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Past present: A culture of corruption

By Mubarak Ali | From InpaperMagzine | 24 hours ago




http://dawn.com/2013/05/12/past-present-a-culture-of-corruption/
Corruption has many categories and dimensions, and comes in all shapes and
sizes. It could be the misuse of power, violation of moral values or a flourishing
bribe culture for material gratification.
Corrupt practices are fatal to society and attempts have always been made to prevent it by the
clergy imposing religious sanctions, by philosophers and political thinkers discussing moral values or
through implementation of laws. Despite these measures, corruption has prevailed in every society
throughout history.
Corruption at the top level involves the powerful ruling and elite classes. A Chinese ruler once asked
a philosopher in his court about how to eliminate corruption. The philosopher replied that for starters,
he should stop stealing himself.
Financial corruption is most condemned as it wrecks the fabric of society. When a state imposes and
collects unjust taxes with coercive power, it is corruption of the highest order. When the aristocracy,
ruling classes, bureaucrats and influential individuals accept bribes, they want to further improve
their financial positions to live luxurious lives, consequently creating moral degradation in society.
Corruption from below involves petty government officials who use power play and accept bribes to
perform tasks which are actually a part of their duty that they receive a salary for. The main cause of
this corruption is the fact that they have low income and in order to live comfortably or beyond their
means, they have no alternative but to accept bribes. Consumerism could perhaps be another
reason which lures a person to acquire money through illegal means.
Edmund Burke (d.1797), the 18th century British parliamentarian and intellectual, critically examined
the role of the East India Company which has a certain relevance to our society. According to him
the servants of the company belonged to the lower strata of the British society and therefore were
neither well educated, nor trained in the British moral code of life. While serving in India, they did not
observe aristocratic traditions and values and were free from all moral, social, and cultural restraint.
This led to fulfilment of their personal ambitions to become rich by hook or by crook. Unchecked,
they became involved in immoral and unethical practices. Their greed, fraud, deception and lies not
only challenged the Indian social and political system, but also disturbed the political and moral
structure of the British society. They took their ill-gotten wealth from India to England, purchased
landed property, became members of parliament and in this way distorted the traditional and
respectable values and institutions of Britain.
Burke led the prosecution against Warren Hastings, the former governor- general of India. Hastings
was accused of misconduct during his time in Calcutta particularly relating to mismanagement and
personal corruption. Burkes prosecution became a wider debate on the role of the East India
Company. Burke believed that both financial and political corruption were harmful and damaged the
British society, He further argued that once traditions and values were broken, corruption becomes
endemic in society.
The Pakistani society suffered a setback as a result of partition when established traditions and
moral values were destroyed with no checks and balances to control corruption in the newly
structured society. Hence, financial as well as political corruption flourished at all levels. Religious
decorum was maintained but was disallowed to check dishonest practices and immoral acts in daily
life.
The result is that today, corruption is not regarded a vice but accepted as normal routine and
tolerated by every section of society. It is used to acquire more power and to enjoy a luxurious
lifestyle. Those who are involved in corruption from below argue that as the state does not provide
basic amenities, health, education or care of senior citizens, wealth is the only source of their
protection. That is why people use all fair and foul means to accumulate wealth for their security and
well being.
Due to the corrupt political culture in our country, people with mediocre talent, skills and education
become rulers and damage the entire structure of the state. This process has led the country
towards decay and degeneration. The ruling classes violate laws and regulations and misuse
authority to promote personal agendas. Sadly, they are neither criticised nor condemned but on the
contrary, they are respected by the society which clearly shows the complete collapse of moral
values.