Corruption has always been a big problem in societies throughout history. Nowadays it creates problems for societies in a way that lot of money especially from the public sector which should be going to useful things such as education, infrastructure or funding of research and development goes down a black hole. This irresponsible behavior by public figures makes the lives of people more miserable. What is even more miserable is when in order to have access to basic services or in order not to get in jail for no reason at all, one is asked to pay a bribe.
Corruption also has one very bad side effect, once it gets very rooted in the society it becomes an even greater evil because it actually makes the people accept it as a fact and as a part of their every day life. So one thing that is worse than corruption is the product of corruption which is cynicism. People, especially in Central and Eastern Europe where totalitarian and corrupt regimes were in power, were forced to be cynical and they had to accept not only the corrupt regime but also the one which gave them no freedom and no rights. This is where corruption becomes strongly linked with freedom. It is also very strongly linked with the freedom of the press in some countries and also with the way Human Rights are respected in that particular country.
A great example is Italy, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), the perception of corruption in Italy is one of the highest in the EU. Only Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, which are notorious, have lower levels. When one hears of Italy these days, Silvio Berlusconi and his shenanigans come into mind. He faced countless charges of corruption and even links to the Mafia. Not to mention that he controls much of Italy’s Media. According to Freedom House the Freedom of the Press in Italy is very low. You can download their latest report here.
This proves the link between corruption and media freedom. When one looks at the CPI by Transparency International and the Freedom House’s Press Freedom Ranking, one will immediately observe that in much of the countries where corruption is high, media freedom is low.
Going back to cynicism and the product of corruption. When people become cynical and accept corruption, they become passive and are no longer willing to do anything about it. Once people are like that, corruption can flourish even more. This then creates a viscous circle which is almost impossible to destroy.
But where does this circle or this process start? It can start from top down when politicians are corrupt and are not willing to do anything about it. Then it is the duty of the people to do something about their government’s corruption.
There are many ways that one can do something about that in our modern day free and democratic societies. One can always report to the media, report to the police or report to Transparency International. The point is to bring as much attention as possible to this crime and put pressure on the individuals responsible. Individually a concerned citizen can do more. It is posible to blog about it, use social media and follow social media profiles of anti-corruption NGOs.This way one can also do another important thing which is to gain as much knowledge about corruption and know what it is and how much of it is around.
The important thing is not to be passive and not to become cynical. This way you are making your life and the lives of those around you and of other people in your society more miserable. If you live in a democracy use all the possibilities that you have, in order to do something about it.
The second way the viscous circle of corruption can start is from bottom up, where people start using bribes to get along in the every day life. This usually happens in government controlled economies with central planning where the administrative and bureaucratic barriers make life of ordinary people annoying and they are trying to bypass the system using bribes. All the totalitarian regimes created this sort of a corruption together with the one from top down since absolute power always corrupts. Usually in the societies where corruption stars from bottom up, government cannot effectively cope with the corruption and this way it spreads. People are automatically cynical and this allows the government to be corrupt even more.
A very interesting website to look at is the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. I also encourage you to, in case you have a Twitter account and are willing to do something, to follow the Twitter accounts I posted on this blog in a category. I also want to mention a great example of Georgia, a country where the government does a lot to battle corruption. Georgia has even been classified by The World Bank as the Number 1 country when it comes to fighting corruption. Nevertheless the perception of corruption in that country is still very high but at least the people are not being passive any more and are actually doing something about it.
Finally one important statement, which can also be applied for many situations in life and not only when it comes to stopping corruption, should be mentioned: “The only thing that evil needs in order to succeed is for good people to be passive”.