CORRUPTION AND THE HUMAN FACTOR.
MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE FORUM ON CORRUPTION IN GHANA’S NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND PUBLIC LIFE.
1. Introduction: Errare humanum est! To err is human! This is a simple truism about the human being (and consequently of the human race), and yet it is very pregnant with meaning and should be understood in all its depth, if the human person is to be helped to live to the full his/her calling to excellence and to transcend him/herself in a life of virtue.
Of all the creatures on earth, only the human being is capable of either descending lower than even the beasts, or transcending him/herself, excelling to heights even beyond angels.
These capabilities or potentials are all found in the fact that he/she is human, that which was created from the earth and was made a living being when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. In the human person, therefore, are constantly in conflict his/her baser instinct with his/her transcendent self; the earth in battle with the spirit of God, the instinct with the reason.
It is in this perspective that I am making this contribution to this forum on Corruption in Ghana’s National Institutions and Public Life.
May I invite you, Ladies and Gentleman to keep in the back of your minds then the following syllogism!
To err is human.
Corruption is an errant or deviant behaviour.
Therefore, corruption is human!
2. Corruption is human, in fact, it is endemic to human society only and is found in various degrees in every human society.
2.1: What is corruption? It is any human act, (and only human act or behavior), that is immoral and therefore considered unacceptable to society as a whole.
2.2: From its etymology in Latin, co-rumpere means to break into pieces, to destroy or annihilate, also to spoil, mar or make worse, to falsify, to ruin or weaken morally, to damage.
Corruption, therefore, is any human act that is intended to cause or
causes any of the above unhappy results such as destroying, annihilating, spoiling, marring or making worse, falsifying, ruining or weakening morally, or damaging something, somebody, society or some institution.
In this etymological context, the word corruption embraces an entire spectrum of deviant human behaviour. However, I believe that the focus of this forum is on that deviant human behaviour that impinges upon the integral development of this nation, be it socially, politically, economically or even culturally and morally.
The following definition from the Transparency International Source Book on National Integrity Systems is more appropriate to this address. It says “corruption involves behaviour on the part of officials in the public sector, whether politicians or civil servants, in which they improperly and unlawfully enrich themselves, or those close to them, by the misuse of the public power entrusted to them”, (see TI Source Book, Ch. 1 p. 2).
2.3: In ordinary parlance, corruption is often grouped into two or three;
- petty or survival corruption,
- big-time corruption, usually involving huge sums of money or other grand considerations, and then there is what is known as
- political corruption, defined by some as “the illegal, unethical, and unauthorised exploitation of one’s political or official position for personal gain or advantage” (see Gyekye, p. 2).
All three form part of what is commonly known as administrative corruption involving public officials, those entrusted with the administration of any form of public goods.
2.3.1: Petty or Survival Corruption is known in some circles as ordinary corruption, perpetrated by a public official in order to supplement his/her meager salary. It may involve rather petty sums of money or small considerations. One may however ask, how small or how petty? And when does the petty graduate into big-time or grand scale corruption? And how true is it that such petty corruption is motivated by survival? Or by poverty?
Could this deviant behaviour not also be caused by greed or by the inordinate desire to live beyond one’s means?
Petty or survival corruption is usually regarded with some compassion and even condoned because the motive –survival– is considered very human; indeed a right to life.
2.3.2: Big-time or grand scale corruption involving huge sums of money or other exorbitant considerations is usually attributed to human greed and selfishness and or even the propensity for power. Other causes may be the inconsiderate demands on the “big-man” by the extended family members and friends.
2.3.3: In the case of political corruption, the reasons could range from the need to repay loans taken for past electioneering campaigns, the “survival” of the political party and its desire to have enough financial resource either for future elections in order to continue in power, or the sheer greed for money and property in order to indulge in opulent life-styles of persons in political office.
In all these three cases, the reasons given above, whether real or good, are basically human; human in the sense that it is either the instinct for survival, or greed for the goods of life, or the thirst for power and security, propensities which issue from, or are grounded in our human nature.
Certainly every person has a right to life, to food and shelter, to clothing and even to some modicum of comfort and security now and for the future. Nevertheless, these very human demands do not and must not necessarily give rise to the deviant behaviour of corruption, unless in matters of life and death.
3. Corruption is anti-human: In fact, in ordinary life, many are the poor persons who do not resort to corrupt practices to make ends meet. So, survival and poverty do not necessarily give rise to corruption in the human being. The opposite is quite often the case; corruption creates wide-spread poverty. The poor person is exploited and made to pay twice and three times more for services or goods due him/her where corruption reigns. In other words, corruption is inhuman, it is anti-human.
Again, invariably it is not the poor who are most corrupt. It is those way above the margins of poverty, “the big-men” and people in positions of leadership and trust, those whose survival is assured
a hundred times over, who often indulge in corruption and usually in grand style and with a callousness that is inhuman and anti-human if not bestial. Examples of the Mobutus, the Suhartoes and Marcoses abound even here in Ghana, people motivated by an insatiable greed for wealth and by megalomaniac tendencies, these are the ones who are unleashing poverty and misery on their fellow men and women. They are ready to see people die as they grab and hoard inordinate wealth.
At work in such characters, unfortunately, is also a very human propensity, that insatiable greed for possessions, power and pleasure, quite difficult to understand, left alone to elicit any reasonable compassion from anybody. This characteristic is also human, but rather of the baser instinct of the human being.
By the way, just as there are many poor people who are not corrupt, so also it is not every rich person, every “big-man” or every politician that is corrupt or indulging in corrupt practices. These may be rare, but they are present in our society, unfortunately they are not sufficiently appreciated nor even acknowledged for their integrity and good conduct.
