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Water always flows to lower elevations or in the language of common usage-downwards. As soon as water encounters an obstruction, it changes path and keeps on flowing downstream until it reaches the lowest elevation of the surrounding area. This path of least resistance is what allows moving/flowing water to gradually empty in a reservoir, under or above ground. Small streams and creeks that submerge can later emerge as springs elsewhere. Rivers empty in lakes, seas/oceans. The very measurement of height on a larger scale actually starts from the ocean shore. On such a beach, the altimeter, which measures altitude reads zero. X meter above sea level is obtained from this notion. In social life as well, the majority of people prefer a path of least resistance. This ‘path of least resistance’ can also take us to the lowest level of existence, at times via a fall, like a waterfall. In a given human society, the path of least resistance is laden with all sorts of problems; in other words, there is always a catch!
In human societies, the easy paths craved by many individuals are not always the desired ones, as collective existence requires all sorts of sacrifices by all, so that living together can be ameliorated. To start with, collective social existence is a conscious arrangement amongst people, whether it is equitable or not. This arrangement establishes norms and laws (codified or not) so that collective life, harmonious or not, can be tolerated. In modern societies certain social behaviors are considered asocial and are systemically discouraged from their social realization. Punitive measures are put in place to discourage extreme antisocial behavioral manifestations, whether carried out by individuals or groups.
For example and theoretically, corruption falls under this category. But in the reality of our world, however, the very criminality of corruption is systematically rendered insipid and nebulous, depending on the status of the culprits. Today the state, developed or not, is trying to condone corruption by making it an ambivalent notion and allowing it to occupy shady areas sanctified by the power that be. In our parlance of the day; corruption is a path of least resistance and has become the preferred option for those intent on serious accumulation, be they private oligarchs or state functionaries.
Nonetheless, the ‘path of uprightness’, constructed with rules/laws and furnished with ethics/morality, rather than the ‘path of least resistance’ carved by corrupt practices, still remain the essential ingredients for collective harmonious social existence. Lacking these, societies will end up going over the cliff/fall, thereby forfeiting their long-term objectives. Short-termism must be confronted by the committed, at all levels.
Living together doesn’t come cheap. It requires genuine effort and commitment by all and sundry. To make the whole life experience worthwhile, people in general must appreciate each other’s strength as well as weaknesses. But those wicked ones who always want to have it their way, at the expense of the wide majority, must be made to pay the price for their selfish deviance. Right now the global system is geared to making life easy for these crooks while penalizing the majority for their simple decency. See Wallerstein’s article next column and Conolly’s article on page 50.At this point in time, it is worth recalling the teaching of one of the great federalists and fourth president of the United States of America, who is also known as the ‘father of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.’ “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” James Madison. Good Day!