A few years ago we were taking a taxi through a small African township. The scape of the place was typical of small-town Africa. Homes made up of cinder block, tin and strategically placed tarp. The roads are a steady swirl of red clay dust. An ownerless dog slinking, wary and timid, its teats devoid and lamely swinging, testimony to a new and unfortunate brood with a guaranteed bleak future.
At the end of town we passed by a large white home with a red tiled roof. The grounds were manicured, I imagined a pool and patio in the backyard. The driver sensing my curiosity, said that the home belonged to the mayor. I asked what he did prior to becoming mayor, thinking something like owner of a mine or imports/exports? Well, as it turns out the mayor was a former taxi driver who created his personal wealth through municipal corruption. We’ve traveled extensively and are not unfamiliar with this insidious combination of poverty and corruption, but still find it gut-wrenching. “Doesn’t that make you angry!!!???” I asked. He nonchalantly shrugged. “Whadya gonna do?” The obvious answer is of course… “Something! You’ve got to try to do Something!”
The economies of these places are rudimentary, which means tracking the corruption is a simple matter. At some point there comes a realization that the true source of the corruption is apathy, and not just the apathy of our driver. The corruption is expected and accepted by the entire citizenry, and the apathy is societal.
It’s much more complicated here in the United States, but apathy certainly plays a role. We are GOOD and with that comes responsibility. These two components Good and Responsible when applied on a societal level trump apathy every time.