It’s easy to understand that a successful corruption begins with public admiration. Let it be as trivial as stealing from a fundraiser, or as far-reaching as a politician embezzling tax money; the origins of these crimes come from entrusting the wrong people. So I've posed the question, where can we draw the line between admiration and corruption?
We don’t like the ambitions nor results of John Kennedy to Kim Jong Un, or Joseph Stalin to Malcolm X; so what exactly is the difference? Merriam-Webster attempts to explain this by defining corruption as an “inducement to wrong… ” versus admiration to be “a feeling of respect.” But without an outside opinion to differ right from wrong, man to leader relationships of admiration and corruption are fundamentally indistinguishable. George Orwell and John Green express their belief in their books Animal Farm and Paper Towns.
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with both stories yet, Animal Farm mocks the Russian (or Bolshevik) Revolution of 1917. It’s all about how the animals of Manor Farm, likewise to citizens of Russia, were sore from unthoughtful leadership, so they brought up a government of their own. The twist, however, was that intelligent pigs, or dominant figures of the revolution, provoked the new government to only fall deeper into corruption. Our other story, Paper Towns, takes place in Orlando, Florida, and centers around eighteen-year-old Margo Roth Spiegelman; a beautiful, popular, and mysterious young woman. It seems that everyone is in love with their fascination for Margo, admiring her for the movie-like life she lives— but for an undefined fear that I believe a fear of expectations, Margo seeks a new life in an unmarked town, refusing ever to come back.
Coming back to admiration and corruption, I would not argue that the ruling pigs of Manor farm were initially evil, rather they never possessed the amount of moral integrity that leadership demands. There was no indication that the pigs had selfish intentions from the start, rather it is more logical to believe that power had seduced them into corruption. After all, when one has all the resources at hand, and the power to decide where it goes, selfish temptations are likely at their peak. Moreover, the pigs of Manor farm made distinct promises of new freedom to their fellow animals; it was all written in the seven commandments, yet tragically, the pigs took advantage of their intellectual superiority throughout the farm. The seven commandments became five, and just the right words were modified to the pigs’ taste.
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
With the conveniently adjusted laws, the pigs were able to live like kings at the expense of stripping away their equalizing promises from the animals. Meanwhile, in Orlando, Margo simply enjoys the attention that comes with her popularity. She constantly makes efforts to amaze the world around her, and for that, her peers have created. Regardless, when we look at what Margo realistically gains from this, we must take account that she never takes anything by force, and nonetheless gives something back in return. Margo serves the world by providing it with her actions, entertainment, and in return, she happily accepts attention and fame. It's a two-way streak, and that is where we can find the line between corruption and admiration.
Corruption can cleverly spin its name into leadership, but the actual difference that makes it an abuse of power, rather real leadership, is shined on when we pay attention to our moral principles. Through these readings, I've defined corruption as a misuse of entrusted power for personal gain, while admiration doesn't allow for anything to be taken from the admirers. The key points to look for when separating the two is if, like the pigs of Manor farm, does the leadership selfishly steal from its followers, or like Margo Roth Spiegelman's experiences, does it pertain to a two-way streak where something is only created for both sides? We owe it to ourselves to assess our leaders, so I urge you to ask, from your soccer club captain to your president, is it admiration or corruption?