Reshaping A Society Away from Crime-As-Normal Mindset

A friend told me a story from one of her MBA classes. It was a class on doing business in foreign (read: not the US) countries.

The topic of the day in the class was corruption and bribes. India and China were both specifically cited as being highly problematic.

The students from India and China were confused. One raised a hand, and this led to a conversation between the students and the professor. After a bit of back and forth, the students smiled and said, “oh, you mean facilitation payments.”

Ahem.

To those students, brib… ahem… facilitation payments… were just a normal part of life. The people who had the power to collect them were expected to collect them. If you had sufficient clout, you can get around them. More likely than not, if you are a large business, you literally just put line items in your budget, sigh, and move on.

Now. Let’s take a look at a few aspects of this model.

The people pocketing the payments don’t really think they are doing anything wrong — after all, everyone else is doing it.

The people paying the payments know that for lower-level officials, this is just, well, part of their compensation. Reporting it would, well, just make life miserable for everyone. Depending on who you are, and who you report things to, you may very well wind up detained indefinitely or worse — it’s unpatriotic to question these things, you see.

The people who manage/employ the people pocketing the money don’t care, because they are probably doing the same thing.

Now. Let’s imagine that one day a whole bunch of people got together, got really pissed off about all of the corruption and bribes, and decided to do something about it.

Here’s the problem. Virtually everyone has dirty hands. Most of the government has been pocketing money. Most of the large corporations have been pocketing money. Family members have encouraged each other not to report it — “you don’t want to get involved. It’ll ruin us as well…”

As a direct result of prohibition, the US created the Mafia as a major economic and political player. It took (at least) two generations to break the Mafia’s stranglehold on US politics.

Now. Why is this little comparative sociology/history lesson relevant?

Because this is what’s happening with sexual assault in American politics today.

Not everyone has dirty hands. But a LOT do.

Women that have been telling their friends and family not report, because it’s not worth it.

Cops that have been sitting on evidence cases forever.

Our institutions for not have any system for recognizing or dealing with the situation.

Our culture, for creating blurred lines with no clarity around safety, or expectations.

This is much, much harder to deal with than the Mafia. The Mafia always knew that they were basically the bad guys. They knew they were breaking the law. Just like a modern gang member — they knew, and know, the score.

The drunken frat boy? The drunken sorority girl? The well-meaning friend or family member that discourages reporting? The cop that tosses the evidence?

The only way this ends is with this generation acknowledging the trauma, the next generation developing a new social code as well as legal/process frameworks, and the generation after that creating a new normal.

I really, really, really wish it could happen faster.

But there are too many dirty hands.

Writer for WeSIA.com, an Internet Think Tank.

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