Monday, April 28, 2014

Corruption: The Explosive Earth's Perpetual Blasting Cap

A New, Larger Picture of Corruption

MeanMesa has taken aim on specific corruption issues in the past -- plenty of times.  Some have been national and international "nasties," and some have been the bumbling, amateurish catastrophes exposed here in New Mexico.  However, this post, in a way consistent with MeanMesa's questionable humility of scale, is about corruption -- corruption in all forms with all manner of various perpetrators, different histories, different locations and even different mechanisms.

When anyone is still stinging from an encounter with corruption, it is effortlessly easy to lunge directly at that "injustice" or "outrage" -- the engine driving such an emotional response is churning just below the ribs.  This is the immediate perception of unfairness.  We have all been there.

However, each day we may "hear the news about" some distant corruption.  We may agree that the matter reported was, indeed, the result of corruption -- we may even feel an equally distant empathy for the loser, the injured, the denied or whatever other victim.  Doing this, we acknowledge that we, ourselves, would be hard pressed to simply accept what had been imposed on others.

This introduces the point of this post.  When we gaze at the activities of humans on the whole planet, we see that corruption, in a thousand forms, is the incendiary "touch" which transforms otherwise, more or less, passive situations into bloody, hate filled, vengeful episodes of "correction" or destruction.  Regardless of the specific details which "paint the picture," the inevitable resentment and fear springing forth almost immediately become agonizingly durable.

Aggregated -- when considered very, very frankly -- into what appear as a "news worthy" events, the consequences of corruption's impact on the human "record" will continue on even long after the last barricade fire is quenched or the final shells are fired.  Decades or generations after the grass has finally covered all the graves, the bitter, incendiary spark will continue to lurk, patiently waiting to intervene in the affairs of men -- again.

It might be tempting to simply sigh, delegating the matter to a hackneyed slide into irrelevance, dolefully remarking "it's just human nature" in hopes of restoring one's artificial peace of mind as quickly as possible.  Well, it is human nature -- both with respect to those perpetrating corruption and those responding to its pain.

This didn't just show up suddenly when the sun set yesterday evening.  Let's have a look at some of the recent mischief corruption has injected into our world, and, even more importantly, let's dare to think of a means to end it.  Everywhere.  For good.

Amazingly, while we -- as a species of homo sapiens -- haven't spent much time pondering such solutions,  MeanMesa's stoicism isn't great enough to resign ourselves and passively accept our condition as a continuing, miserable, unchangeable inevitability.

A Couple of Quick Definitions

We should pause to define a couple of useful items and a couple of useful processes.  First, we can turn to WIKI for an over view. [Visit the entire WIKI article here. ]


In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.

The word corrupt when used as an adjective literally means "utterly broken." The word was first used by Aristotle and later by Cicero who added the terms bribe and abandonment of good habits. According to Morris, corruption is described as the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.

WIKI continues with a description of what are termed "scales of corruption."

Scales of corruption

Corruption can occur on different scales. There is corruption that occurs as small favours between a small number of people (petty corruption), corruption that affects the government on a large scale (grand corruption), and corruption that is so prevalent that it is part of the every day structure of society, including corruption as one of the symptoms of organized crime (systemic corruption).

Petty corruption occurs at a smaller scale and within established social frameworks and governing norms. Examples include the exchange of small improper gifts or use of personal connections to obtain favors. This form of corruption is particularly common in developing countries and where public servants are significantly underpaid.

Grand corruption is defined as corruption occurring at the highest levels of government in a way that requires significant subversion of the political, legal and economic systems. Such corruption is commonly found in countries with authoritarian or dictatorial governments but also in those without adequate policing of corruption.

The government system in many countries is divided into the legislative, executive and judiciary branches in an attempt to provide independent services that are less prone to corruption due to their independence.

Systemic corruption (or endemic corruption) is corruption which is primarily due to the weaknesses of an organization or process. It can be contrasted with individual officials or agents who act corruptly within the system.

