Sunday, May 10, 2009

Speculations on Corruption

I've been diligently keeping up with the everyday marathon, but my ideas are frozen; frozen from the impending deadline making my soul churn with guilt as I race through ideas. So I succumb and decide to recycle yet another writing and will leave the blog-world at peace for a while.

This was yet another idealistic speculation on why people tend to be insincere, immoral -- well, corrupt. At an age when I could only comfortably crib about the career path I'd been flung into, I scribbled something down. Again, idealism at it's hilt.

From March 2005

Being corrupt is commonly defined as being dishonest, insincere, immoral, rotten or spoiling something. It cant just be yet another common attribute of man because its his tendency to be dishonest and insincere. No, that’s not true. Why then are there "corrupt" people?

Here's my theory:
We always give our best to something we love doing. A sense of commitment, responsibility, accountability and sincerity come with it. If a person loves his job, he enjoys working on it, respects it and is willing to face the hardships it might offer. Most of us in India, stick to a job mainly for survival. It pays money. I need to feed my family. There is no personal and wholesome commitment offered. When you don’t even like your job, don’t recognize its significance, and just orient yourself towards money, insincerity grows.

Apparently India has moved to a stage where all bright boys and girls aspire either for engineering or medicine. The ‘unfortunate half baked’ ones are doomed for other courses. But they’ll be pushed all their life to join the stream taken by the ‘elite cream’. If every one is herded to work as engineers, what happens to the quality of that profession?

The real potentials of an individual are never analyzed. Its true that some courses are difficult to take. It's not easy to reach all the comforts and luxuries that the common path provides. But it’s the amount of enthusiasm, talent, courage and passion you have for it, that takes you to heights. Dignity of labor must be realized.

But most people here are driven to take up a job, just for sustenance. How can they give in their hundred percent? The trodden path is always considered the safest. An ethically conscious man strives to do his best, no matter what job he does. But if a man with a great talent for music is put in a bank, he cant contribute his best. Its not enough that he’s just ethically refined. The working of any system depends on the aptitude of each and every one of its components.

Maslow’s hierarchy can be used here. The needs of man are put into a hierarchy starting with

· Physiological needs---- basic food, water, clothes, shelter.

If a man’s needs are confined to this level, then he looks only for money. The more the better. If he cant afford more, then he finds a way out; even if illegal/immoral. Its not greed, its merely pressure and desperation. He needs to survive and live on.

· Security and safety needs

At this level, sustaining his job is of the greatest importance. How he clings onto it and scrapes his way up to make it permanent and completely secure, is all that he’s concerned about.

· Affiliation, or acceptance needs

Only a man with a job is respected in the society. A man who brings home more money, is loved more by his wife, children, parents, and friends. The man who can afford to send his kids to the best school in the neighborhood, gets an implicit respect. Neighbors ‘accept’ him as their friend. So at this level again, his needs are restricted to how well and how much he is ‘accepted’ and liked by his society, and he feels "justified" to do anything to get there.

· Esteem needs

‘Power’ is a magic word. It commands respect and authority. A man with power, rules. A politician’s main need is to reach for that. The economic status of a man gives him power over the ones below him. Therefore at this stage, his need is to command, rule and be respected.

· Self Actualization

At this stage man has a desire to become what he is capable of becoming—to maximize one’s potentials and to accomplish something which will appease his inner-self.

Most of man's needs are misplaced. Unless man reaches or realizes the stage of self actualization, his needs justify and reflect the insincerity and dishonesty in any work he does. If a politician enters into the field to gain power and not to accomplish anything significant, his activities will only border around how to achieve his need. His means justify his ends and corruption bloats. He has no love, dedication, sincerity in his work. The system slackens and corruption grows.

The quality of any profession is dependent on the people involved in it. Love and commitment towards work, if developed, increases the efficiency of the overall system. I think it would reduce insincerity to a large extent. Of course common tendencies of greed will be present. But if the judiciary had people who loved to do their jobs properly... things will be under control.

Interesting theory. Now, I only partly agree. Lack of quality cannot be always equated to lack of moral values. This might hold true of general growth and development of a county. But I think it's Utopian to argue that people will continue to be insincere and corrupt unless they look beyond basic needs and search into their soul for their meaning and purpose in life. Basic needs of survival will never leave, and there are very few who can survive without nothing but by being in harmony with their inner-self.


SecondSight said...

Parts of this post seem almost like they're in direct conflict.. :) One angle is the idea that if you love what you do, you will achieve self-satisfaction (and thus, realisation?) through work, and the work itself will be of superior quality.

On the other hand, unless one has a certain degree of self-awareness to begin with, it is impossible to find out what you enjoy doing. And at any point, every man has a price- We all work to fulfil our needs, just that for some of us, those needs are material, and for others, emotional/psychological.
If X feels fulfilled at the end of a good day of work, and Y is fulfilled by the fact that his paycheck affords him financial security, how does one decide whose fulfilment is greater, or who did a better job?

