By Ochula Michael
Education Officer,
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Culture refers to all forms of human activity that are carried through generations comprising the scope of human beliefs, values, arts, religions, languages and behavior.

Culture is the product of civilisation, a way of life and establishes traditions for societies. The different facets of culture are reflected through arts, knowledge systems, music, entertainment, religions and rituals.

Corruption in contrast is counterculture, an eroder of culture’s integrity and moral system of societies, and thus has a deep and long lasting impact on the continued evolution of human society. In this sense, this vice is the nemesis (and killer) of culture.

The Judeo-Christian worldview regards sin as “missing the mark”, a concept drawn from Greek thought. If culture is the ideal aspired towards perfection, the corruption becomes every failure to attain this standard.

Drawing further from the preceding school of thought, all ideas, moral or otherwise, begin in the mind (cognition). From there they are incubated into actions that lead to outcomes. The process of reforming the human mind, and purification from corruption begins with the entire thinking process. Enter education.

Education is the basis of a morally stable society as learners go on to become teachers, public officials and other professionals. Morals and ethics can permeate only through proper education, thus making education the strongest tool to prevent corruption. It broadens awareness against corruption and as a result helps in strengthening the moral or ethical values of society. Raising general levels of awareness in the population is essential as this establishes public demands for transparency. Education creates a culture of accountability by emphasising ethical best practice and by creating the need for such practice.

There are two basic ways by which education helps combat corruption. One is through promotion of values and ethics, from which the educational system becomes the vehicle for their transport. Secondly, by developing a sense of awareness in people, in turn leading to demands of accountability and transparency.

All knowledge and ethics begin in school, of which the home is a major component here, it is necessary to realize that educational structures are the pillars of society and culture, and have to be monitored by all in order to guard against corruption of their integrity.

However, like an invasive disease, corruption exists within the educational system, ranging from levying of illegal fees, bribes, plagiarism, bogus degrees, fake accreditation and administrative misconduct, to mention a few examples.

The malady has even infected the media (and related entertainment) industry, a major gatekeeper of society’s morals, having a watchdog role to play in monitoring any such malpractices.

Corruption is especially conspicuous in the media during political campaigning and elections periods. Bias in the media in its extreme form amounts to corruption as it unjustly tries to sway voters by manipulating ratings and project a fabricated image of political parties and aspirants rather than the reality. All media propaganda not based on accurate information suggests that the media tend to take advantage of the public impressionability and manipulate the public for personal gain of politicians.

Instead of acting as a watchdog media sometimes participate in an entirely corrupt system. During every election year in Kenya, media observers point accusing fingers at the journalistic integrity as they claim it has been compromised and free press bought by the mighty and powerful to maintain the status quo. Manipulation of the media and reports going out to the media is a standard practice in many countries including the US. However, this sort of manipulation is completely contrary to any democratic culture, which is based on the principles of accountability and transparency.  

Media’s role is ultimately to support democracy and control corruption instead of being a part of it. We must all worry when journalists start to steal and extort – for they represent the last of the honest, good people.

Corporate social responsibility and focus on environmental issues is a major part of corporate governance. Good corporate governance prevents and checks all forms of corruption in the public and private companies. Large businesses have to be based on transparency since they have to remain accountable to stakeholders and customers. Along with transparency and management comes the need for corporate social responsibility which ranges from following labour laws and human rights issues to protecting the environment and contributing to the social and economic development of the country.

Cultural change is a necessity at times but corruption directs these changes towards negative directions and all cultural products of society from corporate environments to the media, and education are caused by and in turn cause corruption. To understand the true value of life and culture, we also need to understand the deeper and long lasting consequences of corruption that have permeated in all aspects of our society.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2012


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