•Continued from yesterday
Being continuation of a paper delivered by Professor Tam David-West at the 27th and 28th combined convocation lecture of the University of Jos last year.
The search for a Universal Cause of corruption should, therefore, first and foremost examine or address certain existential fundamental universals common to all of mankind, which become derogated or defiled.
Let me say right away that because these relevant fundaments or intrinsic endowment of an are so simple and uncomplicated, the Hypothesis on Corruption “Universal Cause” anchored on them is also necessarily simple and straightforward. One would say philosophically that sometimes some simple things of life are very profound.
Indeed, “the proper study of Man is man” so held Alexander Pope.
Let me list a few of these relevant fundamental attributes of Man:
The faculty to reason intelligently. Rational or conceptual integration. The homo sapiens vaunt. Man’s endowment of rationality or to reason intelligently implies that he can discern the Right from the Wrong, theGood from the Bad, especially when faced with difficult choices. This constitutes the very foundation of
“A man’s values are the product of the thinking he has done or failed to do.” Further, “a man’s character is the sum of the principles and values that guide his actions in the face of moral choices.” (In: “The Psychology of Self- Esteem” by Nathaniel Branden.
Rationality is the singularly defining trait of man, setting man apart from other animals. But to define man, as a rational animal does not necessarily imply that man invariably act rationally. Indeed, man sometimes acts irrationally and sometimes even foolishly.
Man, is ethical being endowed with conscience as well as moral autonomy.
(3) Consciousness: (Volitional Consciousness)
The awareness of self as well as other selves or circumstances.
More on Consciousness and Conscientiousness: In our psychologic development consciousness precedesconscientiousness.
Of the two Conscience or Conscientiousness (The super ego in Freudian psychology) is more cogent to the development of the Universal Cause hypothesis. Conscience is the core of ethic or morality. It is the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blame worthiness of one’s conduct, or intentions or character; and this is conjoined with awareness of the obligation to do the right thing or follow the right path.
I posit that conscience is bi-phasic: the passive and active (or the dynamic).
At the passive phase, we merely delineate the Right from the Wrong; the Good from the Bad, the Desirable from the Detestable.
After this, and instantaneously the active phase takes over INSISTING on our choosing the RIGHT, the GOOD,the DESIRABLE.’
The psychoanalysts tell us that conscience is that aspect of the superego, which keeps the ego in check. We should always obey the dictates of our conscience, this is trite. Some describe it as the “inner light. Mahatma Gandhi described it as the “silent voice of God in us.”
Following from the above, I would like to argue the following: One, there is no “BAD” conscience. It is contradiction in terms. Two, conscience cannot be killed. It can only be repressed by cowards or moral invalidswho want to run away from its directives, which they find most uncomfortable.
“Repression is a subconscious mental process that forbids certain ideas, memories, identification and evaluations to enter conscious awareness.” (Richard Brandon).
Repression is an automatised avoidance reaction. This is the core of SITUATION ETHICS.
Pride and self esteem
These are pivotal to the Universal Cause of Corruption hypothesis. I suggest that every man (or woman), no matter the status or social station, is endowed innately with intrinsic pride, self-esteem, self-respect; a feeling or conviction in personal worthiness or efficacy; or what the French call amour proper. The fact that some people feel inadequate, nurture negative image of themselves and so become psychological invalids or prisoners does not detract from the fact or reality that pride, self esteem, feeling of personal worthiness or importance are fundamental existential endowments.
The feeling of personal inadequacy is self-inflicted by man. It is extraneous or alien to his basic nature or humanity.
Pride and self-esteem are related concepts. However, significant differences exist between the two concepts. “Self esteem is confidence in one’s capacity to achieve values and conviction in self worthiness. Pride pertains to the pleasure a man takes in himself on the basis of and in response to specific achievements or actions.” Self-esteem is “I can.” Pride is “I have.” (Branden).
In essence, I postulate that a person decides or degenerates to be corrupt (receive bribe, loot etc) when he (or she) DEVALUES or DEFILES his (or her) essential innate endowment of SELF WORTHINESS or SELF ESTEEM relative to the urge to be corrupt. This is cognate to or tandems with related relative DEROGATION of one’s essential inherent or inborn PRIDE.
Let me be quick to add that the pride meant here is not conceit, arrogance or hubris. It is also not the biblical pride, “Pride goeth before destruction” (Proverb Chapter 16 verse 18). It is exalted positive conviction in one’s efficacy. Personal pride could be extended to include pride in one’s Background, Family or Pedigree. In short, consideration or contemplation of the likely negative impact one’s corruption would make on one’s Family Nameoften exert tremendous constraints on whether one should live uprightly or crookedly. “ A good name is better than silver or gold;” is trite.
The Balance Metaphor
The above postulates could be condensed into the following weights and balance situations, where pride or self-esteem (P/SE) is placed in one pan of the balance and Corruption or Bribe (B/C) in the second pan.
