Yesterday, I came across a speech entitled “GRAND CORRUPTION – THE NEW CHALLENGE” that was delivered by José Ugaz, the chair of the leading anti-corruption group Transparency International to their Jamaican chapter National Integrity Action in Kingston, on 15 March 2015. It poignantly states:
“Corruption is a tax that is paid by the poorest in our countries and this, of course, has to do with democracy. This is a country with a large tradition of democracy, but corruption erodes democracy and affects governance.“
These pronouncements interestingly followed on the heels of some recent revelations about the previous Administration of St. Kitts and Nevis. (Please see Harris: Former Administration Depleted SIDF Funds, PM: Former Ambassador to UN Received Millions From SIDF for Private Legal Fees and ST.KITTS: Constituency Empowerment Department Under Investigation over Possible Misappropriation of Millions in Public Funds under Former Administration.)
Although many of us would be quick to blame our past leaders and their enablers and intermediaries, I submit that what we see here is a microcosm of what is happening on a much larger scale involving global players in the financial secrecy spheres, and whose machinations are more systemic and corrosive than one may have imagined. I hope in this blog article to show where the focus should be as we surgically dissect out the root cause of corruption, especially in this age of globalisation. Given that corruption negatively impacts true democracy and good governance practices, we need to do all we can as quickly as we can to minimise its presence in our midst and also mitigate its past effects.
We have been myopically unfocused with regards to where the root of corruption lies. By changing the focal point to where we now zoom out and assign blame less to individuals and more to where it squarely should be, which is on our fundamental belief systems, I hope to show that it is now time to change the conversation and get the bigger picture. This would help to catalyse the much needed transformation that we want to see in the world. Hopefully, by engaging in a form of Globalised Truth and Reconciliation Exercise, we would be more able to heal and forgive each other, not only locally, but also regionally and internationally, for not only what we have individually done, but for what we have collectively failed to do.
First things first. What is corruption? From Transparency International’s FAQS ON CORRUPTION, corruption is defined:
Generally speaking as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs.
Grand corruption consists of acts committed at a high level of government that distort policies or the central functioning of the state, enabling leaders to benefit at the expense of the public good.
Petty corruption refers to everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies.
Political corruption is a manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth.”
However, some claim that these definitions do not go far enough! A better transformative definition that would bring the discussion into proper focus to highlight the “supply side” of the engine behind the growth of this corruption, has been provided by Tax Justice Network’s John Cristensen:
“Corruption is the abuse of public interest and the undermining of public confidence in the integrity of rules, systems and institutions that promote the public interest.”
(Please take time to peruse the article along with its embedded hyperlinks as it lays out clearly its concerns and explains well how enablers and intermediaries of “a global network of offshore tax havens and financial secrecy” are singularly responsible for the corruption. They have also intimated here and elsewhere that Transparency International has not gone far enough in addressing these concerns. Please see ‘Transparency International, Divided on Corruption?’)
So what is the public interest? If we look around us, we see that the public interest (as opposed to that of the political and economic elites) lies with the hardships and sufferings of extreme social inequality in all of its manifestations (such as global extreme poverty and crime, lack of global access to universal health care and education, and global wars and terrorism) along with rampant degradation of our environment, caused by human-made activities that are changing the climate on a global scale, with potential grave consequences now and in the near future for the people and the planet. In an “enlightened” species that have come so far in terms of our scientific development with an increased awareness, appreciation and understanding of the public interest, why have we the public allowed the political and economic elites to lead us into these dire straits in terms of our economic and political trajectories?
I can only surmise that they were sincerely misguided, as to say otherwise would be a non-starter for me to begin with!! They have preached from their economic and political pulpits the primacy of our individual rights of freedom to choose and freedom to err, but have failed to also preach the primacy of their responsibility to provide transparent and accountable institutions and infrastructures. This would have given us in civil society the freedom to access verifiable and trustworthy information to inform a more rational decision-making process, as we: (i) freely choose wisely and err less in our pursuit of a healthy life and wellbeing; (ii) think more critically of our needs and aspirations; and (iii) most important of all, pursue our happiness as we actualise our true potentials. As an added bonus, it would have helped to keep our political leaders honest and immunise them from the external influences of state capture that have already done much harm in undermining our sovereignty and good governance practices. (Please see ‘Confronting the Challenge of State Capture in Transition Economies’ and ‘From Corruption to State Capture: A New Analytical Framework’ for more information on state capture, which is also a form of grand corruption.)
