to be found in the fractured and hostile picture painted by the elite.
Ancient Jewish wisdom equates acting while one is angry with idol worship. You are allowing an alien entity to control you. Since anger breeds on itself, one of the steps towards maturity is learning to respond to difficulties and even to injustice with a reaction other than anger. Even if we agree with someone’s position, the minute fury enters the conversation, everyone involved has lost. When anger is justifiably felt—and abuse of power is a justifiable cause—it should be accompanied by an internal warning that action is needed, but nothing should be said or done until one’s rational mind is once again in control.
For a protest to be productive, there must be a finite and reachable end goal. Desegregating schools; giving women the vote; and demanding that a foreign policy acknowledges humanitarian aims are all protests that brought results. Yet, much that is objected to today is amorphous. The war on poverty, the war on drugs, and yes, war on income inequality or war on racism do not fit the parameters of having measurable outcomes. That leaves the good intentions behind those wars ready for manipulation by gangsters.
The policeman who, allegedly (let’s remember that in the American system he too must be considered innocent until proven guilty, no matter how overwhelming the evidence) murdered George Floyd has been arrested and will be tried for his crime. Because he was a policeman, his sentence should be greater than that of a civilian who murders, and his partners must be held to account for not stopping him. Police policies need to be continually reassessed. Yet, there are many unanswered questions none of which will be addressed by anger. We do not even know if there is any reason to assume that this policeman’s behavior was racially motivated. Heartbroken people marching peacefully in the streets will not answer the question of why a reprobate cop was still on the beat. Targeting all police for attack only ensures that honorable people are discouraged from joining a police force and evidence shows how reducing police presence has real and deadly consequences. Probing questions about abuse of power, misguided union policies, flaws in psychologically evaluating public servants, corruption and lack of oversight won’t be tackled by shouting slogans and certainly not by destroying neighborhoods.
There have been demands in the past that honest and intelligent individuals must recognize have not led to any improvement. There are many more Black mayors, police chiefs, DAs, principals and teachers and lawyers than there were a few decades ago. With great optimism, the American people elected Barack Obama, largely because of his color rather than in spite of it. The thinking that this would be a path towards viewing every citizen as an American rather than an individual defined by his or her color seems to have been completely wrong. At the close of his presidency, there was more divide in America, not less. As promoted and defined by the elite and the troublemakers, the racial divide in this country is getting worse, not better. Strangely, their pronouncements and edicts are at odds with the camaraderie and friendship that takes place in businesses, churches and neighborhoods all over the land. There is a disconnect between what we are being incessantly told and lectured about and what many decent people of all backgrounds experience.
I cannot imagine any of my Black friends wanting me to excuse violent and immoral behavior by their children any more than I would want them to excuse such behavior in my children. If there are two looters, one white and one black, it would be the epitome of racism to say that because of the color of his skin, one looter’s behavior is acceptable while the other one’s behavior is criminal. There is absolutely no excuse for viciously attacking innocent people or their property. Only very confused individuals think that tolerating, allowing and condoning thuggish behavior will lead to greater amity between human beings.
There are tough and uncomfortable questions that need to be asked and discussed. These include policing and justice, dead-end schools and the parents who want a better future for their children yet continue voting for politicians who crush options to the status quo, the removal of God from society and how that’s working for us, outside agitators and disparate treatment of citizens. None of us have a complete picture; we need each other’s input. Humility, openness to the opinions of others and astute, logical thinking are required to produce any sort of useful answers. Posturing, over-generalizing, uncontrolled anger and self-interest are all impediments. There is much wrong in this country and around the world but there is also much right. Giving control to gangsters, whether through laziness, cowardice or virtue-signaling and allowing them to set an agenda only leads to more suffering and hatred. This is true whether those gangsters are masked or wearing suits or uniforms, tossing bricks at windows or sitting in the halls of academia and power.
Bring wisdom and respectful conversation into your house with
THE THOUGHT TOOLS SET
On Sale This Week
(individual books available by mail or via Kindle)