Three Questions

Many people see corruption as a victimless crime.  But it’s not.  The opioid overdoses – when Big Pharma was disabling DEA enforcement against the companies that shipped millions of doses to village drug stores – are victims of corruption.  The people who lost their homes in the Great Recession – caused by systemic fraud that has never been punished – are the victims of corruption.  Those of you who have had to suffer chemical spills, or the seizure of your property for profitable frack-pads that benefit no one but a few fat-cat shareholders, are the victims of corruption.

Read more here, and send me your story.

 

I once spent two weeks conducting interviews in Nigeria.  I was working with a wonderful woman named Esther.  Her day job was as a maid, cleaning or managing the houses of wealthy Nigerians and foreign investors or diplomats.  

She was brilliant.  She would decode what we saw and heard together, smiling as my lights went on. I would not have understood much of Nigeria without her.  I dragged her all around the country, including to her home village – a place she emphatically did not want to go, because she had broken with the customs, both traditional and Christian.  Her father was a pastor, for example; we had to kneel to receive his blessing when we arrived at his house.  She doesn’t go to church. 

  • What are the characteristics of a good person?
     

  • Has the (social) meaning of money changed over your lifetime?
     

  • What does "rigged system," or "swamp," or "corruption" mean to you?

But once at the village, she got into it; tracking down the local elders to visit, no introduction supplied, carrying the traditional gift, a bottle of schnapps, to lubricate our entrée.  There, and in the Muslim north, where the gorgeous Hausa nobility walk around in billowing bright-colored and beautifully embroidered robes, I would always ask just two basic questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of a good person?  When you think of a person as good, what is it about them that causes you to come to that conclusion?

  2. Has the meaning of money – its social significance – changed during your lifetime?

Those were among the two most fascinating weeks I’ve spent in my life.  The answers – especially to the second one -- were emphatic and utterly surprising.

That experience is the origin of the questions I’ve laid out here.  They are questions I am asking myself, and my fellow Americans – as an American who has spent most of her adult life overseas, and is seeking to understand who we have become as a people, and where we are at this historical moment.

Please help me.  Send me your thoughts 

 

With thanks and respect,

 

Sarah

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

© 2018 by Sarah Chayes