Corruption of the American dream DIPANKAR GUPTA If IPL and cricket scandals boil your blood, you need some perspective. The first order perspective is that there is corruption in every alleyway in India, so wise up, why should cricket be an exception? The second, and higher order, perspective, is that corruption is increasing the world over. Time permitting, we can magpie-pick our favourite corruption site and that could be in any continent, anywhere. Go ahead, surprise yourself! Why has corruption become so pervasive all over? We know about Indians and their greasy fingers, but the glass is no cleaner on the other table. Corruption in China is nearly as monumental as its Great Wall. France's ex-president, Nicolas Sarkozy, faces charges for taking cash from a L'Oreal heiress. In Russia, the mafia is close to being state-run. Britain was recently shaken by the parliamentary expenses scandal. In America from the ex-governor of Illinois to Jesse Jackson Jr, the civil rights leader, the rich, the powerful and the holy are stained. Now even in freshly scrubbed Canada, the prime minister's office is involved in financial irregularities. These are recent examples, but public ethics began to nose-dive globally ever since the Cold War began. In this four-decade-long mortal combat between capitalism and communism, it was democracy that suffered collateral damage. As the Cold War progressed, it became increasingly clear that the norms of democratic propriety were dispensable. What mattered most was which of the rival economic systems would win: free enterprise or communist control. It is this line of thinking that allowed Americans to align with some of the worst dictators in the name of anti-communism; it also gave the Soviets room to cultivate puppets with equally wooden hearts. Consequently, when the Cold War ended and when capitalism had won, the rules of engagement that triumphed were those of the market, not of democracy. This also explains why the unabashed 'get rich' American Dream domi-nates the world today. In fact, the Cold War was so intense that most Americans easily forgot the earlier American Dream that was heavily coloured by the ideals of democracy. Even as late as the 1930s, Thomas Wolfe was able to record it as a dream that gave "to every man, regardless of his birth, a shining golden opportunityaÂ¦the right to live, to work, to be himself." But once the Cold War heated up, this goal was cast aside for the materialist one that aimed for a big house, a big car and a Big Mac. Like it or not, it is this Dream that is now trending everywhere, from Russia, to Britain, to India, even China. Say what you want about China's upstart, jumpstart economy, but when President Xi Jinping rolled out the Chinese Dream this May, it read like the American Dream, with very little lost in translation. In fact, the luxury car in a Beijing driveway could well be a Cadillac as General Motors has cornered 17.6% of China's automobile market. It is this mad rush to get rich quick that made corruption endemic in China, where buildings fall and baby food is poisoned. Fortunately for West Europe and North America, democracy had already bequeathed them a huge legacy well before the Cold War began. Democracy is much more than just elections; it also endorses transparent public conduct, an impartial judicial system and an empowered citizenry. It is this that enabled western democracies to deliver tangible benefits to its people, from universal healthcare to minority rights, at unimaginable speed. This also explains why, in spite of the American Dream, corruption in the West is not quite as bad as it is elsewhere. Sadly, the pressure is gathering there as well; how else can one explain the 2008 banking crisis led by Lehmann Brothers? But the Cold War damaged the newly independent countries the most. The domination of the American Dream in the West influenced the choice of leaders and policies in the poorer, emerging countries. It also forced many of them to align with either capitalism or communism; democracy was not included in the deal. It is not a coincidence, then, that from the Cold War period the welfare state made very little progress outside the western world where it was sorely needed. As the market was now everything, all policies had to be measured in terms of returns to capital and not returns to citizens. The American Dream was a dream whose time had truly come! According to Dr Sanjeev Jain, head of psychiatry at NIMHANS, Indians today carry a photocopy of the American Dream in their heads. It did not seem that way in 1947 when Nehru delivered his famous "tryst with destiny" speech which was all about peace, democracy and freedom, and not about getting rich. By the time Manmohan Singh came along, the dream had done a complete turnaround. It was now all about global economic supremacy and releasing the "animal spirit"; in short, bringing the jungle to the mall next door. This did India well for a while but its feeble democratic institutions helped corruption grow to new heights. If and when we make our very own Indian Dream, there is one lesson we should not forget. Getting rich is good but doing it by the rules is even better. The writer is a social scientist. Corruption of the American dream - The Times of India ********************************************* The writer claims that WWII and the Cold War had converted the actual American Dream of democracy and individual ethics into one of a Dream to acquire wealth and hence through means that were not entirely above board. He opines that this crass materialism has affected all the nations in the world, though he claims that it has affected the West less since they have had long time tested democratic ways and means. He mocks the usual cliches that cricket is a 'religion of India'! It does give some idea of the malaise that has hit India. One wonders if materialism will consume India under the guise of liberalisation and globalisation. Will the old time ethics honed by spiritualism return to India to salvage it from the fire of greed?