Jiitendra Singh (MD)
(June 2011) – Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption in India will fail just as Gandhi’s rosy dream of India did, albeit due to no fault of his own. It will fail not because of lack of sincerity and substance but because of reasons beyond his control:
- Corruption is not confined to bribes and financial misappropriation
- Lack of understanding of the psycho-dynamics of corruption
- The innovative power and ferociousness of the corrupt mind
Even if Hazare should succeed, the achievements would be piecemeal and very short-lived. That is not to say that his movement is of no value. It has certainly woken the masses from a deep slumber and apathy, at least for some time. Make no mistake, the corrupt are experts at diffusing and destroying any anti-corruption movement. Emotions will die out soon. Mass hysteria has a very short shell life. This is what the corrupt count on. They muddy the water by launching accusations and counter-accusations and play their game in the playground of cheap sentiments. Only rationality will sustain. This is why they are afraid of rational debate.
Corruption is omnipresent, it is found all over the world. But in some countries it has impacted on the daily life of its citizens far and wide. This is the case in India where corruption is now a multi-headed hydra. You crush one head, it grows three more. There are myriads of ways in which it manifests because it has permeated deep into the Indian psyche.
Dowry; hypocrisy; exploitation of the weak, poor and illiterate; illegitimate relationships; unlawful polygamy; taking and selling intoxicants; destroying the moral fabric of society; distortion of history and of scriptures as reflected in the caste system – are all of these not corruption? The list goes on and on. Generations of Indians have grown up in an environment saturated with corruption. Their body and mind has transmuted in order to accept corruption as a normal way of life. It is only the magnitude of scams and scandals now that has broken the slumber and started the masses.
What is corruption?
Dictionaries offer numerous interpretations of the word, such as dishonesty for personal gain, depravity, altered form, bribery, fraud and so on. However, the most inclusive definition seems to be “vice”.
Are any of the aforementioned conducts not a vice? Corruption is a vice that slots in many practices; bribe is just one of them. Personal gain does not have to be only financial. It may be for name, fame and reputation or just convenience. Many intellectuals, scientists and social leaders have been susceptible to this type of corruption. It may be as small as doing or getting favours from others such as complementary lunches and dinners, freebies and gifts (as many calls them) or as big as national and international scams and scandals.
There are numerous altered forms of corruptions that have permeated deep into the Indian psyche as well. Take for example dowry. It is the most notorious of corruptions that has impacted tremendously on the individual character and collective consciousness of Indian society. Its implications range from selling of assets to bride burning, from black money laundering to infanticide of female foetuses. Yet, we accept it as a normal way of life in spite of the well-advertised law against it, which is never enforced anyway.
With the changes in time corruption only changes its form. Most of the cars and motorbikes that we see on the road today are the fruits of dowry. With rising wealth, houses and apartments are built for grooms and their families. Yet, lies, deceptions and exaggerations abound in arranged marriage negotiations. If not corruption, then what is it?
It is such relatively minor forms of sleaze that have altered the Indian psyche over several decades and institutionalised corruption. They are the mothers of all scams and scandals. All of us are partaking, knowingly or unknowingly, in these smaller corruptions and the irony is that the same people among us are also most vocal in protesting against corruption when we find ourselves at the wrong end of it.
Corrupt people are the products of the same society that we all help create. The bigger we are, the bigger the corruption we are involved in. But we are all responsible; rather we all contribute to scams and scandals. Each one of us has the seed of corruption inherent in our minds. An increasing number of these seeds are now germinating. Yet, we have not developed the safeguards from the plants that grow out of it. The only safeguard that will work on such a deeply permeated psychic ailment is to eliminate the very urge of all vices from the individual mind.
In the last sixty years we have done the reverse. Like a hungry beast we have pounced on the carcass of new-found wealth, as soon as it came along after a period of starvation, at the cost of the moral fabric of society. The blindness of wealth and megalomania of statistics prevent us from having a clear view of ourselves as a nation. There is no constructive ideal in front of us and no spirit of benevolent service within us. We fight for the sake of fight.
We inadvertently aid exploiters by not having a constructive ideal. As we go on criticising, they go on inventing more shrewd and sophisticated tactics for exploitation. That is how Gandhism fell. The solution needs a thorough understanding of the psycho-dynamics of corruption.
Psycho-dynamics of corruption
Corruption is mental ailment. It is powered by a tendency to accumulate in order to quench one’s physical thirst. Indulgence, greed and jealousy do not allow this thirst to be quenched. Rather they heighten it more and more. For instance, greatly improved pay scale of teachers has not improved the quality of education an iota. Rather it has transformed the staff room into a stock exchange. Is it not corruption to turn one’s back to one’s duty?
When insecurity creeps in problems get out of control. Most small scale corruptions start of with gratification of one’s needs but end up with greed, indulgence, exploitation and sometimes even with murder as physical thirst knows no limit. Countries with more sound social security systems have relatively lower rates of corruptions that impact on the day to day life of their citizens. Nevertheless, social security is no panacea against corruption as numerous cases of severe misutilization of that system in those countries have shown.
