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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Corruption or Social Conscience

I was pleased to see public activity against corruption in India recently, and I believe it is important for many countries that their people do everything they can to resist and fight corruption, which could resemble, in some ways, a 'silent dictatorship' or a 'bloodless civil war.'

Corruption is insidious. It is very dangerous because it is so contagious. It can spread like a virus to the whole population. People complain and resent the corruption of politicians, protesting that it is all their fault. Politicians carry much responsibility of course, but the problem becomes really tricky, when the majority of people, from the wider population, begin to participate, to share benefits from the corruption, sometimes feeling that they have no other choice in an unjust system or being simply seduced by the gains.

Yes, it is important to fight corrupt legislation and corrupt politicians with all ethical means, but what about the 'small' corruption of everyday life, the one which touches with its luring breath every citizen, trapping him into that big sticky ball of injustice, which then gets bigger and bigger, too hard to dissolve?

I feel this is really important: when politicians corrupt the people, they take away their power. It is already hard enough for an honest population to get rid of corrupt politicians. It is nearly impossible for a corrupt population to do so.

Some politicians know this. And they 'sweetly' corrupt their people, because, in this way, they castrate them...

The argument in this article is on the necessity to refuse corruption, to say NO to unjust gains, not only because it is unethical, but, also, because it destroys social cohesion and takes away people's power.

People from wealthy countries, where everyday level corruption is scarce or, at least, invisible, may find the concept of 'people corruption' hard to understand. But, when one lives and works in an environment, where corruption is, more or less, the norm, where everything seems to operate in unjust, non-transparent ways, then some of the arguments that follow, are not so self-evident. People in such situations (and it happens more often and in more places than one thinks) are presented with difficult dilemmas when it comes to using unethical means to survive their way through. Refusing corruption is ultimately a spiritual test of integrity and faith to each one of us individually and as a human society.

Let us take one example, that of tax evasion. This is widespread in my country, but, I believe, in many other places also. So widespread, that it finally contributed to plunging the economy. To the point that one is considered 'stupid' when one declares all of his income to be taxed. The argument that I often hear against paying taxes is: "Why should we pay the state? Politicians steal our money anyway". Yes, this is a point. It is extremely hard to continue paying taxes to a state, when you have seen money repeatedly abused, in scandals by corrupt politicians and state officials, who always get away with it. Then the state comes back, asking the taxpayer to pay up the gap. It is unfair, it is unjust, and people revolt.

However, I do not feel that tax evasion is the answer. It is like trying to fight, using their weapons, doing what they do. It won't work. Corruption of politicians becomes the excuse for the population to become corrupt themselves. The line of thought is "Since they steal and everyone steals, so will I. They make me do it!".

This kind of copycat attitude and behavior is dangerous. Tax evasion then becomes a habit. Any sense of social trust and social responsibility is destroyed and an attitude of 'each man for himself' prevails. So, in the end, do people hide their income because of the corrupt politicians, or simply because, deep down, they like to keep their own lovely money? My guidance has been to always declare my income (even if this means being very often considered 'stupid' by some fellowmen!). Even when I am aware that some of this money may NOT go where it is meant to... The reason is one of integrity and consistency: by paying all my taxes, even when it aches, I give the whole of my energetic commitment to my country, even if the actual bank notes end up elsewhere. It is the commitment and the devotion hidden behind the numbers that count, and this helps the country in invisible ways.

If all people in a country were clear in their conscience that they are committed and fair in their responsibilities to their country, they would be very powerful people! A clear conscience is one of the strongest weapons there is. Then, it would be very hard to tolerate corrupt politicians. But, if people ended up imitating their politicians or corrupt fellowmen, then the unconscious guilt will make it very hard for these people to resist. That silent voice will creep in, sabotaging everything: "Why do you protest? Do you think you deserve any better than that? Come on... you have been part of this too...". This is why staying clear of any form of corruption is so important for the peoples. To keep their power.

The other side-effect of corruption is the dissolution of social cohesion. Whenever people use unethical means to gain personal benefit from the state (whether it is jobs, status, bribery, undeserved income), they think that their actions do no harm, have no real impact...The state seems like this big, impersonal thing so that no one particular person will really feel the effect of them talking 'just a little bit'... Wrong. If I take 10 Euros from the state, the effect is like taking 10 Euros from Mr. George next door, or Mrs. Maria, the pensioner in the neighborhood. It is very personal, it is very specific, it is against our fellowmen. Any illegality against the big, impersonal, often disliked, a state is an act of injustice against our compatriots. This is why corruption destroys social cohesion and social TRUST. What can be more weakening to a nation than that?

