Recently I received a Whatsapp message of a traffic officer who stopped a pastor for speeding. The message goes:
Pastor: (Seeing that he is in wrong yells) I am a pastor, not a thief.
Traffic officer: If you are a pastor then you must have a Bible. Can you present it?
Pastor: (Hurriedly brings his Bible to prove his honesty and be freed).
Traffic officer: Can you please read Matthew 5:25-26 to me?
Pastor: (Reads text) Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge may hand you to the officer and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
The man of God, upon interpretation, quietly made an offering of a few shillings. The traffic officer collected his bribe and said to the pastor: “End of the matter. Go quickly in peace and never argue that the policemen collect bribes. We only settle matters quickly and peacefully instead of taking those to court to be thrown into prison. It is part of our job.”
What we see from this story is that most corruption incidents we experience today start with our justification of our predicament. Take an example of a parent who throws insults at a public officer who has been found corrupt on the news but he will not find anything wrong in calling a lecturer to fix missing marks for his child at whatever cost.
How about the lecturer or office administrator who will not feel animosity about marks for a student who is paying with a favour of sex or money?
The question that challenges social scientists, moralists and the general public is why corruption is deepening in our society and even in places such as Christian institutions. The scenarios above demonstrate that corruption is contextually driven, its intensity in society is determined by how the society understands and accepts rules and rule-breaking behaviour (Maingot 1994; Melgar, Rossi, and Smith 2010a; Moreno 2002).
An important factor that explains corrupt behaviour seen today is personal greed partly driven by the hard economic times. The hard economic pressures have raised people’s desire to accumulate money as if there is no tomorrow with no regard whatsoever to moral boundaries. Moral integrity anchored in our religious and cultural beliefs is under scrutiny in these glaring economic times. Greed is a source of evil and fighting it requires one to accept one’s financial position in society.
Permissiveness of corruption. According to Diego et al, (2013), permissiveness of corruption is defined as the willingness of people to tolerate acts of corruption as regular or daily events not worthy of punishment, as something acceptable.
People’s permissiveness of corruption has encouraged them to continuously tolerate this rule-breaking behaviour whether at individual or institutional level. We need to reflect on things that have altered our attitudes affecting our personal ethical sensitivity.
The weak laws and punishments of the corrupt has also facilitated illicit enrichment. The mechanisms to deter people amassing wealth that is not commensurate to their earnings are very weak and disturbing.
Parents also enjoy the goodies their children bring for them without any remorse to ask where they got such large sums of money and the same applies to spouses. This kind of reluctance on our part has neutralized and encouraged corrupt behaviour.
We need to stand firm and denounce elements and indications of corrupt behaviour in the community.
The writer is a lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences at UCU