Situation No. 1
Because the person’s pride or self esteem is rated higher or more important than corruption or bribe, the person necessarily shuns corruption.
Situation No. 2
Here personal pride or self-esteem is derogated relative to corruption or bribe, which, thereby, become more attractive and irresistible. The consequence is that the person necessarily succumbs to corruption.
The famous psychologist, Nathaniel Branden, aptly described such person’s
derogated or devalued pride or self-esteem as “The Disowned Self.” In a nutshell or succinctly, the plank of theUniversal Cause of corruption is that the derogation or devaluation or debasement of one’s inborn endowment of personal pride or self esteem or confidence in one’s self worthiness relative to the content of corruption, impel one to succumb to corruption.
In other words, a person who is imbued with the conviction of personal (or family or pedigree) self worthiness and efficacy is most unlikely to succumb to corruption or unethical practices, which are necessarily rated inferiorantithetical, and injurious to one’s inborn pride, self-worthiness etc.
I go along with St. Gregory, that “The universe would not be rich enough to buy the vote of an honest man.”
May I respectfully change “honest man” to “Proud man.” Indeed, no amount of money; not even all the money in our Central Bank or in our mint, could buy the conscience of a proud man imbued with self esteem or personal worthiness or efficacy to be corrupt.
I have always believed in the popular maxim that: “a good name is better than silver or gold.” A good name cannot be amenable to price tagging, no matter the quantum of the tag. It has no shelf at the market place.
The balance metaphor: Situation No. 3
In this circumstance, the two pans of the balance are in equilibrium. The person is thus faced with difficulty in conciliating the two opposing urges:
The one of the internal adjudicator in moral or ethical choice between what is right and what is wrong. In short, the urge or dictate of conscience.
The other equally impelling urge has to do with pragmatic circumstances or starring hard realities of the individual.
In the face of rationalising these two conflicts the final decision to succumb or not to succumb to corruption rests on the relative weight or importance the individual gives to either the dictates of conscience or the pressure of pragmatic reality around him.
It is not uncommon for the pragmatic to be obeyed instead of that of the more important and desirable dictate of conscience, which he has conveniently repressed.
But it should be emphasised that this is only situational and not a permanent fall or behaviour.
The above is the essence of SITUATION ETHICS: A system of ethics by which acts are judged within their context instead of categorical principles (or conventional prescriptions). (Practical Ethics by Peter Singer).
“Sometimes it is necessary to temper conscience with small dose of pragmatism” (Mel Thompson).
Let me illustrate with the following hypothetic example: The case of a moralistic low-salaried worker; a filing clerk, whose monthly salary is some N10, 000. 00. He has three children in school; with total fees over N30, 000. 00.
The fees are due and he cannot afford.
A businessman who wanted some helpful information in a file of the ministry approached him with N50, 000. 00to pay for the particular information.
The moralistic low-salaried filing clerk is confronted with obeying the dictates of his conscience to turn down the bribe to the detriment of his children’s education or repress his conscience and so accept the N50, 000. 00 to save his children from being thrown out of school. He eventually chose the latter option.
But this conscience repression is only MOMENTARY. It is not the clerk’s permanent or lasting feature. He promptly reverts to his normal moralistic self soon after the capitulation to do what he has always believed to be wrong -corruption.
I wish to conclude this section on Situation Ethics with a relevant quotation from Rev. Richard L. Evans:
“As we value our happiness, let us not forget it, for one of the greatest lessons in life is learning to be happy without the things we cannot have or should not have.”
Now, I sound like an evangelist pastor and not a virologist.
Corruption: University (Academia)
Earlier on in the lecture, I asserted, with great pain in me, that most unfortunately and most regrettably, our academic institutions, even and especially the university are not immune to the corruption virus pandemic. It is, however, refreshing, that side by side with the rot there are excellent academics who prize integrity and ethical correctness.
In his seminal book, “Academic Gamesmanship” Van den Berge coined a beautiful phrase, “Reverse snobbery for wealth,” where academics show disdain for the mad rush for wealth by most people. This was discussed in two of my Essays: “The Poverty of Wealth” (Daily SUN, November 6,2006 page 31) This Day Sunday January 23,2000 Page 8 and “Our obsession with millions” (Sunday Times, July 2 1989 page 5).
Socrates once said that we should not rush to praise someone who flaunts his wealth until we know how he spends it. I however prefer to say until we know how he makes it; corruptly or ethically.
I have been a university teacher since 1968; rising to professorship in 1974 (but actualised in 1975 because of corrupt interruptions or non-academic manipulation by my Head of Department). Sad story.
I have fought several fights against corruption over the years. And now, even after retirement, I still continue to crusade against corruption both in the university and in the country. There is no let up. Never. This is largely because the academia is the most important thing to my life.
Everything must be done to keep it exalted in academic excellence and in moral correctness. If these are compromised, we totally forfeit the right, as academics, or intellectuals to criticise the wider society for corruption and associated maladies.
To be continued tomorrow