One reason for increasing corruption in our country might be that although historically a basically moral people (aside from politicians’ questionable motives) more and more Americans have for decades conducted business in utterly corrupt environments, notably China.
Fact: the only way to do business there is by bribery, direct collusion with the communist government, or garnering some form of political influence (including overt monetary pay-offs), twisting or omitting facts, submission to restrictions, etc. Plus, there is not a single Chinese business unapproved or tactility accepted by the government. Every one of them knows they can be shuttered overnight, and all land in China is government owned or controlled, so businesses (and residents) must use their leased land on government terms; thus, the “normal” practice of ignoring morals by Chinese people may have spilled over into our culture by way of habitual dealings with corruption in transactions with them.
Example: in conversation on the plane back from Shanghai, the thirty-something American with whom I spoke was stunned that I would even question the morality of bribery and political “pull” in business because it is a given that the only way to succeed in China is to kowtow to their rules. And he was right. Bribery, deception, and the consent of government officials on some level are the only ways to do business there. The surprising thing to me, however, was that this young man, who voluntarily participated in a top-to-bottom corrupt business milieu, saw nothing morally wrong with such practices and actually boasted about government officials he knew personally and favors he received. In other words, he could believe in the privacy of his own mind that these practices are immoral, but since they are the only ways to conduct business he must accept them on a practical basis. Yet he had become (or already was) amoral himself and harbored no personal qualms about working in such a fraudulent atmosphere.
Amorality (Oxford English Dictionary): not within the sphere of moral sense; not to be characterized as either good or bad; non moral. (For a thorough examination of this phenomena, see "LYING AS A WAY OF LIFE: Corruption and Collectivism Come of Age in America.")
My airplane conversation is only one small example of money overriding morals and pragmatism replacing principles. All Americans who “do business” with the Chinese compromise morals every day and have done so for more than half a century. Cheap labor — money saved, money earned — is all. Most American consumers gladly buy ceaselessly inferior products (often made in sweat shops they would never tolerate at home) because they are cheap — money saved, money earned. As a trading partner China heads the list for humanitarian abuses: people disappear every day, the UN estimates 1 million are captive in “re-education” camps, incalculable “political dissenters” are imprisoned or executed without even a mock trial; all media is completely government controlled; yet, most American business people and politicians ignore the atrocities as do American consumers who would raise holy hell if these conditions existed here at home or as, by the way, everyone stood against African apartheid.
We’ve learned to expect political amorality. A glaring example: With American governmental and private assistance, China is becoming a formidable foe. Yet in the global frenzy over “climate change” we need only recall the farcical duplicity displayed by former president Obama’s agreement with “president” Xi to mutually curb carbon emissions in China and the U.S. in order to encourage other nations to cut greenhouse gases that was so disconnected from reality it boggles the mind. It would not be too cynical to surmise Obama made the PR play to please Greenies everywhere, but to imagine China is going to do anything more than window dressing in a few places for “show” is to dream on in the bliss of fools. As the largest polluting country — emitting a whopping 25% of the entire world’s pollution — every molecule of that vast country is polluted and polluting beyond anything close in poor little Cambodia or great big India. Smog and sewage stench is sometimes so strong even in the bright and shiny communist-created pretty mask that is Shanghai (distracting the world from the wretched conditions in much of the rest of the country) as to make eyes water while holding one’s nose. In Japan, people wear hospital-type face masks to avoid breathing the yellow “dust” that blows across the sea and permeates their air. Clean-up is not going to happen any time soon if ever in China.
By now business amorality has also become a commonplace. Only when president Trump (and I am no fan of Trump . . . or Hillary) fights back with tariffs that hurt Americans with higher costs (money lost) hitting both businesses and consumers do they cry “Fowl,” but not to the China that has been stealing technology and intellectual property among other roguish things since Nixon “opened” the country to trade back in the seventies. Only when Hong Kong is threatened by communist mainland do Americans call for aid to protect the previous freedoms of citizens there. Where were these now-howling Americans for all the years rampant human maltreatment has been exercised in China’s mainland? Nowhere. Because money long ago became the object of worship for too many American businesses. Morals? Honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, responsibility, and critical judgment of the beastly behavior of others? Long gone. Money is not “the root of all evil” as often espoused, but money made without a moral compass is as unconscionable as a political circus.
Unfortunately, when the chickens come home to roost and China’s patient plan to outstrip America as the major economic force in the world is completed, the tragedy will be that power-lustful and money-obsessed amoral Americans (politicians, producers, and consumers alike) will drag the rest of our country’s moral citizens down to share in the suffering that they alone so “richly” deserve.
* Must reading: “THE HUNDRED YEAR MARATHON: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower” by Michael Pillsbury
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation (www.art-21.org). She has written for many publications, including "Reader’s Digest" and The New York Times. Her latest book is "Adamas." For more on Alexandra York, Go Here Now.
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