One of the unintended consequences of our misunderstanding or misrepresenting the true nature of the beast of this corruption is that it has spawned the globalisation of political and social tribalism, strife and discord, and collective hubris in our folly. Tom Atlee’s ‘Polarization, Conversation, and Collective Intelligence’ does an excellent job in explaining why this was not unexpected and what we need to do now in moving forward. His article is a ‘must read’ for anyone concerned and discerning enough to want to understand how we got here and where we need to go. Also Bruce Alexander’s ‘The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit’, ‘Addiction as Seen from the Perspective of Karl Polanyi’, and most relevant for our time, his most recent article ‘Addiction, Environmental Crisis, and Global Capitalism’ provide much more food for thought and reflection.
An eye opener for me lately was an acute appreciation of the fact that these output extreme social inequalities and extreme environmental degradations are normal responses to abnormal inputs which were based on sincerely misguided interpretations, worldview, belief systems, theories, models of the world, or whatever you want to call them. This goes to the heart of the matter and challenges everything we know or think we know, and has to do with ontology and epistemology, which are branches of the philosophy discipline that deals with what we can know for sure. Here is a simple definition that can be found in the article entitled Ontology and Epistemology: “..ontology is about what is true and epistemology then is about methods of figuring out those truths.” Anup Dash’s article ‘Toward an Epistemological Foundation for Social and Solidarity Economy’ bears out most forcefully why we have to step back and get our ontological and epistemological bearings straight if we are to make progress and move forward.
(If you are still not sure what the terms ontology and epistemology mean, here is the full explanation of the definitions excerpted in the article above. It is very important to understand these terms as they will help us to navigate difficult and disorienting terrain that will later on challenge in a most decisive way some of our most cherished and established beliefs.
Ontology: The branch of metaphysics (philosophy concerning the overall nature of what things are) is concerned with identifying, in the most general terms, the kinds of things that actually exist. In other words addressing the question: What is existence? and What is the nature of existence? When we ask deep questions about “what is the nature of the universe?” or “Is there a god?” or “What happens to us when we die?” or “What principles govern the properties of matter?” we are asking inherently ontological questions.
Epistemology: The branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge itself, its possibility, scope, and general basis. More broadly: How do we go about knowing things? Or how do we separate true ideas from false ideas? Or how do we know what is true? Or how can we be confident when we have located ‘truth’? What are the systematic ways we can determine when something is good or bad?
The split between Plato and Aristotle is both ontological and epistemic. The split between religion and science is both ontological and epistemic. For example, religion and science offer two very different ontologies (theories about what is out there) and epistemology (ways to figure out what is out there). And the split between Plato and Aristotle matches exactly the split between religion and science…)
A strong case will now be made that the root cause of corruption we see rampant around us today is a “corrupt” worldview we inherited, not from the neoclassical economists, nor from the founding fathers of economic theories nor from the “enlightenment” philosophers, but a world view that had taken root in civilisation over 4500 years ago. Riane Eisler has done much work in bringing this to light in her writings and especially in her groundbreaking books, ‘The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future’, and ‘The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics’. (Please see TEDxSantaCruz: Riane Eisler – ‘Building A Caring Economy’.) She along with her colleagues at the Center for Partnership Studies have been trying hard to “debug” our programmatically “corrupt” worldview. She is doing so by getting her Social Wealth Economic Indicators on the international agenda to highlight major blind spots in our current economic theories. She is helping to create a less “corrupt” and more wholesome and integrated worldview that gives more value to the care-giving roles of the most important participants in our economy: the women and the children of our households, those engaged in involuntary community work, and last but definitely not least – Mother Earth herself!
Her most profound insight is that our worldview inclusive of all of our religions have been corrupted to subordinate the feminine qualities of caring, sharing and empathy which underlie abundance and love for each other and the environment, which in prehistoric times was premised on the “unalienable truths” of equality of the sexes, and respect for sacred Mother Earth. Unlike us in the Western world today who now worship a distant patriarchal God of the Heavens, in those times they worshipped an ever-present Motherly Goddess modelled on the bounty and stewardship of Mother Earth. Sometime around 4500 years ago, the feminine qualities of building up hierarchies of actualisation in our families and communities and tending to Earth’s gardens were overrun by war-mongering nomadic tribes from the Steppes in Eurasia and the deserts of Mesopotamia, to corrupt our networks of peaceful Earth Communities, and build war-like Empires, which appears to be forever-expanding up to this day. (Please see David C. Korten’s ‘The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community’.)
The Zeitgeist changed literally overnight and since then our way of thinking and interacting with each other has been based on masculine qualities of competition, violence, domestication, exploitation, and hoarding, which has dislocated us and separated us from each other and the environment. Moreover, this has resulted in a corrupted and corrupting system of top-down hierarchies of domination and command and control to build and maintain armies of “priests” and warriors, protected fortresses, and workers for material mining and food cultivation, storage and transportation.