Accumulation is a base propensity of human mind stemming from the feeling of insecurity. It is this propensity that drives us to corruption. It generates the psychology of “us vs. them” and “me vs. the world”. Grab whatever you can! As we grow, this tendency grows with us. We want to capitalize on everything till we become a capitalist, a compulsive accumulator, incessantly trying to quench the physical thirst. Ultimately corruption becomes entrenched in the social psyche as an accepted way of life through the process of institutionalisation.
Biological sciences teach us that environmental influences increase the complexity of the human body. The problems of ancient and modern people are by no means identical. In an effort to keep pace with the changing speed of life, the human body and mind have gradually become more complicated. The physical structure of ancient people would have certainly been unfit for solving many of today’s problems. As the mind becomes more complex, its direct centres, the nerve cells, and its indirect centres, the glands, undergo corresponding changes. Human brain rewires and glands modify their output. Over the past six decades since India got its independence it seems that insecurity, greed, envy and indulgence have rewired the Indian brain right from childhood and regulated the glandular secretion of Indians.
With modern media and superfast communications that perverse wiring is now being powerfully strengthened. What was purely a psychic problem has become a biological problem as well. The outcome is a corrupt society mighty rich in breeding corrupt individuals. No amount of protest or crowd is going to alter these wirings.
Does that mean that we are set in concrete and are doomed? Most certainly not. Philosophical treatises inform us that conflicts in the psychic sphere gradually awaken dormant human potentialities. As the nature problems change, the human mind becomes engaged in making new scientific discoveries. The neuroscience of recent years gives us hope and reasons for optimism. I a series of brilliant experiments, neuroscientists have demonstrated that we can design ourselves a new brain and may alter the secretions of our nerve juices. They call it neuroplasticity. There are however certain prerequisites to this transformation. These are benevolent motivation, sustained attention and constructive goal. They provide the strong mental vibration required for the rewiring of the brain and alteration in the glandular secretions. Then only will the human conduct change. The question remains – what process can provide these gemstones?
There are three main methods to check corruption:
- Humane approach
- Violence – Middle East style
- Strict ombudsman (“Lokpal”) bills
In a democratic society we cannot get the third item fully without sacrificing the fundamental principles of democracy. There is no scope for the second item without violating human rights. However, laws can be used as an adjunct to the humane approach in appropriate doses. When the ruling class becomes totalitarian, intransigent and unyielding mass violence remains the only option as is currently happening in Arab countries.
Three essentials of humane approach
The humane approach requires three essential factors in order to work efficiently:
- Moral (not just honest) leadership
- Constructive ideal
- Spirit of benevolence
Those who lead society should be dynamic moralists. Morally enlightened persons are proactive against all sorts of vices. Not only are they honest, they also display humility, nobility, benevolence and dedication. They stand steadfast against the ruthless counter-attacks of immoralists without caring for their own prestige and reputation. Driven by the motive of collective welfare they do not run away when the going gets tough. In other words, they are the servant leaders of the people and not the ruling masters. That is possible only if they genuinely love people and that is possible only if they see all as the progeny of the same invisible force. Give it a name of your liking. They are the benevolent intellectuals. In Sanskrit they are called sadvipras. They do not come ready-made. They need to be cultivated and nurtured by a process that is contributed by parents, teachers, the education system, educational policies and social leaders. Do we have such a process in place in India today?
This process should be inherent in the education system, in the policies and politicians and in the social fabric. A system that has moralist parents, moralist teachers, moral educational policies and moral leaders is paramount to fight corruption.
While fighting corruption there should be a constructive ideal. Different civic movements in India have failed to give benevolent service because they lacked a constructive ideal. Therefore it is necessary that the ideal should be first, the ideal second and the ideal always.
Corruption has become synonymous with capitalism. The leftist groups are engaged in criticising the capitalists. Their fight for the sake of fight bears no fruitful result. The capitalists on their side have captured power by influencing the ruling party and adjusting their approaches and policies according to the ongoing criticism they meet. Is it not the condition in India today?
Our approach should be to adopt a constructive ideal. The most constructive ideal is to form a classless society. All classes will have to unite in a society free from class warfare and strive to implement a common ideal on a common platform.
We should wage a ceaseless and pactless struggle against all anti-human and anti-social factors. We are to fight capitalism and not capitalists. We need to annihilate the corruptive tendency of the mind by promoting and materialising our constructive ideal. If simply suppressed it will only rise again as another vice.
Capitalists suffer from a sort of mental ailment, which is to want infinite wealth in a limited physical world at the cost of the suffering of others. It is our duty to radically cure them by diverting their physical thirst toward psychic and spiritual pursuits. Then only can we see the back of corruption. Only benevolent moralists can do it. The education system should produce such moralists and society should nurture them.
Dr. Jitendra Singh (M. Med.) set with his seminal Biopsychology – A New Science of Body, Mind and Soul new standards for the science of bio-psychology. Singh is considered to be a world-leading expert on the relationship between body and mind. He received his MBBS from the University of Lucknow and Master of Medicine from University of Melbourne.
Copyright The author 2011