Lessons from football–the mote in our eye and remembering that development does not make us better people

This week we learned more ugly truth about child rape in the Penn State University football program and “grand corruption” in FIFA world football.

Sobering stuff.  Obviously we in the “developed West” suffer from the types of grave flaws of character that we campaign against in the rest of the world–the same individual venality and the temptations of “groupthink” and misplaced or pretend loyalties to excuse action.

In the United States there is some broad consensus that the we aspire to some type of moral, as well as economic, leadership in the world.  We don’t always agree on what all the details of that morality should be, but we do step up to the “bully pulpit” from left, right and center, from one U.S.administration and Congress to the next.  Not to suggest that we shouldn’t do this, but if we want to lead we ought to conform our behavior to our professed values.

We talk a bit about the issue of how to connect our military–obviously one primary point of contact with other cultures and countries–with the rest of our society.  I haven’t noticed much discussion about how to do this in the diplomatic area.  Sometimes I have wondered if we ought to require our foreign service to do rotations in the United States (outside Washington) to keep them in current touch with how “the American way” is functioning in our own society.

From my “AfriCommons” perspective, it seems that we Americans are blessed to have inherited an exceptional system of governance that has served us well, but we chose whether to live up to it as we go and are not inherently more deserving than others.  Lets step back to look at ourselves on the Penn State situation — we are talking about a program for “sports” at a “public” institution of higher education.  You know, team sports where we teach our “young people” character and competitive virtue.  As part of our world’s finest system of universities.  Surely we would be appalled by something so twisted at the University of Nairobi or Makerere.  As well we should be.

We just need to remember that we don’t really want everyone else in the world to be TOO much like us; and we certainly do not want to be party to any suggestion that prosperity is a substitute for well functioning institutions in any society.

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