Flowers of the Mind 9.

The week has seen the United States – or at least the Imperial War Faction of the USA – and parts of Europe hype up the difficulties of migrants at the Belarus-Poland border and beat drums of sending lawyers, guns and money to Ukraine. Russian forces have detected and escorted American/NATO spy planes and command ships in the Black Sea. The American Secretary of State, the bland Blinken man, makes vague statements about Russia’s intentions being unclear. The Russian Foreign Minister, the direct and capable Lavrov, replies “We reaffirmed our intention to continue to show an exceptionally restrained approach, not to create problems artificially, but we will, of course, react to the unfriendly steps that the West is taking.” Let us hope the better diplomat wins.

The American political elite is divided, deluded and degenerate. The evidence grows of Biden’s incompetence, his strategic incontinence, and his pretender status. Who is the emperor behind the curtain? Evidence grows too of conflicts within the regime between the “Clintons” and “Obama” factions – pulling and tugging in different directions, playing different diplomatic or “grand strategy” maneuvers, gesturing with different court rituals. But the problems this imperial elite has made at home and inflicted on the world are exploding in its arthritic fist.

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The decay of some political institutions in this remote outer province of the American Empire has been exposed this week too. So too the degeneration of the culture that has inhabited those institutions like a luxurious parasitic vine. The Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) has examined the former Victorian Government Labor Party Minister, Adem Somyurek, who has exposed his own alleged misconduct, but also set out for public scrutiny pervasive misconduct, allegedly, in the governing party in Victoria. He has pointed to the role of the current Premier as his opposing factional counterpart, heavily involved in the branch-stacking operations being investigated by the Commission and his apparent role in the “Red Shirts” scheme that siphoned public funds to support political electioneering by the then Opposition party in the 2014 election. Despite a critical Ombudsman’s report into the Red Shirts scheme, little real corrective action has occurred. Indeed, the IBAC Commissioner commented on this failure to deal with this systemic corruption in his opening address to the Operation Watts Inquiry. The police investigated the Red Shirts scheme also, and during the week The Age reported that:

Detectives in Victoria Police fraud squad urged force command to consider arresting and prosecuting up to 16 Andrews Government MPs over the “red shirts” rorting affair, according to highly sensitive internal police briefings, but their plan was knocked back by senior officers. The secret police files from late 2018, whose contents have been confirmed by three whistleblowers, reveal that detectives were directed by a high-ranking officer to make sure that 16 named members of Parliament “not be arrested, photographed, searched if they are interviewed”. The file also stated the intervention by senior police was to remain a secret.

The Age, 12 November 2021, “Fraud squad in ‘red shirts’ scheme probe wanted MPs arrested

This reported secret directive for unequal treatment under the law occurred during a time when a former political adviser to the current Premier was the chief of staff to the Chief Commissioner of Police. Sadly, some in Victoria now refer to the police (in an echo of black shirts and brown shirts from 1920s/1930s Europe) as Red Shirts. Perhaps, there is no connection between these events?

Such political patronage is pervasive in the institutions I observe day to day. It has become the luxurious political vine of which I speak. Patronage is not by itself corruption; yet corruption invariably includes patronage. And it need not be ever thus; as Francis Fukuyama makes clear in Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy effective governing institutions find ways to curb the behavioural tendencies of reciprocal altruism and kinship affiliation, and to shape those institutions, and the people who act in them, to lawful, shared purposes reflecting a governed compromise of differences. But the institutions of Victoria have lost their way, and no longer even try to curb the toxic growth of political appointments that are smothering its traditions of good government. Somyurek may have lost his moral compass, but not his intelligence. An exchange between the IBAC Commissioner (from which I have cut some intervening comments) highlights the need to do some gardening, urgently:

Commissioner: So we’ve looked at the culture of branch stacking because that underlies the allegations that are made against you, but we’ve also looked at the culture that exists within parliament to the extent that you’ve repeatedly in different ways made the point that it’s not just the way you think, it’s the way members of parliament generally have regarded their right to deploy their electoral officers or ministerial advisers?….

Somyurek: I think the public are pretty cynical about politicians, so – even when the Red Shirts scheme came out they didn’t sort of pay much attention to it. But I get your point. I think this is a debate that really does need to happen and be settled once and for all. But I do
think a good way to start is to have a look at the aggregate increase in funding for political appointments. I think Whitlam was the first person in Australia to really start funding it, and they’ve really – political appointments have gone up exponentially since then. But
it’s good to start from the aggregate, I think

IBAC, Operations Watt, Transcript, 12 November 2021

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Rene Girard should provoke thought in our times. Scapegoating, victimization, neo-paganism and sacred violence pervade so many of our responses. The whole Trump derangement syndrome is partly explicable by this idea. So too the demonisation of the “unvaccinated”, the anti-maskers, the defenders of the kingdom without bounds and the city of ashes. And yet so many mistake scapegoating for virtue.

“If you scapegoat someone, it’s a third party that will be aware of it. It won’t be you. Because you will believe you are doing the right thing.”

Rene Girard

۞۞۞

Amidst so many troubles, I like an idle king look for some work of noble note that may yet be done.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tennyson, Ulysses, from Poems 1842

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“voluntary confrontation with a feared, hated or despised obstacle is curative… [It is such] combination of vision, courage, and regenerated tradition that constituted the proper sovereign of the kingdom.”

Jordan B. Peterson

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