The politician is born with original sin, branded corrupt from day one.
Anyone who desires to run for public office has to contend with the perception that a government post is tainted intrinsically. He can expect that his reputation will corrode and tarnish.
The culprit is government's Original Sin.
Governments (or governors), by default, have perceptions to fix. Administrations are born with original sin, branded corrupt from day one. Sociologists call it Implicit Prejudice, or bias that emerges from unconscious beliefs.
Call it unfair, yes, but accept it. It is the sum total of Generational Sins of previous public administrators. We accept the corruption because we pay them a pittance, (well, a pittance compared to what they make in private enterprise). We know corruption is prevalent even in first world countries. The assumption is cemented in the country’s archives every time a politician is caught with his hand in the till, which we know to be frequent, thanks to scandals like Janet Napoles’s lists, which some describe as a veritable roll call of public servants; and to the pronouncements of the COA; and when politicians admit so, (though they are no longer as unabashed as that senate president who complained about being investigated, saying, in exasperation, “what are we in power for?”)
“Most fair-minded people strive to judge others according to their merits, but our research shows how often people instead judge according to unconscious stereotypes and attitudes, or implicit prejudice. What makes implicit prejudice so common and persistent is that it is rooted in the fundamental mechanics of thought. Early on, we learn to associate things that commonly go together and expect them to inevitably coexist: thunder and rain, for instance, or gray hair and old age.” Mahzarin R. Banaji, Max H. Bazerman, Dolly Chugh Harvard Business Review
Thunder and Rain, Politicians and Corruption
“But, of course, our associations only reflect approximations of the truth; they are rarely applicable to every encounter. Rain doesn’t always accompany thunder, and the young can also go gray. Nonetheless, because we automatically make such associations to help us organize our world, we grow to trust them, and they can blind us to those instances in which the associations are not accurate—when they don’t align with our expectations”.
In the same manner, there are "incorruptible politicians".
If the last line struck the reader as a laughable oxymoron, then the point is indeed made: implicit prejudice is stronger than one's ability to allow the existence of an incorruptible public servant.
Banaji, Bazerman and Chugh explain: "Because implicit prejudice arises from the ordinary and unconscious tendency to make associations, it is distinct from conscious forms of prejudice, such as overt racism or sexism. This distinction explains why people who are free from conscious prejudice may still harbor biases and act accordingly. Exposed to images that juxtapose black men and violence, portray women as sex objects, imply that the physically disabled are mentally weak and the poor are lazy, even the most consciously unbiased person is bound to make biased associations.”
How then is implicit prejudice eliminated?
How can public servants recover the stature and respect that they once enjoyed? We could wait for the high-principled and the incorruptible and a thousand Vico Sottos and generations to repair and refurbish the reputation of public office. I suspect though that it can be done in less time. After all, if the battlefield is in the mind, it is a war we can win.
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