Sun, 08 Dec 2013 Feature Article

Corruption: Who Cares?

Awoken By The Cacophony Of Affairs
Corruption: Who Cares?

Awoken By The Cacophony Of Affairs
Having been on a perduring hiatus to focus on issues of practical significance, I find myself rousted and ferreted by the stridence of issues festering in the last few months. Indeed, since I have refrained from writing, I have done well to suppress the urge; but somehow, on this occasion, I can tell my fancy has been tantalisingly teased and tickled, and my writing aqueduct punctured beyond repairs. And as such, this piece captures the confluence of emotions and ratiocinations.

Do I expect to set a conflagration to deflagrate the chaff of corruption that so engulfs my motherland? Probably not. In any case, the ideas I intend to distil might yet—and I say this with bated breath—set off a flicker that may peradventure amount to something of significance in the wider scheme of affairs. After all, in the days that we live, many get the chance to read online and while I may not be interested in adding to the garbled cacophony on the airwaves and other media; it may well be that somebody of high standing and political clout may yet stumble on the musings of a concerned soul and experience an epiphany of sorts.

And while I may not be showered with national laurels for pointing out that indeed the emperor is naked; personal gratification would surely be the coveted crown which I will boldly and incessantly wear with endearing and enduring aplomb.

Palpitating Hearts Of Corruption
The passion for corruption is in the national blood; it is inherently ingrained and innately inculcated. If we were to see a true micrograph of the situation; it would betray a tapestry brimming with a motley of corruption. And which aspect of our pied culture would be exempt? Religion or the judiciary—it is right there as a welcome bedfellow. It is one chorus jarringly sung in many a sector of our national symphony with barish bellicosity and brazen belligerence to the discomfort of those listening and expecting a much more sonorous tune.

Before anybody tries to play the onus probandi card with me; they should quickly remember that only a callow stripling would be so temerarious to question this suggestion of corruption when this flagrant painting is visible to the blind and its noisome music is audible to the deaf—not to mention that even the dumb are shouting it on rooftops; and the cripples are running to bruit about the message. And what about the many statistics that everybody can easily lay their hands on?

Even if we were to wipe our mouth clean with the cleanest, trimmest, freshest tissue, one great leader's statement implicates us when he says, “For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but within they are full of extortion (prey, spoil, plunder) and grasping self-indulgence.”

Corruption is systemic in our setup and to attempt to start name calling would be an attempt to expunge miniscule maculae and vestiges when there are several emblazoned splotches in one's purview.

For some perplexing and dizzying reason it seems we get to catch the small fish while the big fish seems to escape with gross impunity and a lack of effrontery. How possible? What sort of sieve catches small particles and lets go of big items—even monoliths? This sounds contrary to expectations but appears to be the prevailing situation.

Or perhaps the big fish is too big for the pan; and we might as well let go of it and concern ourselves with what can fit the pan of our system? Or somebody tell me whether there are untouchables: people wielding unimaginable power and being well ensconced on aerie pedestals far beyond the law or any internal control system? And while we may comfortingly disport ourselves that such is not the situation; anybody who even cursorily considers life will acquiesce with this position.

The Status Quo
Society seems to be set up in such a way that some of the vilest crooks are neither proscribed nor pilloried but rather praised and pleasured.

Thinking about issues in a deeper way, one may notice some paradoxes that society has to offer. Take for example our financial systems: Who truly pays more tax in terms of percentages — is it Sam, the über-rich guy, or Tom, the struggling poor? How could Tom get access to what Sam has access to? And the least said about some of the big corporations the better.

And even when it comes to credit offerings: Who gets the best rates (or even any money at all) — is it Sandy who has money to spare or John who needs an all-night vigil to force the heavens to purvey his next meal?

In medical systems for example: Who gets the best treatment – Martha, who needs it the most, or Tamara, who can more than afford it?

Unsurprisingly, while corruption may be endemic; some of the most skilful crooks are some of the most educated who know how to get around the rules with ease. Rather than using their education and knowledge to help society; this has become their forte in their attempt to grease their rough palms, line their bottomless pockets, and sustain their ever-enlarging tastes.

Let's not get started on the politician who seems to be the next thing to a saviour personified. How they prate on about the ills of society only to exacerbate the condition once the rudder is handed over to them is nothing short of mind-boggling.

Acceptance & Languor
When the subject of corruption comes up, we are very quick to apportion blame. And rightly we may expect responsibility and accountability from those at the helm of affairs in the nation. These people should be prepared to accept such with grace as after all the buck stops with them. When organisations fail; the head goes. And this is not rocket science. In that sense we have every right to require the highest standards from those in whom we have reposed our confidence through exercising our suffrage at the ballot box.

