Sunday, February 6, 2011

Corrosion of the system by Corruption

Today it is a cacophony in the public space; important people scream judgments about each other and the rest of us sit by and watch a tamasha, confused and disillusioned… Scapegoats are hounded in the name of getting at the root of corruption; actresses are made to pay the price to save face of the political fraternity. It’s a game of pulling everyone into the mud…

Let’s take corruption, it is apt to hound Raja to solve the problem… the noise is so loud, one is not allowed to get to the root of the problem. Can we rise above the din? Where is the root of the corruption? How do we hit it and hit it hard?

In this third of the five article series, we look at how corruption eats into the vitals of the system…

here to return to summary)

Everyone that indulges in corruption seems to win. The giver of contract gets money, the giver of money gets contract, the winner of contract makes profits, the political party gets flush with funds and there is a presumed promise for its propagation and continuance in power… Who is the loser…?

Amorous behavior, vis-à-vis corruption, is becoming increasingly acceptable. It is now ‘normal’ to accept ‘token’ amounts for tasks that need to be otherwise done as duties. We sometimes encounter situations in public life when there is righteous indignity when a person, who ought to usually get a bribe, does not get it!

In Adi Sankara’s view the greatest benefactor is Dharma.

His usage of the word ‘Dharma’ does not refer to religion. He implies the existing condition of law and order as inspired by The Highest Principle—God. In it each person does his duty to the best of his ability; and while continuing to operate even in the little position that the person may hold, attains in his personal bearing, the highest which an individual can ‘obtain’ or ‘be’ rather.

So in pointing to Dharma as the greatest benefactor, Adi Shankara says that it is not for the king or any other individual to give magnanimously, it is for the ‘system’ to deliver to society. By extending that logic, if the system fails, the benevolence of the system is lost and the consequence is undesirable.

The simplest way that corruption affects systems is when people deliberately stall when doing their duty in order to ensure that people pay quick money either to have their interests taken up or in order to jump a long queue. In such instances the pace of delivery and effectiveness of the system slackens.

The other way corruption affects is when initiative is dampened. Especially in development projects, there is need of initiative on the part of officials to ensure that a government scheme is innovatively made to benefit a need in society. In fact, initiative is required in respect of all pro-active measures. Now when there is a culture of corruption, it is those who dare to be corrupt who will take initiative. Eventually all initiative are looked at with suspicion. In such a situation people start going by the rules scrupulously—or rather over-scrupulously in order to be seen as honest. People stop applying their discretion to benefit deserving cases. Ultimately this kills initiative in the system.

Therefore, slowing down and the killing of initiative are two things that happen in general administration and in all kinds of organizations and the overall quality and quantity of delivery of the system drastically goes down.

The impact is worse when corruption affects the system of maintaining law and order. When the police, the witness, lawyers, judges and jailors resort to corruption, people can bypass the rule of law using money. When such be the case, crime, instead of getting weeded out, gets a special fertilizer instead—it is rewarded. The vulnerable sections of society who are at the receiving end of crimes suffer. Those that cannot afford it (fees + bribes) fail to get justice. This in turn makes money dearer in society; those mad after possessing resources now become desperate since it wields power in the eyes of the law. The poor bear the brunt.

While to a big industrialist it would just mean that he cannot start an air-taxi service, to someone in the tribal area or in the slums, it may even mean the starvation and death of his family and children.

Each instance of corruption creates opportunity for discontent. The system, irrespective of what idealism it purports to pursue, dilutes the faith of its citizens. With insensitivity being meted out to people there is unrest. This takes nation and society in a downward spiral and the system loses its benevolence

The above mentioned results of corruption are at least tangible; in the intangible sphere the effects are much worse. For one, the perpetrators of the practice of corruption, whether in the receiving end or the giving end, by seeking for things that are not legitimately theirs, they exhibit lack of fulfillment in their persona and give preference to their greed and wants. They live unhappy, miserable lives; may be even sitting on a heap of pleasures but unable to enjoy it.

As for society, when dishonesty and corruption is widespread, there is loss of idealism or inspiration; words of wisdom lose their potency. There is confusion in aspects concerning values and wisdom. Family values take a beating. Mutual trust between individuals in society suffers. Corruption in values results in misguided children and the general state of happiness and wellbeing in society is lowered.

Of particular importance is the need to look at the role of Corruption at high places. When dishonesty happens at the highest level, it percolates down in two ways; one is that lower functionaries resort to corruption in order to make up for what they pay upwards, so corruption spreads. The other way is that the ‘value systems’ patronized by these high and mighty persons are highlighted for absorption down under.

When it is seen that the corrupt at high places are being rewarded, respected and sometimes worshipped—and increasingly so—society eventually begins to judge respectability on the basis of 1) identity or label that is stamped on someone’s brow or 2) the cash that is holds out in his hands (and not on the basis of earned social merits, work done, attitude, values and character). In the process acts of corruption too gain acceptability (if not respectability) and they tend to become a norm in society.

And when respectability in society depends merely on holding a position of power/influence or in being filthy rich, and does not depend on how that ‘merit (sic)’ is achieved; personal ends become more important than the means. Ultimately the values of these beacon lights (sic) in society become social standards for the impressionable to follow…
All in all there is a loss of Dharma in society…

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