The human propensity for greed, as underlies certain practices of corruption, is what in the human being could be baser and more bestial than even in the beast; for instance, the lion will only kill to satisfy its hunger and innate need to survive. Once that is done, and until it is hungry again, any number of prey may pass within reach and go unharmed.
On the contrary, the human being is capable of amassing wealth to the point of obscenity and with a passion not because of any immediate necessity but often to indulge in an obsession. Only the human will kill of its own species to indulge in this very inordinate and even inhuman desire. Corruption is, therefore, not only inhuman and even anti-human, it is also anti-social. It does not only ruin the individual, it destroys human society.
3.1: Corruption is from our fallen nature: For those who espouse religion, Christian or Islamic, revelation teaches that this inordinate desire of the human being, this anti-human tendency, this anti-social element lies in his/her fallen nature, a sinful nature from which he/she must be redeemed, if he/she is to be free to enjoy life and to transcend, excel and attain his/her nobler self, his/her spiritual calling.
Again, revealed religion teaches that the human being, created in the image and likeness of his Creator, God, is thus endowed with a nobility and the necessary spiritual faculties to enable him/her live up to his/her God-given dignity, and even excel to the heavens.
The human being is, endowed with a will, a conscience and the spiritual strength to resist the downward pull of his/her baser self, and when properly “in-formed” by the right moral education and aided by the grace of God; he/she is capable of turning his/her nature to his/her own good and that of humanity as a whole. This is what the story of human salvation is all about, helping the human being to become even more human in order to reflect better the image of God in which he/she was created.
3.2: By nature and essentially, the human being is a social being. Unlike animals, without his/her likes, he/she is doomed to die or to a very warped and even inhuman development. Therefore, whatever in him/her is anti-social, is a self destructive germ. Corruption, which is definitely anti-human and anti-social, therefore, a self-destructive germ in the human being, if not eradicated, would ultimately lead to the death of the human being and consequently to the destruction of human society.
This is the very reason why corruption must be combatted and combatted consciously and conscientiously on all fronts; politically, economically, socially, culturally, morally and even spiritually.
Corruption affects his/her whole being and in-forms all his/her activities, his/her personal, political, economic, and social intercourse. In fact, he/she is a moral being, one who must be in-formed and guided by norms both from within (his/her conscience) and without (by laws and commandments).
4. The Human Factor: This is the reason why in such a forum on corruption in Ghana’s national institutions and public life, the human factor must be understood and taken seriously. It has the germ of self-destruction as well as of self-transcendence.
4.1: The human need for survival, individually and socially, in terms of the need namely for food, shelter, clothing, for security, companionship and a modicum of comfort now and in the future must be guaranteed by whatever human institutions he/she belongs to, be it the family, the tribe, the place of work or the state.
This is not only a right, it is essential to his/her full growth and proper development into a more enhanced human being, if he/she is not to be tempted to give rein to his/her baser instinct in a bid to cater for unfulfilled legitimate needs, and by so doing, giving rise to various forms of corruption, which will ultimately lead to his/her own destruction as an individual and as a social species.
4.2: Since he/she is a moral being endowed with a conscience and a will (to guide and direct his/her actions), a being endowed with the potential for excellence, he/she would need to be educated in the right sense of the word – “educare” made to blossom and explicate the innate potentials that he/she is made of and attain the excellence to which he/she is called.
This is where the call for a holistic formation is vital, not just civic but also moral and religious in order to inculcate into him/her the beauty of self-discipline and love for that which is virtuous in life, and to shun vice, namely greed, selfishness and all that which is ultimately death-bringing such as corruption.
This calls for a concerted effort in his/her formation by all the actors and stake-holders, beginning from the family, the parents and guardians, the teachers and formators at various levels of life, the Church (in fact all religions) and the State. It is the well-formed person, one with a strong will and well-informed conscience that can resist the downward drag to greed and the selfish interest of his/her baser self, and open him/herself to the glorious heights and joys of virtue and excellence for the greater good of society.
4.3: All said and done, however, there is the need too, for the good of the same human being and of human society, to put in place a system to guarantee his/her needs as well as safeguard them against threats emanating both from within him/herself and/or from without. This is where the State comes in to protect the rights and enforce the responsibilities of the human person and society, defending and protecting the weak and poor against the rapaciousness of the strong and powerful. The State is normally there to protect the poor, not to join in his/her exploitation by the rich and the powerful.
This is the human factor which must not be forgotten in the battle against corruption and in the effort towards a collective plan of action for the creation of a national integrity system.
5. Conclusion: All what I have been trying to say is this:
To err is human;
corruption is an errant human behaviour;
therefore, corruption is human.
It, therefore, warrants some understanding and even compassion. Nevertheless, human nature is not, in essence, corrupt. In fact, corruption, as |I have shown above, is anti-human; corruption is anti-social. If allowed to spread, corruption will kill/destroy human society for the survival and the greed of just a few individuals.
If corruption is anti-human;
It is then also anti-social.
If corruption brings death to the human,
Then it must be killed before it kills the human being.
This is what we are about; how to cater for his/her basic needs; how to educate him/her to aspire to higher goals and the greater good of human society; and finally how to protect him/her from all forms of threats to him/herself, either from within or from without.
This is a task for all to get involved. Thank you!
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra.
20th November, 2014 @ OccupyGhana
Christ The King, Cantonments
-National Integrity Systems: The Transparency International Source Book Executive Summary.
-Gyekye Kwame: Political Corruption A philosophical analysis of a moral problem.