Saturday, August 1, 2015

Your Cohorts Are Corrupted, But Do You Dare Call Them Out?

Every day, new corruption scandals splash all over the news. Be it in some governmental official dishing out licences and contracts to companies in exchange of kickbacks, or some portly bespectacled businessman siphoning away public funds on lavish real estate overseas. Corruption is prevalent from East to West. The usual suspects include Chinese mandarin, African warlords, Swiss bankers, American senators, CONCACAF executives, and yes, Malaysian ministers. It's a global epidemic.

Corruption is everywhere. It's in front of us, right next to us. Sometimes holding our hands, pulling us onward. Sometimes forming a barrier, shoving us backwards. Corruption exist all across the board, at every level from top to bottom.

Corruption goes beyond the simple exchange of money and goods. It's not right to hire the princelings of an official in order to win lucrative contracts. J.P. Morgan is currently facing investigations on that count in China. Whatever the verdict is, the mischief here sought to be rooted out is as old as time - nepotism. It's not fair that normal folks get knocked down the pecking order in job applications by lesser applicants who edge out simply because of their bloodline.

Corruption = Chicks + Champagne

Turning A Blind Eye

So why does corruption continue to fester in modern society?

The answer is simple: because many amongst us are guilty of corrupt practices ourselves, and encourage them from happening by not doing anything when we see others blatantly embroil in such practices. Corruption happens because we allow it to happen - simple as that, We see it happen in our school, our office, our industry, and yet do nothing about it. We only ever point fingers at culprits when they are strangers and sit far away from our world.

That's why politicians are soft and easy targets of our ire - there are plenty of layers and walls between them and us. But what about their partners-in-crime and underlings? It takes two hands to clap, after all. There must be some private individuals tying up the deal at the other end. Let's be honest. We know that some of our family, friends and colleagues are up to no good. Why aren't we calling them out?

Are personal relationships more important than the common good? If yes, then don't complain about others dabbling in corruption. Only those who have not sinned can throw the first stone. It's not only hypocritical and self-serving, but also unproductive, when we pick and choose to call out strangers but not our loved ones. For if everyone tries to protect their own - like how the majority do now - corruption will fester on unabated.

Tackle Corruption At Its Roots

Corruption is a social habit. Doesn't matter if it affects public or private property. Doesn't matter if it's illegal or immoral. Either way, it's wrong and needs to be purged. Shady dealings. Shaky finances. Sham contracts. Shoddy auditing. Businessmen, bankers, lawyers, accountants all have to take a share of the blame in the sorry state of any corrupted country. It's not just about weak rules and enforcement. It's also about people accepting that "this is just the way we do business and make a living" and that "if you can't beat them, join them". It's not just the leaders who need to be called out. Their minions also need to be publicly shamed and prosecuted.

When corruption becomes a social habit, it follows through into our leader's actions. And when that happens, it's because we make it happen. We have no one else to blame but ourselves. There's no point toppling corrupted leaders in a corrupted society. Even if their heads roll, corrupted successors will take their place. Corruption infects a forest at its roots. Chopping off branches isn't enough. Pulling out the roots is the cure.

The US government's crackdown on private corporations in China is laudable. But some cynics have a point - why not focus on weeding out corruption in the trading floors of Wall Street and corridors of Congress instead? Likewise, the Malaysian public's outcry against dodgy politicians is exemplary. But don't stop there - what about exposing the abuses and abusers deeply cloistered in the private institutions we deal with on a daily basis that systemically facilitate corrupt practices at all levels of society?
Malaysia. Truly Asia.

All Or Nothing

It's very simple. It's all or nothing. There is no middle ground. If you're against corruption as much as you claim, then call out against the perpetrators - no matter how close they are to home and heart.

But if you can't call out your corrupted cohorts, then just shut up and accept corruption as it is. You're just as bad as the worst of the lot.

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