Stifled by Corruption

“If you imitate Zola and attack some nuisance in this town tomorrow, you will bring on every symptom and have every experience of the Dreyfus affair. The cost is the same, for cold looks are worse than imprisonment. The emancipation of the reformer is the same, for if a man can resist the influences of his townsfolk, if he can cut free from the tyranny of neighborhood gossip, the world has no terrors for him; there is no second inquisition. The public influence is the same, for every citizen of that town can thereafter look a town officer in the face with more self-respect. But not to townsmen, nor to neighboring towns, nor to Parisians is this force confined. It goes out in all directions, continuously. The man is in communication with the world. This impulse of communication with all men is at the bottom of every ambition. The injustice, cruelty, oppression in the world are all different forms of the same non-conductor, that prevents utterances, that stops messages, that strikes dumb the speaker and deafens the listener. You will find that it makes no difference whether the non-conductor be a selfish oligarchy, a military autocracy, or a commercial ring. The voice of humanity is stifled by corruption: and corruption is only an evil because it stifles men. Try to raise a voice that shall be heard from here to Albany and watch what it is that comes forward to shut off the sound. It is not a German sergeant, nor a Russian officer of the precinct. It is a note from a friend of your father’s offering you a place in his office. This is your warning from the secret police. Why, if any of you young gentlemen have a mind to make himself heard a mile off, you must make a bonfire of your reputations and a close enemy of most men who wish you well.” (John Jay Chapman, Learning and Other Essays)