Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Congo and Corruption

Removing an Eruption of Corruption

By John Taylor; 2010 Feb 09, Mulk 03, 166 BE

This past Sunday I read Nicholas Kristof's article in the New York Times about the dire situation in Congo and was sickened to my stomach by the example he cites, the repeated rapes of a young girl by roving bands of thugs. He points out that the death count in that sanguinary conflict dwarfs the earthquake in Haiti and recently surpassed the number of lives lost in the Holocaust, albeit over a ten year period. As he says, everybody who uses a computer or a cell phone is implicated in this slaughter and profits from it, since the lack of a government in Congo permits outlaws and organized criminals to rape the country for cheap raw materials. Rwanda, itself a victim of a holocaust ten years ago, has made itself into the main bad guy here, but there are bigger baddies in the background, including you and me. Rwanda for years has been exporting irregular troops inured to anarchic violence into neighbouring parts of Congo. They hide in the jungle and periodically emerge to commit torture, rape and a long list of the most horrible atrocities imaginable on hapless villagers.

How could such injustice be allowed to take place at all, much less for so long?

I am no expert in international relations, but it seems to me that it would be simple to end these situations -- I am also thinking of Somalia and, ten years ago, Serbia -- where a central government slides into oblivion and its land and people become fodder for organized criminals and bloodthirsty warlords. All you do is declare the place a UN protectorate and force democracy, order and good government upon the whole region. I would include aggressive neighbours in this, such as Rwanda for Congo, and Ethiopia for Somalia, and keep the whole region under strict tutelage by the world government for a fixed period of not less than thirty years.

This extended time would allow a new generation of young people to grow up in stable conditions where they are guaranteed useful employment. It is well known that once young men are raised and trained to fight as irregulars, the cycle of violence catches on and it is all but impossible to extirpate the ways of war and rapine. Meanwhile, powerful parties find the corruption profitable, and then it gets even harder to get rid of corruption's sinkhole. This happened in the Balkans, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and reportedly is getting underway in Yemen.

However, I cannot deny that an externally imposed pacification is like smearing makeup over an open sore. The real infection, the underlying disease is invisible. The real problem is corruption, not only political but educational and spiritual.

So the question remains, how do you get rid of corruption?

Again, we know the answer. In the same way a doctor cures a disease, by applying a combination of a range of remedies, starting with the latest in disinfectants and antibiotics. There are many specific, effective remedies to political corruption, but they depend upon changes in education and religion as well. You cannot succeed in treating the body without improving the mind and heart. Unless all three cures are applied immediately and energetically, the international order will remain a tragic joke.

Politically, the first corruption is a sort of leprosy attacking democracy. Somehow we must clean up the democratic process, the party system, the oppositional mindset that sets person against person, group against group. This dissipates the massive power released by the great virtue of democracy, gaining the consent of the people for those who rule. As long as leaders must bribe the people, and the wealthy bribe them, and they depend on vested interests to keep their jobs, and the people balk at authority, how can national governments seriously block criminal activity on their level, far less the world level? That is why I devote a good third of the book I am writing, People Without Borders, to ideas on how to improve liberal democracy by eliminating partisan rivalry.

One rather surprising cure to corruption was suggested by Abdu'l-Baha in Secret of Divine Civilization: pay equity. If everybody, especially police and government officials, gets a fair, even a generous wage, there will be no excuse for anybody to be seeking profit under the table. There should be a leader and follower's constitution and bill of rights, one that applies everywhere, including the military (definition of military: a dictatorship within a democracy). In my opinion, we should interpret the master's suggestion of fair pay very broadly, to the whole workplace. Not only wealth but rights should be given generously.

There should be a worker and employer's constitution and bill of rights to which everyone can appeal. Rather than artificially separating owners from managers from workers, as the rules of corporations now do, cooperative arrangements should unite them. There must also be rule of law in all ownership. The first owner of every world resource has to be the entire human race; if all people do not own the controlling number of shares, the resource will be subject to corruption and should be marked for reform.

Another good suggestion I heard lately in a TED India talk is a 911 number that you can call whenever an instance of corrupt practice threatens to takes place. If the authorities responded instantly whenever, say, an official hints that he wants a bribe to do his job, corruption would be far more difficult. Just as we send firefighters to put out fires as soon as humanly possible, we should send corruption fighters rushing to extinguish the contagion before crime, war and hatred start a wildfire beyond control. This is, quite literally, God's fight, according to the Qur'an,

"Whenever they light a fire for war, God puts it out; they strive for corruption in the earth, but God loves not the corrupt." (Qur'an 5, tr. E.H. Palmer)

Of course, none of this would work without widespread publicity and a systematic educational campaign. I have always thought that every time anybody is arrested, no matter what the reason, no matter if they are guilty or innocent, they should be subjected to a barrage of lectures, admonitions, propaganda, discussion, every argument possible so that, no matter what their opinions, they will come out at least thinking about the fight against corruption, and aware of what they might do to help. It is crazy to brutalize prisoners and, by harsh conditions, give them the message that punishment, rather than love and knowledge, is the answer.

"If the Truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth, and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay, We have sent them their admonition, but they turn away from their admonition." (The Qur'an 23:71, Yusuf Ali, tr.)

Finally, we must get every religious group involved in the fight against corruption. Everyone who calls the corruption 911 number, everyone who is charged with a crime, needs to have the option of hearing an argument against corruption from one of their own faith's religious leaders. This is part of the progress to a common faith for all human beings. Baha'u'llah Himself prescribed this cure.

"In this glorious Day whatever will purge you from corruption and will lead you towards peace and composure, is indeed the Straight Path." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 171)

"The purging of such deeply-rooted and overwhelming corruptions cannot be effected unless the peoples of the world unite in pursuit of one common aim and embrace one universal faith. Incline your ears unto the Call of this Wronged One and adhere firmly to the Lesser Peace." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 69)


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