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This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Essential Lessons for Humans

“One out of one million deviations does not matter; there are still 999,000”.

Recently, on a walk, I contemplated a rope’s structure and integrity. What does it take for a rope to be strong? It takes bringing together thousands of individually weak strands to make one strong, unbreakable rope. While this is a common analogy, bear with me.

Breaking one out of a million strands will be fine if it does not become a cultural trend. In this case, those “strands” are people. Consider a country – a democracy functions much like the rope – people coming together to decide the fate and direction of their country. We can argue the pitfalls of this, one of which is the lack of education of the masses on how delicate things like the economy works, but this is why politicians and media people exist: to explain things in simple terms.

Suppose one of one million people develops the severe sickness of political apathy. This is the breaking away of a single strand; it does not seem anything will change. The country will keep thriving without noticing that one person has given up and does not care about social issues anymore. But the danger isn’t merely one person breaking away; the risk is this apathy spreading in response to bad governance or other issues. If this starts to spread, then we have a problem.

If deviation is considered an anomaly and socially unacceptable behavior, then most people will shame the one person into participating again. But if the tables turn and the culture of apathy becomes widespread, the cohesion of a country is challenged, and the control of the political class increases. Power will then rest more with them than the people, creating a society that looks the other way. The unity of those strands is attacked, and there will be breaks from within and without. After a certain point, each break increasingly becomes fatal until there is no power with the people anymore, and mass looting from the political class becomes inevitable.

The assumption in a country like ours is that the evil we see is particular to us – but we should understand that most people will become corrupt when given absolute power. As John Dalberg-Acton says:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

While I do not fully agree with this, there is great truth in it. Everywhere, at every time, the measure of corruption possible has always correlated with the amount of power wielded by the political class since it’s possible to keep information hidden from the masses and to use force to keep everyone in line. This is possible even in the most advanced democracies in the world. The more the people give up or fight among themselves, the more power the political class will have. In fact, some politicians consciously stoke division as a diversion to keep the people’s eyes away from their corrupt practices.

So, whose fault is it when a country fails? Most people solely blame politicians, but this is a horrible misinterpretation of events. The blame lies with everyone. Much as we can blame politicians for their lack of humanity, we can certainly blame ourselves for not keeping them in check by participating in government, something that profoundly affects our lives.

Thus, each deviation of a single strand is a vote for the structure of evil, chaos, destruction, and degeneration of a country and the world.

Just like each bad behavior from you now is a vote against the future you, each practice of immediate gratification is a vote for an all-consuming and dangerous habit that can ruin relationships, businesses, and your entire stability. So, one cannot pinpoint the moment a person becomes greedy, intemperate, a liar, etc. But a single act can open the door to a road to a journey from which a person may never return, and each action moves them further and weaves them into the path more and more. Each act is one more vote for a structure that may overtake a person someday.

I have had people cry to me that they want to stop a particular destructive habit or another. A habit that began with one free choice – to indulge in this or that, and because of their mental states at the time or the way they are wired, they get hooked almost immediately. The gratification caused by the release of dopamine gets them so high that they begin to hate “normal.” So when did they become addicted? No one knows; it is not a single event but a buildup over a period, and there are many contributing factors. The solution is to vote the other way, too – by practicing what opposes the behavior one wants to counter.

Tyranny grows easily but slowly – do not assume that your good relationship today is immune, that you are immune to losing control, or that your seemingly great country is immune to it. There is a constant push and pull between freedom and slavery, light and darkness, truth and lies, and virtue and vice. If you have attained wisdom, you will see it everywhere – and you will realize that the failure to attain virtue within yourself is a failure that threatens the unity of the collective. The deviation of that single strand – you – is a failure to collect yourself and be in unity and peace within yourself. This is why I say that there is no isolated evil. The inability to cultivate authentic, strong virtues affects the entire community and spreads to the world.

So if you want to be a good citizen, you will be a good person in yourself. You can then spread peace, preach participation and unity, and when you find yourself in leadership, you will manage public funds, be transparent and truthful, and build your portion of the world. If you are good, you have cast your vote for the structure of good.

Series Navigation<< Misconceptions: You Are Free To Live How You Like

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Kenneth C. Alimba

Kenneth C. Alimba is a Catholic who believes that the only RIGHT way to view the world is through the eyes of God - so he spends his life teaching people how to attempt to make this a habit as he tries to do the same.

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