Discussion around “Cults.”

The terminology varies. Some call them religions; some call them expressions of Spirituality. We call them new religious movements, thereby simply indicating, that these phenomena are new in the sense of timing, even if they have older roots, religious in their pretensions and practices, movements since most of them have not – yet – settled down as regular religions and institutions. …The movements are not as new as we might think, but they are new in the sense that they are modern, for they are the children of modernism, even if they appear to promote ‘the old paths’. Their religiousness is often questioned by their efficient and secular approaches to power and finances… The quality of movements of course depends on their ability to move. J. Aagaard and H. Meldgaard, New Religious Movements in Europe (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press 1997)
The Director of Dialogue Ireland, Mike Garde MA “Spirituality and Cultism: A case study of a New Religious Movement- The Magnificat Meal Movement. You should specially go to Ch 2 which addresses this issue.
http://www.unitypublishing.com/Apparitions/SPIRITUALITY%20AND%20CULTISM.htm

SPIRITUALITY AND CULTISM Word document

SPIRITUALITY AND CULTISM-1 PDF

See also article from Sunday Times by Terry Prone
From The Sunday Times
March 8, 2009
Terry Prone: Crooked moves and shady deals are in Ireland’s DNA
Corruption is a badge of honour ingrained in our culture after years battling a system we neither trust nor respect
Terry Prone

Every now and then a brilliant academic mind, supported by state funding, undertakes research that establishes what the rest of us had worked out while just breathing in and out and paying attention to the obvious.

A case in point is last week’s publication by Transparency International (TI) of a report which finds Ireland just a tad corrupt. We’re not major-league corrupt. Just piggy- in-the-middle corrupt. We’re No 16 on the list: not as maggoty as some countries, but not as squeaky clean as Denmark.

In theory, the international community will look at this research, clap a hand to its forehead and become concerned about any dealings with Ireland. Except that we share 16th place with Britain, which doesn’t have a reputation for broad-spectrum venality. Anyway, the international community is busy skating on the thin ice of insolvency and hoping it doesn’t fall through to a massive, decades-long depression. Ireland’s relative position on the corruption index is, one can imagine, quite low on the international agenda at the moment.

The oddity of the TI report is that it deals with political corruption only: “abuse of public office for private gain” is its definition. This neat linguistic device ignores the fact that the word “corruption” has the same Latin root as the word “rupture” and means the total breakage of moral trust. Narrowing it to holders of public office implies other areas of life are not amenable to corruption or that, if they are, it doesn’t much matter. It isn’t so. Every area of Irish life is amenable to corruption, and it matters at every level.

I’ve worked in a profoundly corrupt context. No, not as a political adviser — that’s actually quite a clean area — but as editor of a glossy magazine aimed at teenagers. In this magazine, the ethical line between editorial and advertising was as porous as a sponge. We promoted lines of clothing because they gave us free fashion photographs. We plugged cosmetics because they gave us free samples. We included cars in pictures where they had damn-all relevance because they let us drive the car for a fortnight for free. We profiled nonentities because the people who owned the magazine were doing business with them. In consequence, the advertisements were the most — if not the only — honest thing in the entire publication.

Did we believe we were corrupt in conveying to impressionable young readers that our recommendations were objective, trustworthy and disinterested? Are you kidding? We were journalists. So we sat around at free lunches, convinced of our own rectitude, and condemned corrupt politicians. We assumed ambient corruption, but made instinctive distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

Acceptable corruption was the kind Ireland has always been quite proud of, like minor smuggling and the placement of cardboard sheep on mountains as a way of maximising EU grants. Acceptable corruption was the sort that ripped off some big, faceless entity, be it the EU, the Department of Social and Family Affairs or a multinational insurance company.

Unacceptable corruption was to be found in the bribes we assumed big business paid for planning permission. It was the kind that hurt real people we knew.

Those of us from suburban, middle-class Dublin were more po-faced about corruption than colleagues from rural Ireland, who understood the first-names-and-favours business better than we did. They realised that corruption is in our DNA, bred in after 800 years of trying to get around a system of government for which we had no respect and in which we had no trust. Like the Mafia, which developed as a form of local protection against outside force, getting around the system was a badge of honour, a validation of individual intelligence, and a statement of local commitment, rather than a crime. It represented peasant survival, connived at by clientelism, rather than anything malign or societally destructive.

In working-class Dublin, the same principles operated. When Guinness used to transport its stout by the barrel using open trains, teenagers would drop down from the first bridge and throw off as many barrels as they could until the train hit 30 miles per hour, at which point they’d jump off and go back to collect their loot. Working-class Dublin had a glossary of terms to cover this kind of petty theft including “Fell off the back of a lorry” and “Will you do it for cash?”

Petty corruption was a product of enterprising minds constrained by poverty. The corruption that Transparency International documents is different, not just in scale and scope but in its derivation from a confluence of circumstances present from the 1970s. One was income tax so high as to be viewed as punitive and unfair by hard-working and successful people. The imposition of Deposit Interest Retention Tax tipped many of them into covert revolt: “This is my money. I earned it. I’m handing over the majority of it to the state and now, when I save a bit, they get me on that too.”

The tax rate incentivised the enterprising to be corrupt on a new scale and in a newly sophisticated way. This wasn’t a guy making four runs a day across the border in an articulated lorry with a false floor and a tank filled with cheap northern diesel. This was Ansbacher and Swiss bank accounts.

The problem about white-collar corruption is that it doesn’t stay cellular. People in the know tell other people in the know. In a sense, that’s the ultimate corruption: the corrosion of trust, fellowship and friendship for private gain at the expense of the uninvolved.

During the 1980s, the culture of brown paper bags and pocket-lining by politicians and public officials grew. At the same time, a new concept of sovereignty developed, moving from owning your own country to owning international credibility. Ireland was slow to learn the lesson that there’s not much point in owning a lump of soil in the North Atlantic if nobody trusts the way you manage what’s on that soil.

During the boom years we were so busy with promotions and bonuses that we were easily persuaded by media coverage of never-ending tribunals that corruption must be a thing of the past. We outsourced the problem to regulators, surrounded ourselves with tender processes and guidelines, and were as placid as a cardboard sheep.

But then we’re geniuses in this country at policing yesterday’s problems. (c)

terry.prone@sunday-times.ie

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