But for what some of these leaders are guilty of; they may need to answer an important question posed by one writer speaking under inspiration who asks: “What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor?”

Lest we place an unfair charge on all, it may well be that some of these leaders are not guilty of corruption; but how would we know beyond the slightest shadow of doubt? Perhaps we should rewrite the statement that, “Dead flies can make a whole bottle of perfume stink, and a little stupidity can cancel out the greatest wisdom.”

When tyros who are offered the lofty chance to taste the glorious fruits of service in a public office start saying things that show that like a dog, they have not only smelt but actually caught sight of a juicy bone and hence have impishly started wagging their tail in anticipation of the booty; or like a lion they have espied their prey and are patiently stalking with a view to pounce; then what about those who have been in office as ancient as the word suggests?

If one trial—with the accused caught pants down—is anything to go by; then it does not seem to get better with age. In that scenario, the eldest absquatulated before the younger ones—once the judge posed a piercing question which convicted all the plaintiffs eager to spill blood.

For our contemplation we may want to ask ourselves: Do we elect people who are corrupt or does the office make them corrupt?

If someone may say that just by being in the garage, you do not become a car; now what about water remaining in a freezer, does it not change from liquid to solid for it to be referred to as ice?

So what brings about the corruption? Is it our systems that enable the people to become corrupt or these are corrupt people who only pander to their corruption proclivities like a duck takes to water and a monkey cherishes a banana?

On introspection, we may agree that our approach to dealing with corruption has not been as effective as it could have been. Sometimes it seems as though all our concerted efforts—which we may construe as genuine means to ameliorate a menace—are nothing but a mere façade. Ipso facto, on occasion, our placid temper to corruption coupled with our most puissant effort has in some respects been like a frantic adventure to clasp onto water in a clench fist.

I observe that even for some of the advanced economies not only tax avoidance which is legal takes place but so does tax evasion among others. I shudder to think of our translucent tax system; and I ask myself how much “light” is passing through? Even if it was opaque, some light would still somehow manage to pass through; how much what we have?

Strangled By Corruption
But on a more serious note: Could it be that what an ancient sage points out is a verisimilitude of our situation when he says, “As for my people, children are their oppressors...”? If the answer to this question is true then we have a serious problem on hand.

What would become of an armoured vehicle with a child at the wheel? Would it be surprising where it precipitately heads as well as the trail of damage it leaves in its wake?

Whether it is petty corruption, grand corruption, or systemic corruption; the exacerbation of the issue may manifest itself in poverty, inequality, broken public services, politicians who serve themselves, business owners who abuse their power, bribery, embezzlement, theft and fraud, extortion and blackmail, or cunning or palpable favouritism, nepotism and clientelism. And it is certain that people are increasingly waking up to demand a change in the trajectory that we seem to be peregrinating as a nation. But would taking to the streets really be a potent solution?

In all honesty, it is only a fanciful and fantastic thought as to what our nation would have been like if corruption were entirely purged from the system without even a scintilla present. In fact, it would no doubt be a breath of fresh, fragrant, redolent air contrary to the rancid ambience we seem stuck in. But to believe that such a situation—total eradication rather than mitigation is possible—forget vain promises of yore—would be almost chimerical in one sense and puerile in the other. How can you believe a thing like that? It may be a lot easier to dry the sea and build solid skyscrapers on the reclaimed land than to believe that we can totally rid this nation of the malodorous fumes of corruption that is asphyxiating the populace. Is that pessimistic?

Corruption is an age-old menace that no country has fully got rid of. It is like the sun; it shines everywhere. So why then are some countries always competing to come first in the tables of most corrupt countries? In fact, some of them are so much associated with it that you can bet with unerring accuracy that they will occupy apical spots. And in any case, who really decides how corrupt these countries are? Can we fully be convinced they themselves are wholly free from the dust of corruption?

As I have looked at some of these countries, I have noticed that these are some naturally-endowed countries but ones very much associated with poverty. In that sense it seems that while all countries are corrupt—and I repeat they all are—it appears some have found a way of quashing the grumbling exhalations and silencing the susurrations of aggrieved souls by improving the lot of the people. For others, they are yet to learn this vital lesson.

Festering Wounds
You may read whatever you want and believe what you are inclined to believe. Although I have rightly apportioned blame to the leaders, perhaps that may not be representative of the wider picture—in fact the net needs to be widened. This is because corruption is so prevalent it has permeated every fibre of our nation's esse. It goes beyond mere leaders, as after all, the nation is not made up of only leaders. In that sense, corruption is as bottom-up as it is top-down.