Another shadow example of corruption is about meritocracy. It is a widespread practice in many places, even when it is not so recognized. Here, it is generally very desirable to get a job in the state sector, but often it occurs not through a meritocratic system, but according to who you know, to your political liaisons, or even, in exchange for votes. Again, this may be hard to understand for people in countries, where meritocracy works and where there are many other employment options because the infrastructure is already in place. But, before any judgments come in: how easy would it be for Tom, for example, to keep his integrity, if he saw people LESS qualified than him, using their political connections, getting his desired job? How easy would it be to keep his integrity if it was extremely hard to find a job in any other way and if there was no tangible way in which he could protest against the lack of meritocracy? How easy would it be to keep his integrity, if he had tried and tried again, in the clean and honest way AND if he too had a connection he could also use to get a job he deserves? How easy would it be to resist the temptation? How easy would it be to live in such a place? I am not suggesting that he should give in, but I am just trying to give a perspective of understanding, rather than judgment.

Well, for me, it is again, a matter of spiritual challenge and spiritual choice. Using any available personal liaisons connections is, again, a trap. Again, there is the danger of it becoming a habit. Again, there is the danger of using the excuse 'everyone else is doing it', in order NOT to even bother trying the proper way, which may be more uncertain and hard. Again, it is harming fellow colleagues in a personal way. Again, it destroys social cohesion and social trust. The only solution will come when MANY people refuse to use unethical means for personal gain, EVEN when they have this option. Corruption may begin by politicians, in many countries, but there is a whole network of people underneath who support it and benefit from it. It is not enough expecting the state to set things right. We must begin to set things right for ourselves, even if this means personal sacrifice.

What follows is a dialogue between our honest young man, Tom and all the counter-arguments, which one hears over and over again, if one lives in a country where corruption is widespread and has become almost a way of life. This dialogue is an example of spiritual resistance:

- Tom, why don't you use Mr. X, the local MP to get you a job? Your family knows him well, you could ask him a favor...Your family has been voting for him for years you know...

- It is not right. And it doesn't feel right.

- But everyone else is doing it. Everyone is using personal connections to get jobs. If you don't do it, someone else, who is less qualified than you, will use liaisons to get the post and then, they will do nothing creative with the job.

- Well, the fact that everyone is doing it does not mean that I should do it too.

- But you cannot survive in this country if you are that honest. That's how the system works.

- We make the system. And I trust in God to send me where I am meant to be. I trust in God, not in the political contacts or any contacts. I rely on where the power really is.

- Come on, it is not such a big deal...you are just one person, you won't hurt society. And, in any case, your intent is good, to help people through this job, it is not about personal gain, come on...

- The end does not justify the means. If I get the job in a non-transparent way, that energy of deceit and dishonesty will follow everything else I do in that post. It just won't work. Also, I will be hurting other fellow candidates personally, not generally. In any case, getting a job in this way shows fear of lack. If I do, lack will be following me all my life.

- I think this is stupid. This is mad. Someone else will use 'contacts,' and they are bound to be less qualified than you and most indifferent...You are betraying the people you could help! No one else is going to do the wonderful work that you could, in that post. Think about them at least, don't be so selfish and proud!

- If I am meant to be somewhere, help some people, God will find a way for me to get there. God does not need secret little tricks to do His work.

- That's impossible. You are a dreamer. Jobs nowadays are so difficult.

Well, nothing was impossible. Things came together, and Tom found a way to do his work differently, in a much more efficient way. He had to work harder, it took longer, but he did it and earned much respect for it.

What I am trying to convey, is that, even in the most corrupt society, corruption is not a one-way option. Many people may have chosen corruption, as their only perceived means of survival, or because everyone else was doing it. In this way, fear does not go away, it is intensified. Having seen and understood such situations in real life, I believe that people need to have spiritual tools and principles to deal with these everyday situations and dilemmas, which put their values to a test. Even well-meaning people may find that their needs and fears cause the conscience to become elastic. This is why it is important for people to realize that spirituality is not just some abstract notion in outer space, but also a system of practical tools and beliefs that they can work with, through any situation. They can take care of their needs in a nice way, in a way that benefits all, they don't have to resort to grabbing or taking or lying or stealing or deceiving. They can know that there is always another choice. They can learn to use the power of their minds and the help from Spirit for the highest good for themselves and others.

If the wider population of a country learns to use the spiritual laws and tools for the highest good, they empower themselves and get the nation out of the vicious circle of "fear-self centeredness-deceit-guilt-more fear-more deceit." When this vicious circle intensifies, the element of 'violence' could be added next to 'deceit.' But, believing in the power of Spirit to get us through any daily challenges, big or small, however practical, is the greatest power people can have. This is a true revolution from within. No corrupt government can stay in power then.

It is no accident that states and pre-existing corrupt structures are collapsing today, under the weight of their own dysfunction. With them, goes their potential to provide corrupt 'benefits' to the people... People had idolized states, governments, banks, stocks, enterprises, political contacts, whatever, as their sources of sustenance. But, like all idols, they now fall. Now, people will have to turn to the true Source of good. This one is clean, infinite, unconditional and does not need cheats and tricks to give good. Let us turn the power where it really is.



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