Jeremiah Kure
Jeremiah Kure

An immoral sense of morality

You are probably corrupt.

Here is why. In the last twelve months you probably have done one of the following. You probably have, on more than one occasion, bribed a traffic cop who pulled you over for speeding. You had no qualms parting with a facilitation fee (http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-02-12-getting-a-licence-can-drive-you-to-corruption) to a driving instructor in return for a license. You also have probably greased some palms at Home Affairs, SARS or the Licensing Department, to get what you felt was justifiably, a more expeditious service. And yet after all that, you still have the cheek to complain about corruption in this country!

It took the recent screaming headlines about Jackie Selebi’s fall from grace (http://www.mg.co.za/multimedia/2010-08-04-selebi-our-part-in-his-downfall) for me to realise our irrationality in celebrating a flawed sense of justice. Indeed, recent events seem to confirm our folly in this matter. I am convinced that that we have developed an immoral sense of morality itself. To make matters worse, we appear to be feeling quite smug about all of this, which is tragic of course. I attribute this to our tendency to over-magnify “big” wrongs and overlook “small” ones.

Allow me to me explain if I may, with the help of an analogy. (Any resemblance to real-life events is purely intentional). A gentleman I will refer to as Mr C, is a rather charming individual from my estate. He holds an esteemed position on our Residents’ Association Board – chairman to be precise. Mr C is central to decision-making in matters relating to repairs and improvements carried out by various contractors on our property. Needless to say that he is diligently courted by many such contractors who are keen to be awarded the lucrative projects fuelled by our inflated sense of self-importance which otherwise, masquerades as a never-ending quest for self improvement.

Barely a year after our pristine residences were spruced up with a fresh coat of paint, we have painters on site once again to apply “touch-ups” I am told. The price for this latest improvement in the facade of our estate will no doubt, reflect in next month’s levy statement. I guarantee that most of my neighbours will obligingly pay the increased levy, no questions asked. Come month-end, Mr C, will be laughing all the way to the bank and back. In fact, I was tempted to schmooze up to the man in case we meet at the watering hole so he can buy me a round or two. But I have decided against it.

I have decided against it because, I do not want to feed this monster we have created in the name of keeping up appearances. I have woken up to the fact that the more flattery Mr C gets, the more motivated he will become in facilitating the very “contracts” which are eroding away more and more of my disposable income each month.
Come year-end, Mr C, will probably fly away to some distant resort for the Christmas holidays, thanks to the many kick-backs he has received courtesy of the estate’s Residents Association Board. I will most likely be harangued by the missus for spending too much at the watering hole instead of saving up for an exotic holiday, like the esteemed Mr C. Probably, when I can’t stand the missus tirades any longer, I will at our next AGM, muster the courage to expose Mr C’s dubious income stream and thus open the proverbial can of worms.

Take this analogy to a national context and you would have dissected but one of the many anatomies of corruption. If Mr C is “the corruptee”, it is fair to say that the unscrupulous contractors abetted by the unquestioning residents, are “the corruptors”. Yet when men in positions of responsibility fall from grace, we are shocked and dismayed. Nay, we are outraged even. But surely our outrage is misplaced. In fact it blind-sides us from the plain truth. And the truth is that corruption starts with us.

For us to play a meaningful role in advancing national morality and excellence through such noble initiatives as LeadSA (www.leadsa.co.za), we must first exorcise the demons which turn us into corruptors. For corruption to fester in society, it is individuals who must first become corrupt or corruptible.

It starts and ends with you and I.