Factors which encourage systemic corruption include conflicting incentives, discretionary powers; monopolistic powers; lack of transparency; low pay; and a culture of impunity. Specific acts of corruption include "bribery, extortion, and embezzlement" in a system where "corruption becomes the rule rather than the exception." Scholars distinguish between centralized and decentralized systemic corruption, depending on which level of state or government corruption takes place; in countries such as the Post-Soviet states both types occur.

For ease in this discussion MeanMesa will also propose two additional new terms.  First, the word "corrupt," itself, is typically an adjective -- a corrupt politician, a corrupt government, a corrupt judge, corrupt practices, and so on. So, rather than repeatedly drag a specifying noun into the discussion, let's just settle on the newly invented term: "corrupter."  With that convenience in hand, it won't really matter much what the precise role or action the "corrupting" influence might have occupied or taken.

Second, in just the same vein we have all manner of a similar variety of victims which correspond to specific types of corruption.  So, rather than constantly needing to articulate all these variations, let's settle on the second newly invented term: "corruptee."  A "corruptee" is anyone who would, in a more normal situation have done fairly well, but in a "corrupt" situation has suffered because of the corruption.

More likely an innocently looking closed door
Finally, it will clearly be important to establish a few guidelines about just what is and what isn't "corruption."  In this case MeanMesa will retreat to the conveniently undefined, hence, tried and true proposition that there really is a possible, "primitive platform" of, for lack of a better term, "values" which calibrate the state of "non-corruption" in a workable way.
When there is "corruption," these "reasonable expectations" are not fulfilled, but worse, these "reasonable expectations" become an existential null set -- without hope of realization.  Ever -- at least so long as the conditions sustained by the corruption continue.

When there is no "corruption," these "reasonable expectations" are "roughly, occasionally, more or less, or -- even in a grumpy, grumbling manner, at least sort of" satisfied.  We can immediately careen into all sorts of imponderables about the common sense "legitimacy" of those "reasonable expectations," and even a pretty unsettling debate about even the meaning of "reasonable."

Happily, for this post at least, we'll walk right by all those complications.  We can quite logically take this step, although it might require a little "loosening" of some of these awkward definitions, by simply looking at what the "corruptees" are doing.  

After all, the precise explanation of calling these folks by that bizarre name relies on the fact that these same folks, with these "reasonable expectations" of theirs, have become "so pissed off" with what they've been getting and how they've been treated that they "stand out" in a way which identifies them amid the folks who are relatively satisfied with what they've gotten and how they've been treated.

Recent Events Seen Through the Lens of Corruption

From the comfort of American living rooms there is the constant temptation to attribute distant violence to such over worn causes as "seeking freedom," "fighting for religious equality" or "resisting some repressive ideology."  All these comforting conclusions might be "roughly" accurate ways to appraise the causes of violence and unrest, but in just about every case, the "tip of the spear" is revealed as the perception of injustices suffered by the "corruptees" enduring the vicissitudes of the particular situation.

Once the blood begins to flow, these other considerations are rapidly lost in the smoke of the strife torn streets. Yet, on American televisions these same simple catch phrases become a delightfully simplifying narcotic which, once introduced, offers a three word, easy to digest and repeat, "complete statement of absolutely everything possibly involved."  Rather than the messy job of "trying to relate" to a father who hasn't seen his children with a full stomach "since the regime took over," [or whatever form the corruptors might take...] these distant, removed observers are obliged to understand only that very handy snippet of the carefully groomed catch phrase.

With this in hand, every one of these now "well informed Americans" is fully equipped to appear at the famous American water fountain to engage a very thoughtful, insightful, up to the minute debate with his office worker peers -- who are also equipped with that convenient catch phrase. Almost none of them has ever spent more than thirty minutes helplessly watching his child's hunger, let alone a month or a year or a lifetime.

Such explanations might emerge in a "news interview" about the "cause" of the strife in those comfortably distant streets, but the specific motivations which transformed "quietly grumbling at home" into an incendiary "this ends here" are the scars of what corruption has inflicted on the flesh -- not insults to ideas. Almost immediately new injustices are typically introduced to quell or suppress this reaction to the old ones.

