Amnon Dankner and Dan Margalit attributed the famous saying "bad taste leads to crime" to Gustave Flaubert. They were wrong. It wasn't Flaubert, it was Stendhal. But they were not at all wrong to propel corruption to the head of their newspaper. Of course, one could examine them closely as well - what they write about and what they are silent about, and what role each of the media outlets has played in the booming vulgarization of our land. Nonetheless, the battle the two have undertaken against corruption and the corrupt is worthy of being considered important.
Dankner and Margalit were beside themselves with self-congratulation when the responses identifying with the cause they raised began flowing into the newspaper, and Websites overflowed with approval for them. It gave the impression that here it is, the rebellion is finally breaking out, and all the rotten apples will be thrown out of the state's administration in one fell swoop; in another minute, the people will rise up against their tainted leaders, rip them out of their seats, expel them from their bureaus and send them all, one by one, to house arrest.
But when all was said - and not done - nothing changed; the stables remained foul and stinking, and even the horses weren't replaced. The fashion has come back, retro-style, and "we're fed up with corruption" has become "the latest fashion" - but it will be swallowed up in the first earthquake, and here it comes, the earthquake of the disengagement.
This wave that Dankner and Margalit have raised, no matter how important, will pass and not only because fashions naturally come and go while life itself goes on. If Maariv had added just one little question to those it asked, it also would have reached this sad and much less thrilling conclusion. And here's the question: Who will you vote for in the next elections? The answer - for the very same people; in other words, for the same corrupt people with whom everyone seems to be so fed up. The question actually is asked, but the frustrating results, which could drive an elephant crazy, appear on another page in the newspaper, one of the pages that is not devoted to "the revolution."
Significant portions of the public love their leaders, our leaders, with all their moral gangrene, and they only pretend that they are fed up. The further away the leader is from cleanliness of mind and action, the more popular the leader becomes; there is no better example of this than Ariel Sharon himself, and his family; it's as if people say, your garment is stained, you will be our leader.
It's not only here. It happens in other developed countries: All of Italy knows that Silvio Berlusconi is corrupt but that does not prevent Italians from electing him as their prime minister. All of France knows Jacques Chirac is corrupt and nonetheless the French preferred him over Lionel Jospin, who is, by all accounts, a decent, honest man. And all of Israel knows, but between us, what does it matter.
This super-corruption enchants people. There is something attractive, even purifying about it. It does not halt politicians in their progress, sometimes it even helps them. If a politician is lucky enough, he'll get a "certificate of honesty" from the attorney general and immediately find himself on the list of leading candidates for prime minister.
The prevailing presumption is that if a person managed to do something for their family, without leaving behind any incriminating fingerprints, they'll manage to do so for us as well. The eccentric, decent types, those bleeding hearts disconnected from reality, they're the losers; they didn't even know how to get rich, so what good will they do for us? Who needs them?
Corrupt leaders make life easier and more convenient. After all, we are good and honest people, but they up there ruin us against our wishes. It is a lot easier to blame them for the deceitfulness, cheating and trickery than to take responsibility for ourselves and our own dubious actions. If Sharon was not our prime minister and Netanyahu and Shalom and Hanegbi and Katz and Livnat and Naveh were not our ministers, we would be like angels, and certainly not like parasite-ridden donkeys, that's for sure.
Most people don't really want another kind of leader who would, at least, try to present a tall ladder of values and moral concepts. What sucker would exhaust himself climbing such a ladder, when he can slide down it, hooting and howling all the way.
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