This has continued to this day to infest, I dear say, almost all of our modern institutions inclusive of our religious, educational, political and economic systems. It is in this real sense that our most corrupt ontology took root and has continued unabated to “undermine public confidence” as “the integrity of the rules, systems and institutions that promote the public interest” have been compromised, so as to serve more of the dominant establishment, be it the political, financial and religious elites, and less of the public interest for whom they were elected or “preordained” to serve. No wonder war, violence, poverty, gross inequality, racism, sexism, and other injustices and pestilences persist in this modern age of our ‘enlightenment’!! (For Christians among us who feel utterly revolted by what I have written above, please read John Dominic Crossan’s ‘How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation’.)
With this insight, how can we recalibrate our ontology and epistemology to realign them with partnership/collaborative bottom-up systems that would enable better stewardships of ourselves, each other and the planet? How can we increase public confidence in our rules, systems and institutions, in order to create equality of opportunities for actualisation of our individual and collective potentials, which is clearly in the public interest? John F Fullerton’s ‘Regenerative Capitalism, How Universal Principles And Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy’ provides a compelling case for a Copernican shift in thinking from a political economic system centered around profits where people and planet revolve, to one centered around the planet, where the rules of our social and financial transactions revolve around universal principles and patterns learnt from our best teacher, Mother Earth.
Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves this most pivotal question of our time: If we are truly children of Mother Earth, who would best be able to guide us? Integral Mother Earth who has nurtured us and blessed us with her networks of life-supporting systems, or Corrupt Father God/Mammom who we have created in “our” own image to maintain the establishment of the dominant status quo whose modus operandi is that of command and control so as to rule and divide those same life-supporting networks?
We need now to focus more broadly and deeply in changing the narrative of our time if the beast of corruption, in the broadest sense of the word, is to be attacked, or better yet tamed. We need new ontogenies/stories to guide us, (in addition to the new epistemologies/methods of analyses mentioned above). I highly recommend David Korten’s ‘Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth’ and Elisabet Sahtouris’ ‘Gaia’s Dance: The Story of Earth & Us’.
As you can see from the foregoing, all of these insights have come to the collective consciousness only just recently as many of us have sensed that something is fundamentally “corrupt” and “disingenuous” in our ways of thinking about and viewing the world around us, as fundamentally they serve to undermine the integrity of the life-supporting systems of our planet, our life-enabling social networks, and even that of our life-giving internal networks, the organs and cells of our body. We cannot claim anymore that as individuals and the collective, we were sincerely misguided this late in the game. If we don’t act NOW, given our rediscovered and renewed sense of awareness, understanding and consciousness, to remedy our flawed corrupt ways of thinking, we will be judged by the next generation, at best to be wilfully blind or at worst to be arrogantly ignorant of the the negative consequences of our actions, be they extreme income inequality, extreme inequality of opportunity to actualise our best potential for the benefit of the collective, and the extreme environmental degradation and destruction we would have left in our wake.
“Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.”
Tom Atlee has even gone on to show why Big Empathy is needed now more than ever to effect that transformation.
“That is the challenge of big empathy:
1. to widen our “circle of care” to include more beings of more species over greater time periods;
2. to become better practitioners of empathy; and
3. to embed empathy in our cultures and social systems.
If we successfully pursued all of these, it would clearly make all the difference in the world.”
I honestly believe that many of our world political leaders and those to come have been, are and will continue to be captured by the financial players. The enablers and intermediaries of the financial system are very much determined to maintain the status quo as many do not see any viable alternatives to turn to, and many are paralysed by apathy out of an abundance of fear, desperation and deep maladaptive insecurities brought on by their indoctrination in a culture that is grossly deficient in empathy. (Please see the Renegade Economist’s ‘Media and the Creation of Apathy’ to understand how “the cognitive map that has been put in place by our schools, universities and our media does not encourage us to question accepted norms… instead there is apathy.”)
No wonder the all-seeing eye has been blindsided at the top of the pyramid of the old and current globalised dispensation. Although they at the top could “see” our grimaces, they were unable to “feel” our pains. Simply put, they were physically, mentally, socially and spiritually incapable of empathizing with us at the base and “suffer with us”, which is the true meaning of the word “compassion.”
So in a way, they have also become the victims of their own game, “damaged souls” of sorts in urgent need of rehabilitation.
I have presented in this article sources to read, meditate on and discuss within our spheres and networks of influence and concern that can help change the conversation and the outlook and the trajectory we CAN and MUST take. We need to now facilitate the healing of our past and present leaders by empathising with them. They were simply doing the best they could given their level of awareness, appreciation and understanding, which was very much handicapped by major cognitive and emotional deficiencies, not of their making.
This has to be a grounded bottom-up exercise to create a collective consciousness and conversation using the best social networking tools of our information age as we transition into a new rehabilitative and regenerative infrastructural age based on more enlightened and empathic rules of engagement with each other, institutions and systems that we all can be justly proud of as we care more for each other and the planet, just as the planet has taken care of us for over billions of years.
