Virtue is a kind of health, beauty and habit of the soul.
Plato, in The Republic
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An earthquake in Turkey killed 11,000 people in 1999. Over half of the structures that were destroyed did not comply with building regulations.
We could see, and do see, that same sort of news around the world and in our own country as well.
Corruption. It is a major problem. Virtue, it follows, is a lost child.
Looking only at the United States, think of how language is used to deceive. Cities like Detroit, states like Illinois and protectorates like Puerto Rico create pension obligations and sell bonds backed by a promise to pay a sum at maturity, then proceed to function in a manner that forecloses their ability to honor their promissory obligations.
In corrupt societies promises mean little and the consequences are great. When one cannot trust, one cannot live freely, in a secure state – commerce freezes, and neighbors are lost, fences go up and conversations cease.
Do you need contemporary examples? I cite a few. New York prison guards helping prisoners escape. A presidential candidate who displays problematic conduct in a number of areas, present and past. The Supreme Court’s legislating when it is not their job to do so. The extraordinary misuse of language such that legitimate difference of opinion become “intolerance,” and even unlawful conduct.
How does this happen?
There are many elements of this but a few in particular stand out. I give you two.
First, the lost of faith makes virtue less common. Why? Because in faith we conceive of the soul. Without faith, without the consciousness of the soul – ethics displaces morality and in ethics one can play “close to the line,” even “go over the line,” and argue one’s way out of the misbehavior, the deception and dishonesty.
Second, when virtue is missing, so too is truth. Missing truth everyone fortifies their position, discourse freezes, friends are found in very small circles only. Pain, isolation, anxiety, apprehension, distrust, depression follow – and life becomes far harder to manage, a greater burden than we were made to carry. In such a climate the future for children and adolescents is drained of meaning, optimism and hope – and marriages and families fail, fracture.
Sadly, in corrupt cultures bravery is rare.
Of course, when governments become corrupt the game changes radically for the worse. I mention only three recent incidents: the Veterans Administration, the IRS, and Benghazi.
We have considerable work to do.
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: if we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.
You really do not want to get to the point of “no return.” Time is of the essence.