Corruption is a symptom of supply and demand, it is here to stay.
“Corruption, the most fallible symptom of constitutional liberty” – Edward Gibbon
“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members, who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.” - Abdul Kalam, President of India-2002-07
Beginning with Gandhi, India has had a tradition of fielding fasting activists in every decade. It is an impressive field: Vinobha Bhave, J. B. Kripalani, Morarji Desai, even Atal Bihari Vajpayee to some extent in the late 70s and early 80s; and now Anna Hazare, not to mention the hundreds of self proclaimed “saints” waltzing around the countryside preaching goodness and restraint. Every fringe group has its own saint or guru in India. It is a strange paradox, a country full of saints is irretrievably corrupt, is there an inverse co-relationship? Unfortunately, these activists are like a wafting jasmine fragrance over a garbage dump. It is like seeing an orchid on a rotting carcass, soon to be enveloped by the putridity around, that is what predictably happens to all the fiery activists. Their “effervescence” is ephemeral, and in that temporal fragrant energy, even the corrupt and the rotten tend to hop on the activist’s bandwagon, deluding themselves into reformation, or recast themselves in the image of a saint, by following this entity around, while maintaining their illicit cash flow.
Despite all of the material progress, India is essentially the largest third world country. Why? Long time ago, the politically “ambitious” folks had found the key to get through any door in India, which is with the unmitigated use of might and force. When Power is attained through corruption and thuggery, and not ideas, what results are places like Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sudan, South Africa, the Middle-East and India. India’s electioneering process is a bloody joke, with ballot boxes hijacked, misplaced or stolen, with voting booths being commandeered by local party thugs, and with voting itself, a veritable fiasco, with rural folks being constantly hoodwinked into casting ballots, “guided” by party “attendants” posing as election officials. It is one huge farce. I hate to agree with anything the Nehru clan did, but, I think Indira Gandhi had it right, with the imposition of emergency in 1975. India, despite its burgeoning middle class and wealth, is a state that warrants imposition of perpetual emergency.
Corruption, like sewer water or that fine dust, has infiltrated every crevice and pore of Indian life. In fact, it is a cancer that is endogenous in the very act of survival. Here are the synonyms of the word corrupt: untrustworthy, unscrupulous, deleterious, contaminated, treacherous, degenerate, and profligate. Every synonymous extension can be found as example in India. In fact, the Anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare is like a small boat on the Pacific ocean. What are its chances? Corruption is an addiction, it has a mystifying allure, like heroin or cocaine, which makes relinquishing it, an utter futility, often leading to violence. The palliative and naive “Jan Lokpal bill” is another bureaucracy forming instrument, written by people, who essentially want to quell Hazare’s activism, more importantly his followers, with his token presence in crafting it. Look at the people who crafted it, except the tokenism of Hazare’s and Arvind Kejriwal’s attendance.
I am writing about Anna Hazare and activists like him. So, let’s desist from bringing other countries into our polemics. Suffice it to say that they are all corrupted at the governance level: The U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle-East, but, here in the west, corruption trickles upward, like in the Dracula movie. When I walk into the Secretary of State’s office, to get incorporated or get a business license, or go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or apply for Social Security, or go and get a generator for the manufacturer’s price during a flood, and or, applying for a school – I am not confronted by corruption, like in India. In India, corruption has that leaden gravitational pull, it reaches down to the lowest common denominator. They even take bribes for getting us in front of the God for a few seconds at Tirupati. Folks are avariciously corrupt even with their own blood, with examples in our own families. Corruption has become the base alloy for prosperity and style… and they are dreaming of its eradication? It is like eradicating the dust or the cockroach, or the two-stroke engine smoke, and in a perverse way, it is like eradicating style out of living.
Indians must possess a great capacity for hoping fantastic dreams to materialize, and I bet that Harry Potter was a big hit there. Right now, people in droves, are boarding the wings of another dreamer: Anna Hazare, but how long will his flight last? I am afraid till someone, who loves him dearly, puts a slug in him, so he can save the activist from being corrupted, with all the attention, martyring him for posterity. I think It will more likely be someone from the Indian National Congress Party. The riders on this dream are the burgeoning middle class of India, which is predicted to reach 47% of the population in the next two decades. This is exactly why the Congress and Sonia’s legions are quaking in their boots. It’s not really Hazare’s activism that scares them, but his followers, the middle class. Hazare has opened the same playbook Gandhi had used against the English, and ironically, India, like in the past, today is being ruled by foreigner, a Catholic widow, wielding power over every Hindu and Muslim, surrounded by pusillanimous Hindu ciphers without testicles, for the most part.
