The \Dysfunctional/ Top

It shouldn’t be a big surprise that as we peel back more and more of the velvet curtains covering the top part of the corruption hourglass, we find high concentrations of crooked opportunists finessing overlaps that cause hourglasses in the first place. In healthy pyramid power structures, leaders are in tune with, and serve, the needs of the people. In an hourglass society, those in power have stolen it by short-cutting the electoral system, hold themselves above the law, and are almost impossible to get rid of peacefully. Healthy economies integrate the overriding logic of pyramids throughout to provide opportunity and reward for all according to utility and talent; but the nature of a corruption hourglass means that the wealthy industrialists, lenders and investors, hiding among the corrupt few at the top of the power hourglasses, make important business decisions based simply on keeping as much as possible for themselves – and distancing themselves as far as possible from the grinding poverty and devastation that befall the rest of us.

The dynamic of the top of an hourglass is an inverted pyramid. This inversion operates as a freakish kind of anti-gravity and reverses the expected consequences of actions. So for the people inhabiting this level; the more inappropriate and selfish the behavior, the more likely the chance of rising – a condition embodied in their creed: “If you want to get the rich to work harder… pay them more” and demonstrated by obscene bonuses and promotions they grant each other behind closed doors. Another creed of theirs is the trickle-down economic theory of “rising waters all ships” …but then they do everything in their power to emasculate our fleet. Over time, not only do they grow more and more disconnected from the rest of us; but compounding the complexity is that in an hourglass it’s not responsibility, but irresponsibility, that leads to success – and so those on top can remain there if they can maintain distance from their own faults!

Should we be concerned? Well, for one, life at the top of an hourglass is not as rosy as it might be made out to be, for there are some inherently disconcerting flaws for those living in an inverted pyramid. They have become trapped in a cruel irony: the flipside of power and wealth compounding each other is that the absence of either quickly becomes a free fall. So while these people might seek only to make a difference to the world, or else gain insulation from it, what they end up with is living in a part of society that is both inflexible and insecure. To ascend into power, leaders must make far too many compromises, shedding off any shreds of integrity needed to be effective leaders; while those driven by wealth find their insulation principally working against itself and in need of some power to back it up. By positioning these two extremes in such close proximity while at each other’s throats, there’s simply no room above for either internally or externally directed change – and corrupt hourglass tops set up a self-fulfilling prophecy of mutual negation second, and negation of everything else first. Corruption forces wealthy people into heightened positions of responsibility and responsible people into heightened positions of wealth – stressing both of them in ways they neither seek nor deserve.

Due to the exponential nature of corruption, those on top have a long way to fall if they try to make do with either less power or less wealth.

Due to the exponential nature of corruption, those on top have a long way to fall if they try to make do with either less power or less wealth.

…but it gets even worse. Without being able to make productive use of their time, those on top  forge ahead further entangling wealth and power – and their business becomes our business, ours theirs, no independent institutions remain to uphold the checks and balances; and society as a whole loses its ability to self-regulate. With this dynamic in place, the production line becomes geared to satisfy those on top, who since they got there craving insulation and escapism, won’t be the most qualified to understand what goes into the human and environmental costs in the manufacture of the goods and services they want. And as many of us (including most scientists) have come to see in recent history, there are very dire extant consequences affecting all of us when the most out-of-touch, segregated, disassociated people get to make all the decisions about how we go about modifying the environment. The question desperately needs to be asked: Who knows more about building a dam, the people living beside the river and off of it, or the CEOs analyzing stock holdings around boardroom tables or clubhouse locker-room lounges? Who knows more about whether to engage in battle, the foot-soldiers on the ground, or the generals urging the troops on from deep inside their bunkers, miles, or thousands of miles from the front? Corruption depends on asking insulation-seeking people with the least to lose (besides a small fraction of their surplus money, that is) to be responsible, re-evaluative, and self-critical for all of us – which is both illogical and dangerous.

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