"It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph" - Edmund Burke, 1729 - 97.
Whatever did we talk about before the expenses scandal of MPs' moats and duck-ponds, bath-plugs and plasma TV's? Each day brings fresh revelations which shock and infuriate us, closely followed by whingeing, whining excuses from those we trusted to lead us and not to rob us blind.
"I was only working within the rules, I've done nothing wrong" has so far been the number one get-out line trotted out by thick-skinned on-the-take MPs outed by the Press, a phrase which raises my blood pressure a notch every time I hear it. How can they not realise the ridiculousness of such an excuse when they themselves have written the rules, have been responsible for the oh-so-generous interpretation of them and have apparently happily worked within those "guidelines" until public outrage has shone the spotlight of shame upon them?
And now we have MPs coming forward who apparently always thought that their expense account procedures were a bit dodgy, but who nevertheless continued to use these procedures whilst ever so quietly raising their doubts about them. Their protests apparently fell on deaf ears (probably such a high-pitched squeaking that only dogs could hear it) but instead of shouting louder and louder until they made their point and forced reform, they waited it out for someone else to blow the whistle hard enough for it to be heard, in this case a national newspaper. Now these same MPs are trying to use the fact that their back-dated protests were rejected as a defence for continuing to work within a rotten system, as if retrospectively we will accept that they never really wanted to be part of the classroom naughty gang after all, and let them off detention.
But they were part of it simply because of their tacit acceptance of the status quo, however reluctantly, and as such are almost as responsible for this unholy mess as those who dived snout-first into the trough with that infuriating sense of entitlement which has enraged so many of us over the past few weeks.
All of this has got me thinking about my own character. Would I be strong enough to keep my integrity when all around were losing theirs? Would you? In reality, who knows until tested how any of us would react. I suppose we all like to think that there are some things "up with which we will not put", but where do we draw the line? Would you or I continue to be part of a system which we know is intrinsically wrong because we fear for our personal future, or would our consciences get the better of us and force us to stand up and be counted? Would we have the determination to try very hard to change things, refusing to take no for an answer and making ourselves extremely unpopular in the process? Could you be a whistle-blower and face the consequences?
Being the trouble-maker that I am, I think I have my answer, but then again I don't have powerful colleagues with ducks desperate for a little island to sit on, manor house moats that need cleaning or several mortgage interest paid houses to "flip", all on the taxpayer, so that makes my choice a whole lot easier.