As a childish species, we talked like a child, we thought like a child, and we reasoned like a child. We have now matured into adulthood. We need now to put those childish/adolescent masculine competitiveness, violent traits behind us as we “man up” to our feminine nurturing, collaborative and partnership selves.
For those of you who are not yet convinced on how corrupt our rules, systems and institutions are right now, I will leave you with these exhibits to digest and ruminate on to see for yourselves if they produce satiety or indigestion. It is now time to truly wake up and place the focus where it needs to be, so that in 20 years time Transparency International can look back and say the world has actually gotten better, and their clarion calls against corruption were not just “words” blowing in the wind, as they have now attacked the root cause of corruption, once and for all for one and all.
I rest my case!!
If you are still not convinced, this is my last salvo to see if I can help you to adjust better the focus of your mind’s eye:
“Growing up as a species
Young people sometimes see things more clearly than older ones, but find it hard to get grownups to listen. Grownups always point out that they have more experience and that the world is too complicated for simple solutions to its problems.
When small children take things away from each other and fight for power over each other, grownups are quick to explain that sharing makes everyone much happier. And yet, the grownups running the nations of the world and the global corporate empire too often still act like grabby, squabbling children with dangerous weapons and toxic chemical in their hands.
How can this be, if grownups have so much experience?
Let’s look again at what experience grownups have. They do know by experience that cooperation is good for children, for families, and even for whole countries. They can even imagine that cooperation would be good for all the countries of the world. Many grownups all over the world want that to happen, and are even trying hard to make it happen.
But grownups also have a lot of experience in competition. For thousands of empire-building years they have been afraid there wasn’t enough land and food in the world for everyone. They have believed they must fight each other and take from each other to survive. They convinced themselves that those with the best and most weapons and land were smarter than the others because they had to protect themselves from those ‘others’. They even convinced themselves they were outsmarting nature itself.
Competition drove them apart as rivals, but it also brought them closer together. Through the competitive race for new inventions in transportation and communication, they built the beginnings of a new world body of people, as we have seen. For the first time in history, they cannot separate themselves from their rivals, even if they want to.
Nor can they separate themselves from the poorer countries they depend on for supplies, but are finding harder and harder to control.
So, the grownups of the world are caught in a situation where they know they must learn to cooperate, but their habits of violent competition get in the way. When it comes to world cooperation, they have no more experience than children. Like children, they try for a while to cooperate and then break into fighting again. Children have parents and teachers to help them learn. But where is the parent or teacher that can help grownups learn in this new experience of becoming a world body? How can they learn that cooperation is cheaper than competition? After all, competition is driving huge profits from the making and selling of weapons and other stuff for fighting wars.
In ancient times, people believed they had a Mother Goddess who was good to them, but who also taught them lessons and had to be obeyed. She was Gaia, or whatever name they called Nature herself. It seems she helped them grow up and form the first cities we learned about earlier. When the empire age began, most people began worshipping a Father God, as we also saw. Much later, in Europe, scientist declared that no such Father existed and that they could know everything themselves! They believed they could control everything on their own, even that they were flying Spaceship Earth! So much for Gaia’s Dance!
This is an excerpt from the full 90-minute DVD, Riane Eisler: Recreating Our Past, Recreating Our Future – Thinking Allowed DVD w/ J. Mishlove
At the dawn of modern civilization, says Riane Eisler, humanity shifted from a partnership model of social interaction to a dominator model. In a partnership model men and women treat each other as equals. Ms. Eisler details the archeological findings suggesting that neolithic and Cretan societies had a significantly different social organization from that of modern times. Fertility goddesses were the major objects of religious worship, suggesting a reverence for the creative principle of nature. Cities were unfortified and yet survived peaceably for thousands of years.
As the civilizations of the fertile crescent arose, warfare and male domination became established social institutions. Since that time they have been such an integral part of our culture that we rarely imagine things could be otherwise.
Riane Eisler’s book, ‘The Chalice and the Blade’, has been described by anthropologist Ashley Montague as “the most important book since Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’.” Ms. Eisler is an attorney and legal scholar.
Inspired in part by the book, ‘The Chalice and The Blade’ by Riane Eisler. This video is a collaborative effort between Ife Aziz ( youtube.com/PepperMintLIfe ) and Aaron Moritz ( theinfinityes.com ) made possible through the internet, which allowed us to reach out, empathize, and share ideas with one another. On many fronts, the fact that this video exists is a testament to the reality of what it puts forth; ultimately, a challenge to the theory that humans are hardwired for competition and aggression, rather than co-operation, and empathy.
Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. Taken from a lecture given by Jeremy Rifkin as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.
The RSA’s Chief Executive Matthew Taylor explores the meaning of the RSA’s strapline ’21st Century Enlightenment’. How might this idea might help us meet the challenges the world faces today, and what role can be played by organisations such as the RSA?