Qui custodiet ipsos custodites, power, and corruption

Yesterday, I saw the news that Australian Catholic Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for sexually assaulting a minor has been voided.
The Catholic Church has been embroiled in scandal for a very long time. Years ago it was revealed that priests had been sexually molesting minors for decades, and that the Church, instead of acting against them, shuffled the offending priests off to different parishes and sometimes even different Dioceses. Massive sums have been paid out to victims over the Church’s shielding of miscreants within its own ranks. But this is a common problem among authority.
The latin saying “Qui custodiet ipsos custodites?” is usually translated as “Who guards the Guards themselves?”, but a better translation for meaning is “who monitors the Monitors themselves?” Although often rhetorical, in my experience, far too often those in authority aren’t properly held to account, even when clearly abusing their power. Several people have been assaulted by Police during the quarantine, for instance.
One of the examples that comes to mind is former Cricket Umpire Darrell Hair. One of the most controversial umpires of all time with a string of questionable decisions, he finally came to grief after penalising Pakistan for ball-tampering in a match against England at Lords. Infuriated, the Pakistan Cricket Team refused to retake the field after lunch and were disqualified. When the allegedly tampered ball was independently examined, no damage was found. Hair wrote a letter to the International Cricketing Council (ICC), offering his resignation in exchange for a sum of money. He later tried to play it off as a joke, but the ICC was done and fired him. Hair then threatened a lawsuit that came to nothing. When the ICC then offered him what was effectively a demotion, he refused. Since then, he has been in retirement.
The ICC should have sent Hair packing long before they did. As I mentioned, prior to his downfall, he had made a string of highly questionable decisions. Further to that, most if not all of the questionable decisions were against India, Pakistan, and South Africa. Hair was biased, which is the absolute last thing any umpire should be. His favouritism was so blatant that after he umpired a match between South Africa and Australia, even the great Sir Donald Bradman felt it necessary to call him out in print.
There is a quote by Lord Acton, ironically a Catholic, that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power to corrupt absolutely.” But I’ve found that in reality, it mainly goes the other way. Bullies and the corrupt seek out power to abuse.
A few years ago, I saw an article that listed careers with an above average proportion of psychopaths. Among the careers were Priests, CEOs, Law Enforcement Officers and Politicians. All jobs with significant amounts of power.
There is a noted reluctance by many fields to properly hold their own to account. Surgeon Wynne Lieberthal was notorious for ordering too many items through his own medical supply company (huge COI right there) and using them in operations. Several of his patients suffered lasting harm from the too many screws and other thing he used. It took far too long for him to be brought to book. The “Blue Wall” in Law Enforcement is well known. Terry Pratchett made reference to it in his Discworld novel Night Watch.
It seems to me there are three reasons why those in power aren’t properly held to account. The first is because corrupt people like power and protect other abusers. The second, I believe, is because of a misguided sense of cameraderie. People who have gone through the same training and work alongside each other are likely to be forgiving of improper conduct, even when they shouldn’t. And the third is a belief that authority is always right. While authority should be respected, this should not be allowed to cover abuse.
So, what should be done to prevent abuse of authority? Firstly, any shortlisted applicants for a position of power must be thoroughly screened to stop abusive personalities from getting through. Secondly, monitoring bodies for professions must include non-members. For Andrew Wakefield’s fitness to practise hearing, two of the panel were ordinary citizens, not medical practitioners. Thirdly, those who shield their own must also be disciplined. Finally, proper independent monitoring of those who hold power.
I know that these are not silver bullets, but adopting these practises throughout will go a long way to lowering abuses of authority.

About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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