Thinking further, one may ask the question: Could it also be that some of the people who sometimes grouse or even preach are themselves corrupt?

Do they succeed in shielding their shady deals with the ferocity of their claims? Is that the alluring stratagem they adopt to scatter sand particles of deception and distraction into the eyes of those who may be inclined to probe? Or are they aided and abetted by the principle that silence means consent?

And what about some of the whistleblowers? Do they truly find corruption repugnant or they do so because they are disconsolately excluded from sharing in the booty? Do they come out only because that is their last trump card?

Whether we are inclined to agree or not, we are a corrupt people and in some respects may be getting more and more corrupt—forget what some pundits may proffer. And a point like this may attract a peacock's or even a porcupine's response—and rightly so.

The Revolution of Conscience
We may do well by strengthening multilateral institutions, reducing poverty, increasing remuneration, improving work conditions, streamlining and simplifying procedures, stemming the monopoly dominance in some fields, augmenting regulator discretion, and increasing the level of transparency in several sectors. These are all truly essential means of tackling this gnawing and galling issue of corruption.

Moreover, while we may see leaders attempting to bring this issue under control; and indeed, they may very well go about turning off the tap at the mains to stop the water from flowing into the large barrels and broad basins that have been expectantly placed underneath the tap; but if some of those charged with doing this are themselves corrupt, then we can expect that whilst the tap is still closed, the water in the reservoir will continue to diminish by their own contrived artifices.

Looking at the Arab Spring etc. and all that has transpired—judging by what we see and read of those countries—one suggestion may be that its smouldering ashes have woefully failed to deliver the utopia that some of them were even willing to be immolated for.

In view of such, I call for a different kind of revolution; I call this “The Revolution of Conscience.”

And we cannot wait for any religious body to lead such a revolution. How possible? Can the blind—and some of them are as blind as a bat—lead the blind? We need an awakening on the personal level. This is the sort that transforms inwardly and shows outwardly. It is so effective; it is like having the Fire Service put out a fire on a stove.

If that does not happen, all we will be attempting to do irrespective of all the rules—which will be flouted and broken like the sun dries out the dew—will amount to naught. In truth, these people will only get more skilful in both their devices as well as covering their trails.

To reiterate an earlier point, in a way, some of the policies to deal with corruption have been risible at best and feckless at worst. It has been synonymous with attempting to put out a conflagration by blowing out air through one's nostrils.

The Way Forward
When the moral fibre of a people has become this decadent—spare me what looks like a majestic exterior; we all know that the interior is graveolent—it does take more than a weak effort in mitigating it. It requires painstaking assiduity and considerable time. But leadership remains crucial in lowering the temperature of what has become a crucible of corruption decrepitating the nation.

On the national scale, I guess there are some good people with truly Homeric qualities who love politics and would love to play a vital part. But prudence may suggest to them that to participate in politics now is like a virgin bride apparelled in spotless white who decides in a rush to skip the drive to the church for natation in a morass.

For such folk, perhaps their candour and artlessness would not find a place in a profession that seems to be steeply rooted in deception for which one has to of necessity be a snollygoster of sorts to be able to skid effortlessly and facilely on its tangled ropes and plexiform paths.

And still I am left asking a question of lasting significance and monumental value: But if our political landscape is so fomented with the froth of filth; who is going to clean it up? And that is one that we should all process in our cerebration.

While we may all have valid and laudable suggestions, I may yet postulate that considering the magnitude of the issue at hand, an ethereal rather than a sublunary aid may be needed as a matter of urgency. In that sense, we should all impetrate the One from whom all Nature flows and hope that He is favourably entreated by our orison.

Why such a suggestion, one may query? This is because, for some people their cacoethes, peccadillo, foible etc. is to incessantly cave in to their corrupt desires. And forget about substantive and compliance testing, all internal controls, all the harsher sentences that the law will stipulate—forget all that—there are some who will peddle their skulduggery and play the system with flair like a bird takes to the air. It may just be that for those people, only divine intervention may be the way out.

In essence, I posit that there are people who have no bone of compunction in their being and if they were caught; they would be sorry for getting caught rather than what they did. For the presence of such people scattered in every sector of our nation, the millstone of decay will incessantly hang uncomfortably over our neck as long as they continue to contrive—and aided by our inability to weave them out—to ascend to the loftiest and lordliest offices of influence. And would they trifle care when they have and continue to glaringly get away with it?

Dr. F. R. Silverson
“Intellectualism without conscience self-destructs.”
[email protected]

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