the fire has escaped

The fire has escaped the engine room, and it is burning through the institutions of our civilisation.

In a story like the Game of Thrones, itself influenced by the reality of feudal politics in Medieval Europe, we are taught that the good are not always victorious, the vanquished are not always the least honourable, and that values like ‘goodness’ and ‘honour’ are mostly irrelevant to how events play out and the world is shaped.

What seems to rule instead is the raw fact of power, heavily loaded with chance.

Played out again and again, this course of events ultimately tends toward chaos, empty of meaning—at least when judged through any prism of justice or righteousness.  There is no all-powerful God looking down to put things right. The only value is that of power itself—power is the ruler—only through the lens of power does anything make sense.

Turning to events in the world around us today,  raw power in the form of money and weapons are playing a larger role in world affairs than they have for a long time. As the strength of institutions designed to safeguard law and diplomacy are drained by corporate interests and powerful families, we enter an ethically confusing place.

If we take the lesson from Game of Thrones, or medieval Britain, it could be that we are simply re-entering a natural cycle of power vying with power which is inevitable.  There is no value in weighing ethical considerations to events—the good will be crushed, or favoured, along with the bad. In medieval times, all could be explained as the will of God, with retribution in the life hereafter. But what higher sensibility do we turn to today?

If a powerful person seems to lack personal qualities, like faithfulness, respect for truth and decency, it does not matter if they have power. In fact, these qualities may be a hindrance in the financial markets, or in the corporate world. We have allowed these places to accrue massive power, and is it any surprise who the winners are?

Power begets power, it is a blind force, like a fire.  This is the norm in the corporate world—where the only value is that of the market value,  and winners and losers are easily measured. But in the world of governments we have held our leaders to a different set of values since democracies began. We value peace and wellbeing of our community, we seek leaders who have values that we would seek out in our friends—courage, compassion, honesty.

But if our leaders are not selected by us, because they use their power to become our leaders, they can base their decisions on whatever ‘values’ they happen to have.

Corporate power finds the most efficient route to satisfy market desires, and it values such efficiency. But corporate power in politics is a looser thing—it applies the same power to give itself a political advantage. The individuals who hold the corporate power rise to the fore—their personal interests supersede those of any other allegiance. Corruption spreads.

This corrupted corporate power quickly spreads through politics like a fire. It ignites everything it touches. It has no reason to preserve any particular ethical value, unless it happens to align with its own interests for a moment.

For this reason, corporate power—corporate money—must be taken out of politics. It rightfully belongs in the marketplace, the engines which drive society forward, and at all costs it must be kept there.

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