Once the complicating specifics of modern world conflicts are set aside in search of the role played by the, more or less, "pure corruption" element in each one, the violent pattern emerges.

Iraq, Ukraine, China, India, US, Pakistan, Greece, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Thailand, Turkey, Brazil  -- violence initiated by corruption in these countries and more have appeared recently on US domestic media.  The entire planet seems to be infected with this problem -- it can be viewed in the same light as a plague or epidemic.

A Collection of Fascinating Graphics

MeanMesa has "discovered" an international research organization which calibrates and compares corruption in countries across the globe.  A few of these are presented here. [Note: MeanMesa didn't actually "discover" all this information.  Just a minimum effort researching the topic on GOOGLE delivered these great results.]

Research resource for international perception of corruption

2010 international comparison of the perception of corruption
How corrupt individual countries are perceived to be

2013 how corrupt countries are perceived to be

MeanMesa - a comparison of perception of corruption

The charts (above) were retrieved from various sources, but all of them and more are derived from Transparency International research work.  Importantly, the charts and data present the perception of corruption.

While grinding out the details of the evidence that corruption violates established law, those who suffer see the possibility of relief. Rather than judicial evidence, it is usually the far "lower bar" of casual perception which serves to incite the destructive violence.  Naturally, folks bruised by corruption are interested in verdicts and the like, but the spark which puts these same people on the streets is the perception.

While there remains the prospect of a verdict, the perception remains more or less passive.  When there is no -- or even little -- prospect of a remedy by verdict in the future, we see abundantly less reluctance.

[You can link to the home page of Transparency International  The group's "archive" page links at -  MeanMesa suggests visitors here take a moment to review what the organization is providing.  Anyone wishing to donate a few dollars can do that here - ]

A Few "Fleeting" Suggestions for a Solution

Because of the incredible trouble this corruption is inciting all around the planet, it would be positively delightful if, at this point, MeanMesa just "popped up" with a brilliant solution.  Sorry.

However, as "Earth citizens" we can begin to consider just what might be required to permanently decrease this scourge.  Even if we never get anywhere, we'll all possibly feel just a little better about it.

To start we'll need to "generalize" our criteria for deciding what's corruption and what's not.  We realize that the variety of social cultures accommodate the practice in different ways.  Further, the expectation which defines "not corruption" may be equally disparate in its forms.  Tangible elements such as "social contracts" certainly matter, but the specifics which express those contracts and their conditions are the "details" where the "devil" is.

There are plenty of instances where most folks would be quite comfortable with sentences containing "everyone knows" something or other is "right" or "fair."  There is the US where, although gifted with an impressive Constitution, vast mobs of disgruntled citizens are completely comfortable with sentences containing "that's not Constitutional" although they have never actually read the document.  So, is there an axiomatic approach for defining this important concept?

There might be, but that solution is unlikely to be one derived from traditional social processes. Further, if there is, actually, such a solution, we shouldn't expect any part of it to be easy.

Given the wild disparity among the planet's multitudes, that definition can simply not possibly be a hundred thousand pages long and based on some specific economic, judicial or philosophical heritage -- or, for that matter, even some carefully synthesized combination, either.

Instead, in MeanMesa's "dream world" that definition task might be approached from the other end. Perhaps a block of questions -- in some sense universally addressing the "corruption" or "not corruption" definition -- might be resolved in a plebiscite or even a series of them.  Granted, most of this people on this planet have no access to such a plebiscite, and even if they did, there would remain the conflicts of local definitions in litigative matters which crossed borders.

That block of questions might -- possibly. occasionally -- motivate those who are either suffering from corruption or fabricating such insults for whatever other reasons to such a state of, say, bravery that they will finally lay out the details by which they can be satisfied.  Of course, this would only be a beginning, but the world must start somewhere.

unsustainable wealth inequality

No comments:

Post a Comment