Whenever a new government or new party is elected, particularly in the Third World, a promise to eradicate corruption is always at the forefront. But why do these promises almost never materialize?
The answer is more simple than it appears. Government doesn’t lead society; it REFLECTS society. If people in government are corrupt, it is because this corruption, this way of thinking and getting things done, is pervasive throughout the society.
So, at best, new parties and new governments make a big show of “attacking corruption” by arresting a few people. What they are really doing, however, is just trying to scare everyone from pushing the boundaries of corruption, so that they don’t “get caught.” All the while, even the new government officials continue with corrupt practices in their daily lives. The people change, over and over, but the corrupt system never changes.
Why is this?
The problem starts with young children. I see this every day as a teacher.
Young, impressionable children watch and notice the way their parents deal with the issues of life each day. In most third-world countries, when the child has a severe problem at school, instead of letting the child repeat the grade, the parents go in and “beg” or pay a bribe for their child to be promoted (because parents feel ashamed if their child is not promoted). When the child gets a bad grade or doesn’t do homework, parents do the same thing. Instead of children being taught that they will have the consequences of their actions, good or bad, they are taught that one can “get out of any consequence” by either paying a bribe, or knowing the right people. Is it any wonder that they grow up into corrupt adults?
Corruption will never be eliminated in government until it is first eliminated in society. Yet, speaking as a teacher, I don’t see this happening at all. Even five-year-olds are learning this corrupt behavior by watching their own parents.
I personally know of one case where a five-year-old told his teacher that if the teacher didn’t allow him to do as he pleased, “I will bring my father in and have you fired!” (The result was that the foreign teacher told him, “Go right ahead! Go get your father right now! I’m waiting for him!” The student didn’t know quite what to say after that, as he wasn’t expecting that response…..)
So where, exactly, does the endemic corruption in third-world nations come from? It comes from the class system. In order to have a meritocracy, and fair treatment for all, whether in the courts or in daily life, EVERYONE HAS TO BE EQUAL UNDER THE LAW. In third-world countries, and even in many developed countries, this is unfortunately not the case. Those who are born wealthy, or with titles, the right name, or connections can get away with crimes of any sort and no court will convict them. This is truly what it means being “above the law.”
The ONLY way, therefore, for ordinary citizens to get justice, or even things done in everyday life, is through “knowing the right person (powerful people),” or paying a bribe. In every class of society, those above exploit those below. (This does not mean every individual in the society exploits others, but it is true as a general rule.) The rich exploit the middle and lower working classes. Even lower-middle class people, if they have some economic success in their own lives, hire a maid and exploit her even worse than higher classes. People on the lower end steal and cheat time-wise on their employers because they feel like they “deserve it.” They feel this way because it is a passive-aggressive sort of class warfare.
The same dynamic plays out in companies where many bosses exploit their workers. Since there is no justice in third-world countries, it is dangerous to resist directly, so they resist in a passive-aggressive manner, “forgetting” important things, showing up late, etc. Their jobs are often protected by “work rules” which mean they can’t be fired for any of these sorts of infractions.
Not every boss is exploitative. Unfortunately, when a foreign manager is working with these sorts of employees, their behavior is very confusing. The manger expects a certain level of output, what is normal for himself, or in his own home country. He gets only 1/3 of that and wonders what is wrong. He tries every tactic to improve productivity, only to find workers getting worse and worse. (He can’t fire them due to work rules.) What’s wrong is those particular workers have the class-warfare mentality.
In third-world countries, because of the “class” system, no one will ever be equal under the law. Even in countries with recent revolutions, such as in Arab Spring countries, the class system and class-warfare mentalities continue. So I am not optimistic that they will be able to develop meritocracies.
Democracy (or democratic reform) means nothing without meritocracy.