From an article in the International New York Times, spare a thought for ordinary Brazilians whose sickly economy sees them suffer worsening austerity measures and the President impeached. Meanwhile, civil servants in the judicial branch got a 41 per cent pay increase. Judges, already on US$200,000 ($289,000) a year compared with wages of US$4000 at the bottom of the scale, want a salary rise. They were stopped before they spent millions employing servants in their chambers as well.
I quote: "The ability of elected officials and elite public employees to secure what Brazilians call 'super salaries' and outsize benefits for themselves has long been a contentious feature of the country's political system."
The retirement schemes are so out of whack they've created moral indifference in the nation that knows their pensions are just not affordable. Eighty per cent of your pre-retirement salary at age 52? Some retire at 50.
New Zealand, as the world's least corrupt country, is lucky that such an outlook hasn't taken hold. But it could if we're not vigilant. Even across the Ditch a culture of corruption is entrenched. From union leaders to Returned Service League club officials, cops, councillors, politicians, civil servants, a seriously nasty underworld - it makes for a sordid parade of shameless crooks and crims.
The Saudi king is taking about 500 tonnes of luggage for a nine-day visit to Indonesia. Meanwhile in neighbouring Yemen, which is at war with Saudi, over 300,000 are suffering serious malnutrition. King Saud's entourage is a mere 1450 doting servants and obsequious, head-nodding officials spending more than enough to feed these people for months.
In France, politics is in upheaval, owed less to the populist wave than the age-old issue of entitlement. In this case politicians, who truly believe they are so special that ordinary ethical behavioural codes do not apply to them.
Yet at least 40,000 turned out at a rally in Paris in support of Francois Fillon despite paying his "employee" wife nearly a million-euro salary over 10 years. Marine Le Pen refused to even face a court over charges she used European Union funds to pay her staff. The man who might replace embattled Fillon, Alain Juppe, has a 2004 corruption conviction for "employing" non-existent staff.
What have the leaders of Saudi, Brazil and France got in common? They all live in palaces. And officials of each country enjoy a cushy life. It must be human nature to aspire to living in a palace. Luckily for democracies, we have constitutional means to counter this urge.
The French might have had their 1789 Revolution that saw King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette lose their heads on the guillotine a few years later. But monarchical tendencies dwell deep in the French heart and remain alive, well and grasping to this day.
But good young New Zealand? Well, despite our share of bad and immoral people, we are not corrupt. Our politicians do not eat out the hands of the rich, nor do officials take graft and backhanders except in rare, isolated cases. We're clean! Just not as green as we could be.
An Aussie acquaintance told me he found Kiwis "incredibly naive". Talking a few moments longer proved he meant stupid. In his mind our open, trusting nature made us fools deserving of being taken for a ride. That's his convict origins and in this bloke's case, his Slavic roots.
A man from a culture that assumes the other person is out to take you, so take him first. That is his history, the way he was made. New Zealanders don't have that deep, historical anger unless you're Maori with a burning grievance over your land stolen by government, as was the most recent case settled 177 years late(r) in Nelson. But New Zealand is but one of a mere few countries that settle these historic grievances.
The growing percentage of Chinese and Indian citizens will surely change our cultural outlook. For the better and worse. Just as Pacific Islanders and Fijians have changed the face of rugby and sport in general. Dutch immigrants made a huge contribution to business.
Maori culture underpins everything we are as a nation, gives dignity and colour to our ceremonies. Interesting to watch a fascinating new blend of cultures form.