We know corruption to mean when elected leaders take bribes to use their power for the briber. We fear corruption because it means instead of doing their jobs, they are using their jobs and their power as a means to an end, which is personal profit.
And the collateral damage is staggering. A politician votes for a new law to protect powerful friends, and they get the equivalent a big power boost — they’re untouchable. A cop takes a bribe to let a drunk driver go home, and that drunk driver then plows through a bus of orphans. A teacher fakes a grade for a new laptop, putting a dumb student ahead of a smart one. The root of injustice is corruption, because we all basically agree on what justice is.
There’s another form of corruption, and this occurs at a more basic level. If instead of using ourselves to perceive reality, we change reality to make ourselves look good, this is a kind of corruption. Denying reality and logic is a corrupt practice. When we fake reality to make ourselves appear good, we cause two problems: (a) we get ahead of someone more competent and (b) we start a practice of denying reality.
This virus of denying reality is what undoes societies. First, it is a gateway to corruption. If appearance matters more than reality, which it does if you can use appearance to get ahead of someone who insists on doing things the right way, people stop doing things the right way — it’s uncompetitive. Second, it makes a society of sick lies and an inability to fix them, because the minute you speak up with the truth, some liar who “appears” to be good will come in and claim you’re a Stalin Hitler and have you killed.
For this reason, when societies start to decay, it’s like a ball rolling downhill, gathering speed. The end comes without announcement but quicker than anyone thinks it will. Even so, it takes centuries or millennia for the first lie to bring about the last lie.
There are people around us who want to get ahead, and don’t really care whether their means are honest or not. The active ones are criminals; the passive ones are parasites. The most passive form of parasites are people trying to get ahead of you on the basis of appearance. They invent a fantasy world that’s equal parts advertising, politeness, moral judgment and wishful thinking. They tell you this fantasy world is real because you cannot “prove” reality but we can prove that most people would rather interact with this simpler, easier world.
They come up with helpful ideas like the following:
These dilemmas all arise from a corruption of reality in our own minds. There’s multiple factors here: we’re using reality as a means rather than an end, we’re using ourselves as an end rather than a means, we’re going inside our minds to describe the outside, and as a result, we’re manipulating ourselves and others with tokens, symbols, gestures and illusions.
But all of them add up to ignoring reality as a whole in favor of “the human reality” that people like to believe in because it’s easier and simpler than reality itself. We make our human reality from human feelings, from promises made to others, from personalities and morality, cash flow and social status. We like our reality because it allows us to stay in our own heads, and not test ourselves against the world, where we could end up losing!
This corruption of reality is a bigger threat than political corruption. Political corruption subverts government; corruption of reality subverts everything we do, from religion to science to how you and I think about how we’re going to plan our day. Ignoring reality and receding into ourselves makes us blind the consequences of our actions, and fills our heads with insane babbling produced by the neurotic social mind.
Right now the FBI says that corruption threatens the fabric of American life. They mean political corruption, and they’re correct. However, if they could get away with it, they would point out that the root of all corruption is something so basic we can’t see it, any more than we can see our own contact lenses: a corruption of reality within our own minds.