“They’re all corrupt”

It bugs me when I hear the criticism of politicians: “They’re all corrupt.” Not just because it isn’t true. Politicians are no more corrupt than the general population. They are arguably less corrupt, given all the public scrutiny they face.


“They’re all corrupt” is an easy simplification. Generalizations are wrong because there are always exceptions. Even if most politicians were corrupt, one exception would make the statement false.

“They’re all corrupt” is a blanket condemnation of an entire group. “All Indians are lazy” would not be acceptable because a whole group of people are tarred with one brush.

And more subtly, “They’re all corrupt,” pretends to criticize what the speaker actually excuses. Rebecca Solnit puts it this way: “The dismissive ‘it’s all corrupt’ line of reasoning pretends to excoriate what it ultimately excuses (Harper’s, May 2016).”

If we say that all politicians are corrupt, then gives them an excuse to be corrupt. It may even encourage corruption because they want to fit into the norm. If “boys will be boys,” then it’s perfectly normal for them to pummel their little sisters and torture animals.

One generalization I try to resist is: “Corporations are evil.” While corporations are primarily concerned with their own interests, as are we all, they are not necessarily evil. A corporation is defined as “a company or group of people authorized to act as a single entity (legally a person) and recognized as such in law.” Corporations, such as the CBC, can both perform a public good and serve their own interests.

If politicians are corrupt and corporations are evil, we become powerless in the face of widespread corruption and evil. “If corruption is evenly distributed and ubiquitous, then there is no adequate response –or, rather no response is required,” says Solnit.

Bill McKibben wrote about revelations that Exxon knew about climate change as early as the 1970’s. “A few observers, especially on the professionally jaded left, have treated the story as old news –as something that even if we didn’t know, we knew. ‘Of course they lied,’ someone told me. That cynicism, however, serves as the most effective cover for Exxon.”

“GMOs are toxic” is a generalization I’ve written about before in my column “Is Monsanto Evil? (May 27, 2015).”  Genetically modified organisms are scientific products, like electricity, that have no intentions. People can use science for good or evil but products are just inanimate things.  They only way to find out whether inanimate things are good or evil is on a case-by-case basis. If we assume that all GMOs are toxic, then development of drought-resistant crops will not occur and millions could starve to death as climate change expands desertification.

At the risk of committing my own sin of generalization: cynicism is paralyzing.  If politicians are corrupt, corporations are evil, and GMOs are toxic, then vast resources become a wasteland and we are powerless.

End this war against our planet

The war against our planet began so long ago that it’s hard to imagine a time when military merchandise hasn’t been used to wreak havoc; not just on the battlefield but against the very ecosystems necessary for our survival.


The application of technology to the battlefield began in earnest with World War II with atomic bombs, rockets, and poisonous gas. The machinery developed in wartime has been grinding ever since –to the extent that we don’t know what a planet at peace looks like.

The exact start of the war against the planet may be debatable. Rebecca Solnit suggests: “Nineteen forty-five is sometimes designated Year Zero.”

The devastation of World War II was a precursor of what was to follow. Sixty million were killed in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific — 2.6 per cent of the earth’s population. The Soviet Union lost 1,700 towns and 70,000 villages and 24 million citizens. What the bombs missed, homelessness, displacement, poverty, and disease claimed. Many died in combat but millions more starved to death.

London lost one million homes and 30,000 were killed in one year alone. The bombing of Germany created firestorms and leveled cities. One survivor of the attacks on Dresden recalled the horror of seeing charred bodies and melted glass:  “We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burned to death, burning people running to and fro.”

The destruction of historic sites and cities exceeded anything that the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS could muster combined. As bad as things were, they were about to get worse.

“From one perspective, what we call the world had never been more devastated. From another, however, the world was in magnificent, Edenic shape. No great garbage patch swirled around the Pacific, and albatrosses, sea turtles, and dolphins in remote reaches were not strangling on plastic they mistook for edible matter; we had not yet discarded the billion tons of plastic that will litter the earth for the foreseeable future, because plastic was a relatively new material just entering mass production,” says Solnit in Harper’s magazine.

Elephants and rhinos thrived in intact ecosystems. The Bengal tiger and the snow leopard were fine. The Atlantic cod fishery off the coast of Canada seemed inexhaustible.

War economies accelerated. The technology of war spun off seemingly benign products: plastics, fuels, fuel-guzzling vehicles. Ever more energy use accelerated the tonnes of garbage we throw into the air, water and land.

Anyone who is not delusional, amnesiac, or distracted can see what militarization has wrought. Those who are blind to the obvious pretend that: “pumping billions of tons of carbon into the upper atmosphere has no consequences, that the extraction processes — from mountaintop coal removal to fracking to pulling petroleum out of remote fragile places such as the ocean floor — are harmless.”

The war will end one way or another. The earth will prevail regardless of which side we are on.