That a single vowel can radically alter the meaning of a word is not surprising; rather, it is the simplicity of the reduction – from one constituting an onerous sense of the corrupt, to a mere insignificance of action – that demarcates the chasm of definitional differences between the two. Both are adjectives; but of the former, often associated with corruption involving bribery and characterized by a mercenary motive, while the latter is of a pardonable offense, minor on a scale of wrongdoings, and merely bordering on the barely noticeable spectrum of sins acknowledged – it is the difference of the singular vowel – the “i” which constitutes the reflection back upon the personal “I” who acts upon the violation that determines whether the offense is minor or major, that divides the two.
The originating context of a venal act almost always involved corruption relating to an exchange of consideration – and, for whatever reason, it was that underlying motive of engaging in an act of illegality for the sake of money, that exhibited a greater evil by the participant. Perhaps such an origin of retreating repulsiveness is Biblical – of that treachery committed in exchange for the thirty pieces of silver. Translated into English, the personal pronoun inserted in lower caps in the middle of the word, stuck between two consonants, evinces a guilty conscience inflamed deep within the troubled recesses of a soul’s agony. And what of the noun which the adjective modifies – does it add, amend, enhance or otherwise alter?
Injustice is a malleable concept. Words were once confined by strict adherence to meanings; no more, as society has allowed for the gymnasts of linguistic pole-vaulting to tinker unabatedly. As the negation of the root term “justice”, it has become recognized as any feeling of unfairness encountered, as opposed to the more concrete embodiment of society’s clear mandate in a process of upholding a morally superior stance, confirmed by age-old rules and procedures, inviolate as reflected in the symbolism of a blindfolded lady impervious to the winds of bias, prejudice or venal means.
For the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal Service worker who is daily being bombarded with harassing conduct by the agency or the U.S. Postal Service, both forms of injustices are encountered: Venal injustice, at the hands of an agency which may be plotting to dismiss and terminate; and venial injustice, at the daily toil of enduring slights and demeaning whispers by coworkers, supervisors and others unnamed.
Medical conditions occur through no fault of the Federal or Postal worker suffering from them; yet, Federal agencies and U.S. Postal Service employees treat such Federal and Postal workers as mere fodder for committing injustices otherwise unaccounted for. Perhaps there is a heaven where ultimate justice prevails and where venal sins and venial acts are sifted between to determine who is issued a valid passport for migration through those pearly gates; but, until then, there is the option of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, and where obtaining an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is neither a venal act, nor a mere venial outcome, but an injustice turned around for the Federal or Postal worker who cannot otherwise perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire