Thursday, July 12, 2012

there were failings, but nobody failed

There were failings, but nobody failed.

What is this institutionalized and sometimes highly-personalized excuse that comes up over and over and over again when the shit hits the fan?

Today, a report from former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Louis Freeh throws a spotlight on Penn State University's version of this generic excuse:

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,"

On June 22, 2012, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse of children. Penn State has been squirming ever since to smooth and soothe the blowback to the reputation of a great university. There were failings, but, well, nobody failed... except that Freeh's report specifically names the leadership the institution squirming for absolution. (As the Russians have observed for centuries, "The fish stinks from the head down.")

The same effort is afoot within the nooks and crannies of the Vatican. Well, yes, there were sexual abuses by Roman Catholic clergymen, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The balance of the Wikipedia description of such abuses, for example, is "in dispute." "Clergymen?" Sure. But those at the head of the fish ... oh well, that's going too far.

Sexual abuse depredations at Zen Studies Society have set off similar bobbing and weaving: Yes, there were difficulties, but let's exercise our 'compassion' and save what is nourishing about this wonderful practice ... that coincidentally has two beautiful properties and an array of established personnel and hence has a foothold in institutionalized existence. If there was a fault, it wasn't our fault. Fishy, fishy-er, fishy-est.

And the stock brokers and bankers and institutions most clearly at fault in the meltdown of a worldwide economy have learned to wring their hands with the best of them ... golly, gosh, what a boo-boo. But any attempt to revise the underpinnings of a system that made this boo-boo possible is met with challenges from the stock brokers and bankers and institutions that used the framework to their financial advantage ... and hope to again in future. Smells like the Fulton Fish Market to me.

There were failings, but of course nobody failed.

Like cockroaches scurrying for deep cover when the kitchen light is turned on, these once-trusted, deeply-rooted, too-big-to-fail institutions seek ... to evade a responsibility that even a grade-school dropout can see.

There were failings, but nobody failed.

And what does such reasoning do to the trust and belief that makes such institutions viable in the first place? What, precisely, is the trouble with fessing up, coming clean, taking your lumps and moving on? Isn't this the world that even a grade-school dropout might inhabit? Someone failed. I failed. Here, in bright particulars, are the facets of that failure. And here is what I am trying to do to correct -- rather than excuse -- my wrongs.

Yes, OK -- it may be human nature.

But supporting such an aspect of human nature, whether within or without, is the same as nourishing its corruption, and a corrupt life is not a very happy one, no matter how much power and money anyone throws at it.

Adults my smile indulgently when a child says, "The dog ate my homework." But an institutionalization of that excuse within a world of adults is .... [well, you fill in the blank].

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