Equal Opportunity Corruption

08/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I do not understand why anyone has been surprised by the Goldman Sachs bonuses this week.

I do not understand why anyone has been surprised at the vehemence of the lobbyist contingent on the healthcare front.

I do not understand why anyone has been surprised that Eric Holder is, at long last, considering prosecuting the Bush administration for their illegal torture policies.

I do not understand why anyone has made a hue or a cry about Mark Sanford's infidelity or about Roland Burris and his jockeying for Obama's Senate seat with Rod Blagojevich.

There's an admission to be made here, an admission that needs to pass the lips of every single citizen in America, of all stripes. My friends, in case you hadn't noticed we're living proof that we're all corrupt. All, no exceptions, even the noble ones. Corruption has become such an ordinary part of the fabric of our society that we barely even notice it any more.

There's a solution to the corruption but first, we get to figure out how we got this way. I think it's real simple. For decades, we've heard that we're first and foremost consumers. People who are consumers ... well, consume things. What is it to consume something?

The OED says that the word comes from Latin roots that mean to destroy altogether. And, whether we like it or not, isn't that what we've been doing for decades to our beautiful planet in our so-called civilization? Destroying altogether, sure. No more fossil fuels. No more pristine forests. Not even any more decent weather. In Boston, we joke that we're really in London.

Okay, so we've learned how to consume without stinting. We have the skill-set. The art, now, is to apply the skill-set to the definition we've accepted. We must consume the idea of being consumers, and replace that identification with something bigger, something healthier, and something more sustainable.

The first peoples of the Americas have a powerful proverb:

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

I think, inherent in these lines, is the solution to the corruption. We must name it, speak of it, learn from it, grow through it, and then we must remember an old skill.

I don't know about you but whenever I borrow something from someone, I am especially careful with it. I am conscious that what I am being allowed to use is not mine, and that I must make extra time to attend to whatever it is appropriately. I am a steward to whatever I borrow.

Stewardship will solve the equal opportunity corruption in the United States if more and more of us will take our stewarding duties seriously. It's only going to work one individual at a time.

Dwight D. Eisenhower said that "a people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." Unfortunately, I think we're past the point of no-return. We are so far from even knowing what our principles are, and so mired in measuring both ours and others' privileges, that we are quickly becoming an endangered species.

The fascinating thing, along with this alleged pessimism, is that I truly believe there is a Cosmic Plan, and that what is happening right now is meant for our individual and collective good. The issue isn't whether we will learn the lesson. We will. The issue is when.

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