The enemy inside the walls

10 August 2020 | Opinion

Roman statesman, lawyer, academic and sceptic philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, simply known as Cicero, millennia ago said that “a nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason from within”.

He described the enemy at the gates of a city as less formidable, because an outside foe is known and carries his banner openly.

However, “the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself”.

More disconcerting for Cicero was that the traitor inside the walls appears not be a traitor.

“He speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.

“He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.”

As if to describe succinctly the scourge of corruption and those who perpetrate it in modern states, Cicero captured what many, especially in countries now governed by former liberation movements, have come to know: Those whose greed has consumed them, and who continue to rob their fellow citizens blind, are more dangerous than any outside army a nation can face.

It is the enemy within that must be feared above all others.

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