Danger: Sanctimony Ahead

A state comptroller must acknowledge there is nothing the masses like more than the sanctimonious review of the elite's life of luxury, whether it be a political elite or any other elite.

One pleasant morning, as he stepped outside and looked up at the sky, Sherlock Lindenstrauss spied a plane overhead. "Interesting," he said, and made a note in his diary to check who was in the plane. When he reached his office, he found his loyal assistant Watson ready with the information. Netanyahu and Sara! they exclaimed.

Thus opens the latest episode in our classic detective series, though to tell the truth, it has lost some of its appeal lately.

Eran Wolkowski

The problem is that if there is one thing that investigators such as Sherlock Lindenstrauss have to be wary of, it is banality. Because banality makes a person who is beyond reproach or suspicion bear too much resemblance to his suspects. Suddenly, in our fantasy world, it becomes clear that there isn't much difference between what Mr. Lindenstrauss the comptroller and Mr. Netanyahu the prime minister behold as the good life, and the only dispute is whether one has permission to indulge, and, if so, how many frills and pleasures are allowed.

Isn't this whole process a little sad? The overgrown child Netanyahu and his wife are sitting in a hotel and playing with jet-setting millionaires when suddenly the door opens and in comes an evil, frightening man to expropriate their fantasy. Ultimately, what purpose does this serve? Forbidden fruits are all the more desirable, and this putative exposure of the Netanyahus' life of luxury has unintentionally reinforced a dismal norm - that a public official can waste money on luxuries, so long as the expenditures are approved, and were not funded by public money or illicitly motivated millionaires.

What a dismal, ill-begotten norm. Nothing is less rewarding to behold than the fantasies of human beings, be they the prime minister and his wife, or the janitors who clean his office. When one enters hidden realms of human imagination, there is no avoiding the quicksand of sanctimony. Moreover, embarrassingly, it seems that the relentless investigation of elected officials' virtues and vices - the state comptroller's trademark under Lindenstrauss - increasingly seems to be a populist, if not demagogic, undertaking.

And if there is one sin that a state comptroller must avoid, it is the temptation of becoming too popular. The pursuit of popularity is something the comptroller ought to leave to the politicians. But how can he do that if he is already up to his ears with self-involvement, if he keeps looking in the mirror, asking, "How do I look? Do they love me?"

A state comptroller must acknowledge there is nothing the masses like more than the sanctimonious review of the elite's life of luxury, whether it be a political elite or any other elite. It fires up the imagination and inspires imitation attempts. Since such intrusive reviews are populist and lowbrow, an official seeking to protect the integrity of the state comptroller's office should avoid them.

That is, another luxury junket by the Netanyahus, funded by an illicit or half-illicit source, causes less damage to the state than the loss of the last sanctuary from populism. The state would theoretically be purged of corruption, but it would also be filled to the brim with persons who know exactly what they are and are not permitted, so as not to be caught in private fantasies.

In such a hypothetical state, only one fantasy would be allowed: the fantasy of being comme il faut, that is, unblemished, and able to pass the state comptroller's investigation of moral probity. In itself, such a state of affairs does not seem so bad, but when the state comptroller assents to the mass's desire to meddle in the private affairs of elites, and when the state comptroller's work becomes a kind of Roman colosseum where barons are hurled to writhe in torment before being ravaged, the office that is supposed to monitor politicians and society becomes an agency that arranges bread and circus events. Its purpose transmogrifies, and it deflects public attention from genuinely grave matters that it lacks the authority to probe and monitor.

That evening, after Sherlock Lindenstrauss and his loyal assistant Watson caught Netanyahu and his wife on the illicit, or half-illicit, flight, Sherlock returned contentedly to his house; but when he entered the main corridor and took off his cape and hat, he looked into a mirror and was shocked to see that he looked like his worst enemy.