We are all delinquent

posted by Paolo Volpara

The original quote from Honore’ de Balzac “Le Père Goriot (1834)” was well articulated: “Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait”

In an English translation sixty years later, the original meaning was still respected: “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed”

After that the process of simplification took over and the common version of the quote is now “At the base of every great fortune there is a great crime.” Simplified, generalised and in a way made more dramatic, apodictic. But, less precise and less useful to explain the relationship with crime today.

Road is a great theatre where we are all actors and spectators at the same time and I was enjoying the show today: on my bike, in a fifty kph limit stretch, with high chances to meet a police speed control. I am maybe five percent above the limit while a white Audi driver overtakes me at double speed, turns the corner, see the police block, brakes hard while continuing to talk on the phone.The policeman return the wave of the pilot and let both of us go. Good decision. The speed limit on that stretch of road made and still makes no sense: a four lane straight with gentle-full visibility- corners, guardrail in the middle and no habitations in sight. Nobody respect the limit if the law enforcers are not there: a crime properly executed is not a crime. And this is my problem.

The creation of meaningless rules of behaviour invites all of us to break the law if there are no chances to be caught: from breaking occasionally the speed limit to evade taxation, to major acts of corruption. It may sound hyperbolic but it creates a culture of lawless that characterised our recent times, more pronounced in certain areas and regions.

Not exaggerated if we agree that stealing 1, stealing 1.000 or stealing 1 million belong to the crime of “thievery”, irrelevant the amount.

On the road we get trained to break the law when it can be “properly executed” and we than bring this way of thinking and acting in our life: the search of success justify a crime when we do not risk condemnation.

Breaking the law and getting away with it is a sign of astute mind, often admired, envied and worth imitation.

Deeply it generates a repressed resentment ready to explode in condemnation when the culprit is caught. It fuels not only dishonesty but violence as well.

And the game is played with full awareness of all participants: you pay the fine for being caught and nobody is interested to get or to give knowledge for future behaviour.

One thought on “We are all delinquent

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  1. I was walking at a public park yesterday and while I was crossing the bicycle path I heard a motorcycle approaching fast, screaming in 3rd gear. I opened my arms for protest while he zoomed past me. I found the rider waiting for me further on the path. We talked. He was most confident that he was in control and could react to any situation. He knew what he was doing! At such point only repeated failures (trials or accidents) can make him doubt his position.

    We do not have rules that are imposed and, as you explain, imposed ones bring no behaviour improvements. I think we better remember and remind each other the notion of shame (“ayıp” is the Turkish word).

    Before we went our ways, the park rider and I did agree one “ayıp”: It was wrong to ride a motor vehicle in a pedestrian area and making people anxious. A success, in my opinion, in such a stressed society.

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