Who is Corrupt? Essay by Sourabh Thakur


Aam aadmi confused.. (Pic: courtesy milligazette.com)

[Editor’s Note: This post was making the rounds on Facebook during the frenzied days of the Anna Hazare movement. Other folks had made this point but nobody had nailed it as well as Sourabh did. Reproduced here with his permission. A very interesting comment thread also ensued after I shared this post on Facebook – am including that thread within the comments (after anonymizing my friends of course).]

Am I corrupt? Yes I am.

I put up a certain self-image in society to gain acceptance, money and power. I lie to my loved ones, protecting my self-image on the pretext of not hurting their feelings. I curb my anger in public to protect that image. I curb all the corrupt thoughts, lie to myself just to get a self-proclaimed label of a nice human being. Even my honesty comes with a carrot of an ego boost or spirituality.

If I am caught drinking and driving, I pay a little money to get away. I try to avoid paying duty while carrying my expensive camera or laptop back home. I produce fake documents to reduce my taxes. I jump waiting lines whenever I can. I use pirated softwares. I pay my maid a piddly amount of money while I make big bucks myself. I take advantage of situations for my own good. I manipulate situations. I do emotional blackmailing. I use influential people in my life to get things done for me. I like free stuff.

If I am a father I bribe my kids to get good marks in exams. I bribe my dog to be a good dog (whatever that is).  If I am a kid I bribe my parents by being a good kid. If I am a political party I bribe you with progress, protection and such vague stuff. If I am a religion I bribe you with god / nirvana / heaven to become good human beings. I even bribe god for good things to happen in my life. And most of the time I am bribing myself.

If I am a CEO I can draw huge amount of moolah for myself, as I deserve it. If I want engineering seat I don’t mind paying donation, but at the same time condemn those who come from quota because they don’t deserve it. If I am a cricketer I can take money to influence match results. If I am a doctor I can get commission from pharmaceuticals to prescribe their drugs. If I run a newspaper I can take fee to publish certain news and suppress others. If I am a cop I can take money to register your FIR. If I am in advertising I can make money by lying to people about my product and trying to feed their fears. If I am an armyman I can rape powerless tribal women, and if I have permission I kill the men. If I am a multinational company I can make huge profits while running sweatshops. If I am a manager I can work to increase my company’s profit, with little regard about people working under me, while protecting my own personal life. If I earn hugely disproportionate amount of money compared to majority of the world I can give some of it as a charity and go gaga over my divine intensions. If I am social activist I can honestly work for social welfare while tirelessly filling my pockets with foreign funding.

I am corrupt in different degrees in different situations according to the circumstances and my capacity. More the power I have, more the capacity to be even more corrupt. I am corrupt in the context of nature, world, nation, society, family and friends or just pure moral self. I am corrupt for money, status, acceptance, praise, power, pleasure, love, sex, nirvana, god, self-image, ego etc etc.

I live in a society where we need laws so that we don’t cheat each other. We need police so that we don’t kill each other. We need armies so that we don’t destroy our civilizations. We need democracy to tell us that we are all equal. We need false identity of a nation so that we can unite each other. And we need government to take care of all this and more for us, because if left on our own we desire attached power hungry selves would destroy everyone and everything around us. So we elect few amongst us, who seem capable or more like who promise to fulfill our hopes and dreams and visions, to run things for us. We give them power to run things for us and with that capacity to be more corrupt. We expect them not to take advantage of the powers that they have got while I continue to be corrupt in my own capacity. So I want to elect another mortal amongst us to police them, who will be totally honest, or create a system, which will not allow him to be otherwise. How and who are to choose such a person or create such a system? Who has such a keen understanding of human psychology to elect a person with all good intensions and honesty? If there can be such a system why isn’t it employed to elect the leader itself. And if this police become corrupt after all this, which is more likely looking at the history, are we to invent another police to police them?

So I feel like a hypocrite shouting out against corruption, just because it is of a larger proportion and context. Who is to draw this imaginary line and where? Everybody have their own justifications for doing right or wrong things.

I don’t want this unending loop of policing. I don’t want another hero who can change others. I want to change myself.



2 thoughts on “Who is Corrupt? Essay by Sourabh Thakur

  1. The comment thread on Facebook:

    SS: totally and compelteeeeetly agree…and that is what i have been discussing with pple…yes we want a clean nation – but we have to start by doing our own part first …..