The anti-corruption bill is a bill with dentures, no real teeth, it is referred to as “Citizens’ Ombudsman Bill” which sports a body of authority as “the protector of people,” and allows individuals and whistle blowers alike, to lodge complaints against corruption in the public or private sector, without reprisals or consequences – offering them protection and immunity. Protection and immunity costs money, and for how long, revenge seekers usually wait indefinitely, ask Osama Bin Laden or Anwar Al-Awlaki. The Jan Lokpal Bill is again nothing, but a proxy for the people, within a corrupt government, and another layer of freshly minted bureaucrats, who will soon understand the “benefits of corruption.” I want to see how long it would take for the folks in charge to corrupt the implementation, and render this bill a farce. I guess, they don’t have to wait for Hazare to die or pass on into media oblivion, the bill was just a ploy of the ruling elite to muzzle and muff the activist’s noise.
This whole corruption activism is a vaudeville act, utterly ridiculous. Indians, particularly in big businesses and government, as well as the khaki clad peons and their boss clerks, have raised the bar and rendered the whole concept of corruption into an art form, why get rid of this art? Why not take it to another level, and institute a “Padma Bhushan” or a presidential medal, for the most corrupt entity in the nation. This kind of reverse commendation is appropriate for our global times, especially in India. Corruption exists, because it is a survival mechanism, bribe has become an entitlement, and it can only be “contained,” if every individual, who enables it, by extending the bribe, stops giving and takes up the fight. But then, who has the time to get into a shouting match with a peon, your own distant relative, sitting on stool outside the clerk’s office, wielding power over you; so, you bribe him, and get things done, without additional headaches, and move on. Corruption is indeed the cost of living in India.
Corruption is prostitution, and prostitution is corruption, they are intertwined, intrinsic to each other, as their roots and practice go back into remote antiquity. Corruption is not just a human creation, it exists in the animal kingdom as well, for the same reason, survival and proliferation. And since, we are “superior” beings, we want to root it out, which would be a vaingloriously futile endeavor. Philosophically, corruption is rooted in our existential conundrums. Corruption promotes cannibalistic tendencies, within the species, and in a way represents inter-species competition. One man’s corruption is another man’s survival, one person’s expense is another man’s income, and one man’s taking is another man’s job done – how can we get rid of this illicit barter? It is social lubrication, like prostitution.
My dear anti-corruption activists, I hate to rain on your parade: corruption is not going anywhere, it is like the Mount Everest. Activists like Anna Hazare are but intrepid, and to a great extent narcissistic adventurers, trying the scale and conquer this mountain, knowing full well in their own hearts, the impossibility of the task. And even those, who temporarily succeed in scaling its scary heights and attain temporary fame, will eventually disappear like Edmund Hillary, becoming history’s foot notes. Activist adventurers pop up amongst us now and then, raising our hopes and fantasies, by going against the grain. It is not the goal that endears us to them, but their bravado, their simple and belligerent act of going against the norm, just the attempt itself, against the status quo, that raises our spirits, despite the ever present reality of failure, in all our psyches.
The Indian Constitution is a corrupt document, a corrupt foundational law, simply because it has institutionalized discrimination and corruption, by giving unfair advantage to the largest minority, according them the previlige of polygamy in a monagomous society. This one issue itself has put two ideologically adverse population groups on a collision course in the future. If everyone was to be given their religious previliges, then, it is not a constitution anymore, but a charter for bloodbath in a tribal landscape. There are several inquities, like the one above, that are grafted into the Indian constitution, and another lengthy premise for discussion altogether. Even if the above issue is not addressed in their constitution, they should make an effort to amend, equalize or eradicate this inequity. The containment of corruption must begin with the reconstitution of the constitution itself.
Corruption starts with us, you and me. Corruption begins with the giver of the bribe, the one who acquiesces. We cannot control others, even with legislative action, we only have to discipline ourselves, individual by individual. To stop this scourge, we must resolve to stay uncorrupted and not bribe anyone for a year, and if crores did this, it could mean something. How about a “Bribe giving bandh” for the whole year? Sadly, even with this tantalizing and curative hypothesis, I am not convinced. The fight against corruption is a battle of attrition, and to succeed, we have to sustain the activism for years, if not decades, which is simply unrealistic. Corruption, unfortunately is integral to our existence, like defecation, it is very stinky, but we have to live with it – and who better than Indians, to deal with a little stink. And, for that matter, Anna Hazare is a waste of your time and my time. Let’s talk about something infinitely serious, like Cricket, and why, despite having the murderers row of batting lineup, we are not able to win one tournament? Corruption?
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