The Honor Box
It is commonly said the fish rots from the head down, meaning leadership is the root cause of the failure and demise of any organization, regardless of whether we are speaking of a country, culture or company. I’m not so sure this is true, at least not in all cases.
For this common belief to be correct, those further down the food chain must (essentially) be subservient to those at the top, unable to control or even influence leadership to shape up or ship out. The saying implies we are little more than passive passengers, our fate sealed by those piloting the plane up front.
If this is the case, then the form of government practiced in the US, a representative republic (and NOT a democracy) where those at the top, our elected leaders, are elevated into leadership roles with our consent and support, and can be deposed/removed the same way, does not in actual practice exist.
Either we are victims or we are not. Either we have free choice or we have not. Either they make us do it or they do not. Either we rule “our” leadership or we do not.
My opinion is we do not exercise control over leadership and have not for many decades. And while it is glaringly obvious corruption rules the land, we are not the innocent victims we’d all like to think we are.
If nothing else, the public emergence of the “deep state” over the last two years makes my first point. The fact we do nothing to wrestle our republic back from their hands pretty much makes my second point. And the fact one political party applauds this emergence while the other remains silent solidifies the two points together into one stinking mess.
I have written extensively about personal sovereignty, the concept and practice of exerting personal responsibility in all our affairs. While I fully understand external factors can overwhelm our decision making process, leaving us feeling helpless and out of control, just because one particular decision point is beyond our ability to control does not dismiss all the other previous decisions we made which brought us to the present situation.
We are the single greatest influence upon our lives bar none. To claim others “made me do it” or “you can’t fight city hall” is little more than a cop-out and personal excuse making, and it forms the basis for a victim mentality. Ignorance is not an all encompassing excuse, particularly when we practice selective ignorance. Nor is apathy, though both are widely embraced and promoted by those who wish to gain our consent and thereby control.
These thoughts were percolating in the back of my mind while Mrs. Cog and I were traveling along the spider web of back roads and byways that crisscross our little slice of heaven. We have lived in the area long enough now to recognize the distinct and seasonal personalities of each little hamlet, village and town within our travel circle.
Every fall there is an old pickup filled with decent sized pumpkins parked by the side of a winding country road that cuts through a small village just off the Blue Ridge Plateau. Black lettering on a white background informs passersby the pumpkins are for sale for the tidy sum of four dollars each. In all the times I’ve passed that truck over the years I have never seen anyone manning the mobile kiosk.
Each year my initial thought is to scoff at the stupidity of whoever leaves those unguarded pumpkins out in the open to be stolen. Unfortunately that is my imperially conditioned reflex jerking in the same way my leg involuntarily moves when the doctor taps that soft spot just below the knee cap. Only the Empire can craft wise and just law and then efficiently (meaning ruthlessly) enforce them. We wee citizens are simply incapable of policing ourselves.
That was sarcasm just in case it wasn’t obvious.
The endlessly promoted and cognitively comforting Imperial illusion is “We the People” are in fact policing “our” selves through our public “servants”. And on the local level this belief is somewhat closer to the truth, though corruption and cronyism permeate the system from stem to stern.
So what keeps the corrupt system going? One of the primary ways is the narcissistic and self serving belief while every other Congressional Representative and Senator is corrupt to the core, “my” representation is not. How could they be since I was (sooner or later) instrumental in electing them…and possibly benefit from their pork barreling?
There is no doubt in my mind if that roadside truck was selling one ounce gold coins unattended, the seller would have a serious problem on his or her hands. The key to making something like this work is to offer for sale something of inconsequential value, not worth the potential of trouble for the thief, either legal or cognitive. I feel certain the farmer does lose some to theft, though the losses must be manageable, otherwise it wouldn’t make financial sense for the farmer to sell them in this manner.
Welded to the inside body of the truck is an honor box constructed of stout pipe and hinged cap with a slot where patrons can stuff their fake fiat (aka paper dollars) in payment for the pumpkin(s) they select. Here the owner leaves little to chance, for I suspect it is emptied nightly and heavy equipment would need to be employed to break into it. Though I must admit I was greatly amused to note the cab doors were unlocked and the truck, a much older model more easily hot-wired, could be stolen if desired.
While people in these parts, including Mrs. Cog and I, actively work multiple streams of income, thus the sale of pumpkins on the side of the road for this farmer, what this actually represents is a long term study in human behavior. It’s a test, and in this case the test appears to indicate most people (at least those in this small town rural setting) are trustworthy up to a certain point.
But the test is not necessarily to determine if people are actually honest. While there are always bad pumpkins in any community barrel, most people will select a pumpkin or two and dutifully drop their money into the honor box. In very small communities it is extremely likely they know, or know of, the actual person selling the pumpkins.
To steal from this person, even if it’s easy to accomplish, means risking the chance of not only being caught in the act, admittedly a small probability, but of running into this person at some point in the future. The potential for experiencing shame and regret is not worth the four dollar purchase price, so the vast majority of us will toe the moral line.
While we all comfort ourselves with the belief we are moral and honest, the question is never if we are honest, but at what “price” do we cross the threshold. The test is not if we are honest when dealing with a small act of honesty with someone we probably know, but can we continue to deceive ourselves into believing this small act of painless honesty is representative of the sum total of our entire range of moral actions.
We are human; therefore we are all to some extent or another liars, cheats and thieves. Though for the vast majority, this characteristic does not extend to the point of being individually or socially destabilizing. The only question remaining then is where we draw the line between socially and emotionally acceptable behavior and unearned self enrichment. I suspect this last statement will trigger a wide variety of declarations, not the least of which is how I am honest, but everyone else not so much.
While these small acts of individual honor box honesty have their social value, self herding the vast majority of the population into the cattle chute of social cohesion and cooperation, they also set us up for the bigger confidence game run by “our” sociopathic leadership on every level, including (multinational) corporations.
That which we deny, however small that denial may be, exerts great influence upon us in ways mostly unseen. If we refuse to acknowledge and confront our own personal dishonesty (along with various other character flaws) our denial can and will be leveraged against us to control and corral in ways we will also refuse to acknowledge and confront.
While most people believe little harm is caused by their minor, mostly “social” lies (You look great, I’m so glad to see you, The check is in the mail, Of course I don’t mind, etc.) just about all of us would never consider telling a really big lie, one that carries severe consequences if caught and prosecuted.
Therefore, even while acknowledging leadership’s propensity to lie to cover their butts while enriching themselves, we find it nearly impossible to believe “our” leadership would tell monstrous lies about immoral, even inhuman, deeds perpetrated against their fellow man, especially when those dirty deeds are directed against “We the People”.
This glaring blind spot, successfully leveraged against us time and time again, leads to the hilariously hypocritical belief “our” leadership would never do “that”, with “that” being anything we believe evil foreign leadership does all the time.
Of course the above explanation/example is a bit simplistic, with more than just personal denial feeding into this reality. With more than 300 million people in the US, it’s safe to say there are more than 300 million permutations of this dynamic running its course. Thankfully this means there is plenty of wiggle room for all of us to convince ourselves that it’s them and not me who’s the problem.
With that final denial smugly flourished with righteous indignation, we continue to stuff bills into our own personal honor box to reinforce the lie we, therefore “our” leadership, would never do “that”. And “they”, our leadership, will continue to lie to us about their evil deeds to confirm and affirm our own personal denial. It’s a symbiotic relationship, as all good cons must be in order to be successful. Tell me another lie so I can believe it’s the truth.
Because we all know the fish rots from the head on down and we are all just poor victims of the encroaching filth.
Besides, you can’t fight city hall.
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