    TP: Hey Vishy – I’ve been having many conversations with ppl regarding the current state of politics in the US. I’ve mainly relied on the phrase “I am tired of the hypocrisy” but this does such a better job of articulating what I have really been trying to say. Thanks for linking to the post! Hope all is well.

    YU: Totally and utterly disagree. It is because of human weaknesses that we need to create systems that work. Let us stop looking within ourselves except to acknowledge our weaknesses and frailties. And then design systems that work. Measurably so.

    VG: Folks are missing the point, including Mr Hazare – fix the damn judicial system and punish who are found guilty (before they die, because it takes so long for decisions) else we can continue to institute more rules, for nothing. Guess the lawyers and the legal system doesn’t want to make decisions to keep their ‘job secure’. Damn!

    DL: This sounds very familiar to us mexicans, but the truth of the matter is that government corruption is not the symptom of an amoral society. The truth is that corrupt governments are primarily the result of a voracious minority sezing power and blackmailing the rest of us. Try paying a fine if you get stopped by cop in Mexico city and see what happens, try paying taxes on that expensive camera and see how the paperwork and the bizantine rules defeat your principles. Societies will never be perfect, the “honesty” of a country’s citizens is not what prevents corruption in government, only when the elites thinks it is bad for business does the problem get better. For this you need to give the powers that be an incentive to quash it. Until the billionares in India and their cronies feel the pinch of the problem in their wallets or (even harder) citizens scare the government into making the judiciary and ploice work you and us will keep suffering it.

    VK: @YV: The point of sharing this link was not to endorse the author’s conclusion as a binary point – i.e in place of Lok Pal. It’s that corruption is so ingrained in the entire spectrum of society that for someone to come with an extreme position “Here is our 11th commandment Jan Lokpal” — don’t bother reading it people, but oh! MPs’ pass it in a hurry and ye shall all go to corruption-free heaven – THAT is presumptuous (to start with). So far no-one from Team Anna has answered this basic q: “If we can prevent Lok Pal from being politicised and undermined, why can’t we restore the independence and credibility of CAG, CVC, CBI and the Election Commission?” If you liken this to a re-architect vs. buy decision software decision, Jan Lok Pal decision is the “buy” decision — always more sexy than the former. Some political commentator had mentioned that India’s going through a national catharsis on corruption – against that backdrop, Sourabh’s note is definitely relevant. Where things are deadlocked right now, I see no reason for Team Anna’s obduracy on inclusion of lower bureaucracy RIGHT NOW (for the 1.0 version of the bill).

    VK: @VG: Good point indeed. Related to my reply to Yogesh, instead of widening the prosecute-convict-jail funnel (by adding more small-potatoes corrupt officials), let’s first walk before we run. First let’s go after the spectacular large-scale corruption. There’s clear evidence that if you keep the upper echelons of power corruption-free, it’s hard (if not impossible) for the rest of the nodes in that tree to be corrupt. Happy to elaborate on this.

    VK: @DL: My friend, thanks for jumping in here. Good points. Did you know that we have a “ipaidabribe.com” site started by an NGO a year ago? I was very skeptical about it initially but clearly there are a lot more people who *have paid* a bribe than *those who didn’t* (which was one of my ideas). Apparently some city officials in Bangalore are using data in this site.

    YV: @VK I was careful not to get into the merits or otherwise of janlokpal and team anna’s tactics. I just don’t agree with “first let us look within” thinking. Danile said it best “but the truth of the matter is that government corruption is not the symptom of an amoral society. ”

    UR: Considering the discussion this fast has started among people, it is serving its purpose. Perhaps, that is what Anna and ‘the team’ had in mind. I can’t believe they would have been naive to think that one “Lok Pal” bill/law can change a system. This is not an excuse, but there is an economic reality and that is a shortage of resources to feed and provide life’s comforts to 1.1 billion, which leads to ultimately everyone looking after his/her own interest.

    DL: Thank you my friend, BTW, can you send to inbox links to ” clear evidence that if you keep the upper echelons of power corruption-free, it’s hard (if not impossible) for the rest of the nodes in that tree to be corrupt” I keep telling this to people here in Mexico, but I keep coming up empty when trying to give some examples. India and Mexico are more similar than you’d think

    YV: I do have a counter example (sort of). Japanese politicians and corporate executives keep getting into corruption scandals. The general populace is however, famously honest and disciplined.

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