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The Ends of Power

I hesitated writing anything about this because of the media coverage and subsequent fatigue that inevitably sets in. However, its been preying on my mind and a recent phone call kept it fresh. The Penn State child abuse scandal that seems to be growing minute by horrible minute has most everyone thinking about just how something like this happens in the first place and then gets covered up for years. Working at a college in the position I'm in I can see it happening very easily. Some people see colleges as bastions of intellectual pursuit. They are training grounds for a life of the mind or a life filled with a professional career. The university environment is all of that, but it is also fertile ground for a person to build their own career, a place to make your mark, a place to build something lasting. And yes, unfortunately, its a place that allows a small man to become big. A place to build power and use it to shape and rule a fiefdom walled off from the world most everyone else lives in. This scandal is a case study in the use and abuse of that sort of power. The sad behavior of Joe Paterno, choosing to continue to wield his power to shape his own undoing in his own time in the face of the obvious moral choice of resigning immediately highlights how far power can rot the mind . The board of trustees did the right thing and fired him. They are heroes. Power. Power covered up the rape of a boy(or boys). Power allowed the rapist to resign quietly. Power kept the victims quiet all these years. Power kept two janitors mouths shut. Power clouded a grand jury. And power will unravel Penn State's recruiting for years to come.

My brother in law called to chat last night. He has two daughters going to Penn State and he is a big Penn State football fan. He reveres Joe Paterno. He's now full of confusion. Its an awful way to find out about your hero's feet of clay. I don't really follow college ball that much but I know very well who Joe Pa is. In many ways he was more than the football coach. He was the face of the college. Many say he is the college. And therein lies the problem. His refusal to resign immediately on his own didn't surprise me. The college I work for is rather sports obsessed itself and has some coaches who's egos are a little inflated. A recently retired basketball coach used to do all sorts of questionable things and get away with it because of who he was. For instance, because of the power he had, I never complained when he'd steal food from our storage for his family. I never spoke up when he'd tell us he needed to pay for 10 meals and actually take 20. We never spoke up as a department when he would over book a basketball camp and then not pay for the extra food or facility rental.

So magnify this sort of small college pettiness a thousand-fold and you wind up with people at Penn State who totally discarded their moral compass in order to hold onto the power they had...and to keep their job...and to stay out of jail. All of which gets accomplished by swinging the power around in front of the ones with no power. Put a bit of stick about. Let the hoi-poloi know what's what and who's the big dog. The situation is sick to begin with and gets sicker until you end up with some twisted old bastard buggering under-priveledged boys in the shower with impunity because he's the right hand guy to the By-God Greatest Living College Football Coach and Life Blood of the College, Joe Paterno. So yeah, there'll be a lot of whining and crying about how Joe did what he was supposed to do and how he wasn't given a fair shake. Bollocks to all of it I say. Anyone of those power soaked, self important twitfucks who did only the bare minimum to assuage the situation might as well have been right in the locker room with that child rapist. Waiting their turn to ram their power home just like they did everyday as they stomped across their kingdom in Happy Valley.

On a sidebar: I really gotta stop watching the news.


Nov. 11th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
I don't follow college football and had no idea who Joe Paterno is. These event really appalled me in the same way pederasty in the Catholic Church appalls me -- and I see parallels: One might argue that sports is religion in the 21st century.

Power is always abused. That's why it's coveted, right? That's why I'd choose money over power every time.
Nov. 13th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
Oh I definitely agree that sports is religion. Especially here in the US.

Yeah - I could care less about power...I just want to be comfortable. The ones obsessed with power always seem to have one foot on the crazy train.