When Corruption Becomes a Way of Life

Levels of corruption in Pakistan is symptomatic of the levels of moral decay that have engulfed our nation. Our nation is drowning in a “have all, possess all” mentality that has become an endless orgy of spend and gain. Position and power have become keys to accessing resources meant for the general good and converting them for private good. We will be forgiven in concluding that the scrambles we see for power in our country are no longer driven by a desire to serve but by waiting turns to loot. We have seen previously changes in ruling parties in country that had not resulted in a fall in levels of corruption.

Added to this is a media that has generally taken sides instead of being independent arbiters. The media generally has adopted the philosophy of “my friend’s corruption is alright, but that of my enemy is really bad.”

I believe the first point of call to tackle corruption is to have a mental transformation in the whole accountability process culture. The private sector and citizens in this regard must accept that bribery is wrong, and that demanding bribes is wrong. Authorities must accept that using their position other than for the purpose for which it was intended is wrong. Surely, civil society and people from all walks of life must know that taking part in corrupt activities is wrong and abetting corruption is wrong. Society must be sensitized to abhor the corrupt and not celebrate them.

As French economist and author Frederic Bastiat said, “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

We need to make clear the message about corruption so that every citizen regardless of their level of education can understand it and its negative impact on their own lives.

In order to promote integrity and defeat corruption, all of society needs to work together. Citizens in our country must hold those charged with the responsibility of managing resources, whether in the public or private sector, to account for the use of these resources.

Corruption must be elevated to the level of criminality that it is—a crime against humanity. Let’s stop arguing against corruption, as there has been enough of that; let us take up a fight against corruption.

We need to realize that as individuals, we are responsible first than anyone else. We have come to perceive ordinarily unethical acts as ethical through disengagement of moral agency. This has happened to us in several ways, all of which relate to whether or not we as actor sees human consequences to our actions. Firstly, when the harm inflicted by corruption is more remote or abstract, we are less likely to see the conduct as unethical. Secondly, corrupt behavior often originates because we do not see the corrupt act as an ethical issue.

Perhaps even more interesting and important concerns the psychological dynamics through which corruption becomes widespread in our society. When some individuals between us behave corruptly, we find easier to imitate than rebuking them, perhaps because we also come to view the behavior as acceptable, or simply because we think that everyone else is doing it also.

Therefore, when we break traffic signal instead of paying penalty, we start bargaining with the authority like two parties involved in business transaction to get away with it easily or our students who instead of studying and passing the exam with their hard work and efforts, find it easy to pay a sum to monitoring personnel during exam to let them cheat because others are also doing the same and we find no problem in it.

We think that it is needless to speak up for being charged unnecessary for a minute amount and easier to pay some extra money and fulfill our want without going through a mental pain or like the seller who is not doing any illegal activity but instead of asking the authority, why he need to pay them for running his business, find it easy to give some bribe and carry on hassle free.

Nowadays, bribery and corruption have become such a norm in our lives and we take part in it without even thinking! This is wrong.

The problem becomes gigantic when corruption is practiced openly. Those in power start demanding what they want and those who give are very open about it as well. Both parties have regarded it as a norm; they don’t feel bad about it, because everybody else is doing it anyway. Those who choose not do it are considered stupid.

“The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) cursed the one who offers the bribe and the one who receives it.” (Tirmidhi)

This strict stance taken by the Prophet Muhammad against such act is due to the fact it is for greater good of society as corruption is a curse that devours ethical and moral value of society like a hungry predator devours its prey. It is mother of all evil.

According to simple economic theory also, corruption, which is a form of illegal tax, decreases aggregate supply. That is, it shifts the economy’s positively-sloped aggregate supply curve to the left. Assuming that the economy’s negatively-sloped aggregate demand curve remains stationary, the aggregate supply curve’s leftward shift implies a rise in the aggregate price level.

Mounting public sector expenses as a result of corrupt public sector officials siphoning off public funds meant for development can lead to the government printing money to finance the country’s budget deficit.

Economic theory also says that such a move would raise aggregate demand, i.e. shift the economy’s negatively sloped aggregate demand curve to the right. Assuming that the economy’s positively-sloped aggregate supply curve remains stationary, the aggregate demand curve’s rightward shift implies a rise in the aggregate price level.

Thus according to economic theory, corruption contributes towards inflationary pressures. The degree of contribution however will depend on the scale and extent of corruption that’s taking place.

Corruption can take many forms: bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion and cronyism, to name a few. Whatever its shape, corruption always comes at someone’s expense and high price level and inflation is only one of them, but it also often leads to weaker institutions, less prosperity, denial of basic services, less employment and more environmental disasters.

But the biggest loss is when we accept corruption at societal level and not consider it threat and even if we consider it a threat than not as prodigious to be given priority, the evil that needs to be realized and dealt with on leading basis. The biggest moral dilemma is that we will even hear lame statement coming from common folks on streets that “WOH KHATA HEY/THA TOU LAGATA BHI HEY/THA”.

We often think that we are at the mercy of corruption and that it is just a “way of life”. The biggest problem is that we have accepted it as a way of life and we are not ready to unite against it and more often lack consideration and acknowledgment for those who consider it prime fault in our system and are taking initiative to kill this virus. The biggest achievement of our current government is that they have highlighted it as real threat, they are continuously inculcating the nation about severity of this problem and deploying full concentration, energy and resources to tackle it and also giving free hand to law enforcement bodies on cracking corruption.

But all this goes in vain because as a nation we do not consider these initiatives as crucial as they should be realized, as we have gone through long phase of “conditioning” in past which has made us “psychologically numb” to the mammoth of danger – corruption.

According to a study, Simon Gächter and Jonathan Schulz from the University of Nottingham asked volunteers from 23 countries to play the same simple game. The duo found that participants were more likely to bend the game’s rules for personal gain if they lived in more corrupt societies. “Corruption and fraud are things going on in the social environment all the time, and it’s plausible that it shapes people’s psychology, what they can get away with,” says Gächter. “It’s okay! Everybody does it around here.” In other words, corruption corrupts.

However, our society, all its sectors and every citizen would benefit from getting united against corruption and saying ‘No to Corruption’ in our everyday life. We can do this by taking individual initiative by not involving in corrupt practices or raising our voice when we see them happening and on collective level by giving moral support to the current government who knows how drastic this problem is and taking positive and strong action against it.

Corruption is insidious. It may seem harmless to those who do not come into direct contact with it. But we are all affected by corruption; for example, when we “pay” for it in terms of higher prices whether we buy something at our small local area shop or large superstore.

In the long term, our children and their children will continue to pay for corruption in terms of higher prices; in addition, they will pay for it in terms of a lower standard of living.

Corruption contributes to instability, poverty (it affects poor people and countries disproportionately) and is a dominant factor driving fragile countries towards state failure.

We have created a culture of tolerance for corruption, therefore, it is impossible to tackle corruption without public participation. Corruption has undermined our rights as citizen, and we cannot afford to wait any longer to reclaim them. Nothing will change until we take initiative and act on our own initiative and free ourselves from rotten state of mind.

“Truly, Allah does not change the condition of people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11).

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1 Comment

  1. akmal says

    very good article ,i have said again & again that the system in pak has been made over the years by the likes of ppp & pmln to bribe & be bribed as a norm & it is going to be very hard for imran to sort it out in a short time unless all the pple of pak join him to stop this unislamic activity which has rotted pak away .so pple please heed the warning and straighten ur ways or else face the wrath of allah swt one day very soon if not now

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