A deeper look into corruption and what it means to eradicate it Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
When we talk about the word ‘corruption’, what often comes to mind are images of the mafia or dodgy business dealings. For example, the media often uses the word to describe police or government officials taking bribes instead of honouring the law.
Whilst these are obvious forms of corruption, is it possible that corruption represents much more than this?
In the dictionary corruption is generally defined as:
Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
The process by which something, typically a word or expression, is changed from its original use or meaning to one that is regarded as erroneous or debased.
What if we applied the definition of corruption to our personal lives?
For example have you ever said, “I love you,” to someone out of obligation rather than because you truly felt to express it in that moment? Have we considered that this is a subtle corruption of communication? But that’s just a part of surviving socially, right? What if it is not actually natural for us to act in this way? What if this is a deviation away from our natural transparency when we were young? A baby communicates without manipulating the message – if hungry the baby will cry, if joyful a baby smiles.
If we want to address corruption in society we also need to address it within our own homes, for example in the way we sometimes manipulate our loved ones to get what we want. Only when we are prepared to address corruption on a personal level will corruption in the world cease.
And whilst there will always be skeptics to the possibility of this, they too existed when the first person suggested the earth wasn't flat. There are many throughout history who have expressed that we all have a responsibility to address what is not true in the world. For example, Einstein once stated 'The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing'. Therefore, it would follow that addressing corruption within society lies in the power of the masses, not just in addressing those who are obviously corrupt. An obvious example of this is in the abuse seen within the Catholic Church. The systemic abuse of children was/is enabled by the silence of the majority in the Church’s ranks. If there was a zero tolerance policy on child sexual abuse by those in power and a willingness to speak up and notify police where there was evidence of a crime, it is hard to imagine that such far-reaching and ongoing atrocity could occur. But the corruption here is more deeply layered still. At the extremity there is the obvious and depraved corruption of the pedophile who believes that he ‘loves’ his victims. There is the corruption of his colleagues who deny his abhorrent behavior and conceal it to police. But there is also the corruption inherent in climbing the corporate/church ladder - of making choices based on careerism instead of integrity. This shows the system itself is corrupt, and we all know that systems are made up of the people that produce them. Although the most devastating aspect of all this is that these actions by those within the Catholic Church corrupt our perception of what it means to be religious or to have a personal relationship with God. And beyond even the systems, we more broadly live within a corrupt society given we even have to address pedophilia at all. The fact that for some life gets to that point where they feel to act in such a vile way shows that as a society we are way off from not living true.
It is in addressing the less obvious forms of corruption that we will most powerfully address the extremities – When enough people start to recognize and say no to all the subtle forms of corruption within their own lives, those who choose corruption as a way of life will simply not be able to get away with it.
What Is Corruption?
What if corruption is anything less than harmony? Whilst some may see this as a far too conservative definition, what if defining corruption in this way is the key to truly addressing corruption at its root? If we continue to only focus on extreme examples of corruption, are we not merely trying to address the consequences of long-term disharmony between people? Even in cases whereby a whole system is corrupt, whether it be in Government or Education or a Religious institution, we ought to always remember that the system was created by people. Hence, if we really want to eradicate corruption from our lives, we need to address corruption from where it starts, not just manage it from where it ends up.
Could it be that corruption first occurs when people are feeling disharmonious within themselves, which then builds a tension within them that later on manifests itself outwardly through their thoughts and behaviour? And hence is it possible that the corrupt behaviours we see occur well after the corrupted quality we feel?
Thus the importance of us all addressing any form of disharmony within ourselves, such as addressing our underlying hurts. For if we do not address the unresolved emotional issues within us, these will essentially ‘corrupt’ our natural way of thinking and behaving on subtle levels, and then we are on our way towards the more extreme examples we see in society.
Once a person is used to feeling corrupted on the inside, it is a relatively easy step to begin participating in corrupt behaviours to get what they want. This is where we see manipulative and controlling behaviours in relationships instead of being open and transparent with people. And we can all relate to living this way with others. And therefore is it possible that corruption always comes down to a choice, irrespective of our circumstances? For example, there are many throughout history who, irrespective of house arrest or torture, chose not to lose their integrity and become corrupt. Whilst we could say that many if not most have chosen corruption under these circumstances, this has not been the case for all. But while history is typically written by those who conquered lands and dominated others, we are unlikely to hear the stories of such integrity to the end, as it surely wouldn’t have been recorded by the torturer’s of the day. Is it possible that we are then left with a distorted picture of what human beings are actually capable of? Corruption is clearly a much larger issue than is reported on in the news, and a great level of self-responsibility is needed if we are to begin to eradicate it from our lives.
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.