Building the culture of integrity

The Spiritual Fundamentals

If Almighty God established an interplanetary commission to investigate how we earthlings are managing this planet, the members would be shocked at our irresponsibility - our rating for 'planet-hood' would probably be between poor and dismal!

First, they would find an 'economics' driven largely by "casino capitalism", 'mad' or speculative money, pornography, gambling, puerile entertainment and various kinds of criminal activities. The greatest growth indicator they find will be the "Gross Criminal Product" - GCP! And they will find mushrooming new cradles of modern civilisation - the tax havens, the fiscal laundrettes!

Secondly, they will find a 'society' marked by violence and inequity where we have billions for space exploration and armaments but not the dollars and cents for basic health, education and shelter for billions of poor.

Thirdly, they will find an 'environment' so destroyed that the air, water and soil is often taking paths of no return and leading communities of living things into self-destruction sometimes called "ecocide".

But it is not the economics, equity or ecological failures that will strike them as the foundation of our seemingly reckless and maddening approach to human security and sustainable human development. The "mother of all failures", the will discover, is a governance failure, and the "cancer of all cancers" they will discover is a systemic web of bribery and corruption - local, national, global and social, government and corporate.

The Interplanetary Commission will find, among the littered landscape, a culture of greed, fed by parasitical power and mediocrity.

They will be shocked at the lack of respect for both the revelations and the injunctions against bribery and the exhortations for honesty and accountability - the hallmarks of integrity. They will find the politicians can be bought, media can be bought, judges can be bought, businesses can be bought, even places and shortcuts to heaven, it would seem - the Mercedes Benz collection of one 'gatekeeper' priest in a neighbouring country is an indication of that trend!

Even more recently, the Enron/Anderson mega scandal, bred and hosted in now unarguably the greatest power on earth (and self-declared champion of freedom and good governance), the USA, has demonstrated corporatism at its devious worst and exposed its cancerous web of connections and conspiracies.

What do our spiritual traditions say …

The law of Moses said "You must not distort justice, you must not show partiality and you must not accept bribes for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right."

The law of Manu from the Hindu tradition "Men who are appointed by the King to protect his subjects generally become hypocrites who take the property of others, and he must protect those subjects from them."

Confucius states "Virtue would make officials too benevolent and hence, corrupt", so there must also be ruthless enforcers if need be. The 'zero-tolerance' policy of one our neighbours shows how it can be done.

Buddha states "Unjust officials are the thieves of people's happiness … they defraud both ruler and people and are the cause of the nations troubles."

Islam – the Quran reminds us "(do not) give bribery to the rulers" and the Prophet Mohamed (s.a.w.) elaborated "Allah curses the giver of bribes and the receiver of bribes and the person who paves the way for both parties."

Christianity - John the Baptist reminded his followers "Do not extort money from anyone…"

The sick world of bribery and corruption today is not one bad dream - it is an everyday reality for millions of people and affecting billions.

And so what do we do? Is there hope for a culture of integrity?

History has taught us one thing; that one thing above all has made a difference - leadership. It is said that society is like fish - it rots from the head down. Translated into other code words - it means "political will" at the top and 'popular will' from the bottom. It is leadership at all levels - people who are prepared to stand up against injustice and dishonesty at the community level, in government and corporate board rooms. We see many new stirrings of courage fighting corruption in many places of the world, spearheaded by groups like Transparency International and many others. Globally, and in Malaysia, they work in making a difference. We need to support their work.

Perhaps next time the interplanetary commission will have a better report on Planet Earth!

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