Do we know how corrosive the culture of corruption is? Call it a global virus or a weapon of mass destruction; call it a cancer. It’s that bad. To be sure it is an enemy of democracy. When it infests the institutions that we rely on for the very core of our national existence – business, government, religion – we are in grave danger of decline that no outside enemy could bring on.
Without a strong sense of trust – well-deserved trust – in our institutions, democracy doesn’t work. Having spent some time in Kenya recently, where corruption trumps progress at every turn, I can’t help thinking that we are receding into a condition that has been in the past more typical of the developing world than the “first-world” nations.
The local and regional manifestations of corruption are particularly hard-hitting, intruding on our sense of confidence, pride and well-being in our own front yard. What can be done about it? How can we immunize ourselves against the temptations of the “unearned income” that is the bounty of corruption?
If we have no commitment to a robust moral, ethical and/or civic code, can’t we at the very least fear the punishment and shame that result when it is discovered – inevitably – that we have crossed a line into the world of crime?
The fact is that most of us have the values that preclude our committing these crimes of greed. We see evidence of that every day, as we respond to local needs and global ones as well, and as our young people rush to volunteer for causes that matter. We’ve got to say no to the culture of corruption. There is no answer but that. And we citizens are the ones who must say it.