Oorja said...

isn't it like justifying being corrupt..?

not all reach the top of the pyramid in Maslow's theory. it is self actualization which only a very few touch.

most are entangled and happy / sad in the lower four in the hierarchy. but that does not mean that not producing quality work is ok. just because you are not enjoying it.

you can not jeopardize other people's lives just because you are not satisfied with your work no matter what ever the reason may be.

for .eg a person becomes a Dr. just coz his parents are and wanted him to join te family profession but he's not happy. will we excuse his 'corroption' as insincerity...?

or any fund manager is not happy and doesn't care much about funds.. he's answerable to other people's (hard-earned or not) Money.

so this kind of corroption is non-excusable, even if you try n justify in any theory.

ok i may sound a bit hard here... sorry for that..

you won't believe i had this same very thought (insincerity in work) this morning and was thinking about posting something on it.

read all the posts i missed in the last few days.. nice.

Neeraja said...

SecondSight - You've spotted a wonderful Catch 22 situation here :). I agree, it was just ramblings of a frustrated mind. I was trying to idealize work itself to be one's calling in life. One is destined to be a doctor, the other a teacher etc. And I believed that once you know ur calling you need to pursue that for greater self-realization through the calling. And those who didn't, had to focus and find out what it was. Now I know it's not as simple as thinking about it and having a bolt of realization hit your head :)

I think fulfillment is different from focus. If one is fulfilled just with a paycheck, regardless of his work, then money becomes his focus. Even if he doesn't contribute his 100% to deserve it, he doesn't care. But if one's passion for the work is high and paycheck is just part of the parcel, the dedication is different. But there are people who despite hating their jobs, are ethically conscious of the amount of effort that goes into it -- although they can't control quality, for it's an interaction of aptitude and passion.

Oorja - You're quite right and I did not mean to justify corruption with a theory. This is of course not acceptable, but I wanted to allocate a theory to why humans tend to be so insincere. Are we humans just born to be greedy and insincere? I believe not... our needs are our driving force. My hypothesis was that misplaced needs and desires lead to corruption/insincerity. And such misplaced needs are wrong. Each one should try to contribute to society in a way that he best can.

You were thinking of insincerity too! We seem to be thinking of a lot of similar ideas :). And thank you so much for patiently reading through all my previous rambling posts! Really sweet of you :)

Priya said...

I agree with SecondSight's comment here...For every person, what they feel fulfilled with may be different based on their basic needs..for some, it may just be making their family happy with the material gains they can achieve; for others, the fulfillment may be based on a personal actualization level. And I think rather than money becoming their focus, it is the "thought to take care of their family" that may bring them the fulfillment. They see money as an instrument. However, this does not mean they love their work, nor can their corrupt acts be justified.

From another perspective, do we Give and Share enough? Not just money, but as simple as a word of appreciation or thanks to the work someone does. Can we also be called corrupt if we don't?

I recently read a quote relevant to new hires, that has stuck in my mind. -- "When you hire a person, look out for 3 things. Brain, energy and integrity. Just be careful, if the person has the first 2 in abundance, and not the third, then that employee can kill you". So lack of integrity cannot be justified even if one does not love their work.

Neeraja said...

Thanks for sharing your views Priya. I guess my writing made it sound as if I was justifying corruption through this theory. Not at all, I was only trying to reason out why people tended to be insincere, corrupt and dispassionate about their jobs. And any theory or reason I come up with, does not justify corruption; it's just a means to understand where it all stems from and how one can correct it.

Of course fulfillment is subjective and is driven by different people's needs. I think what I was driving at was, if one's heart is not involved in their work then the effort, outcome will be mediocre. For instance if one hates cooking but is forced to do so everyday due to the need to survive, the quality,creativity, effort etc get compromised. Lack of dedication added with short-sighted view towards ethics will lead to being corrupt. If somebody offers to cook for a day in exchange for some vegetables, needs versus consequences are justified. Again, I'm not supporting this. For a peon in a govt office, a 10 Rs bribe from a businessman is perceived as nothing unethical. It's because he doesn't realize the implications of such small acts of "innocuous" bribery, because 1) his passion towards his job is minimum, 2) 10 Rs means one more plate of food.

This works even in the case of a power hungry corporate leader, when his needs are misplaced; needs start justifying the means. But as I said in the post, there are obvious loopholes in the argument...was just a random scribbling :)

Priya said...

One clarification..I certainly don't think your writing made it sound like you justified corruption.But I remembered that quote I liked, and it was relevant to the topic here; so sorry for the mis-communication :-)
Actually, I do think Maslow's has a connection with corruption as you had stated. If we examine this from the economic hierarchy, it makes sense; when a poor person is corrupt, we say they are corrupt to fulfill their basic needs. Whereas if a rich person is corrupt, it falls somewhere near "power".
Although my previous statement about fulfillment stands, I do agree that if one has dedication and conscientiousness in their work, and really love what they are doing, then its difficult for them to be corrupt.

Neeraja said...

Oh definitely that was a good quote :). I guess I misinterpreted the last sentence. The whole theory is quite idealistic; knowing it doesn't help us in anyway to avert corruption, for it's unrealistic to provide and find jobs that satisfy each person on a personal actualization level.