Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone was defined by Primo Levi as the zone of the privileged prisoner - the area of “ethical uncertainty and collaboration with evil”.

Today, many of us complain about widespread corruption and the decay of democracy, laying the blame for these ills solely upon the political elite and their corporate handlers.
In fact, as recent events have clearly shown, through complicity or inaction, the rest of us are just as responsible for what’s going wrong. For it is always a combination of the perversity of the system and the feebleness of the human character that causes the problem.
Greed, selfishness, duplicity, defeatism and fear are useful human weaknesses, exploitable by any fraudulent regime, weaknesses from which repressive states have always drawn their power and even a certain degree of legitimacy.

It is of course understandable that, with increasing deprivation, collaboration with a corrupt authority can appear logical and unavoidable - after all, the state can hold the key to every little need and comfort in our lives. Most often, however, it is not necessity, but the self-centred human desire to be given a shortcut to undeserved privilege and power that buys our collaboration, turns us against one another, and, in the process, makes us all more vulnerable and easily subdued.

Although history should have taught us how to defend ourselves when confronted with similar trials, we have been drawn, once again, within the boundaries of the ‘Grey Zone’- that “murky space of moral ambiguity and compromise” – which, for as long as it prospers, gives us little chance of ridding ourselves of authoritarianism and corruption, and returning to normal.

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