When driving up to Woodstock School for the first time, I witnessed an event that bothered me, in spite of how trivial it appeared to be. When we reached the tollgate between Dehradun and Mussoorie, the gatekeeper saw that we were foreigners and asked the taxi driver for the tax imposed on tourists. When the gatekeeper took out his tax book, the taxi driver discreetly passed him some money. The book disappeared, and we were through.
Although I didn’t understand it at the time, that was corruption; a little money to the gatekeeper and everyone wins. The taxi driver can keep more money from our fee and the gatekeeper gets a free tip. But what about the toll reserved for the Indian government? These acts of corruption take away money meant for the government, meaning that it can’t improve the quality of life. In the end, the entire population suffers. This suggests how even the lowest degree of corruption perturbs the country.
I looked into these acts of corruption and found that bribery is a serious problem, especially in India. Transparency International conducted a survey and found that “nearly seven in ten people who had access to public services had paid a bribe.” This is terrible as it means India is a society where the value of honesty has depreciated to almost nothing.
Corruption is a major problem in many other developing countries as well. Robert Mugabe’s actions as president in Zimbabwe is an obvious example. When Zimbabwe became independent, Mugabe was there to lead it through the struggle, but as he got addicted to the power he started valuing his own interests rather than his country’s. In 2008, he came second in the first round of elections; however, his forces attacked the opposition supporters until eventually, the contender gave up. He also crashed the economy, leading to an inflation rate of 231 million percent, which has had lasting effects on Zimbabwe. Although this may seem extreme, in situations of mass corruption, entire countries can fall.
It is easy to say that these acts of corruption are limited to developing countries, but that is wrong. Ten minutes of research and you can find numerous examples of corrupt practices committed in developed nations. David Cameron, former Prime Minister of England, was exposed to have kept money in an offshore bank account in Panama to avoid taxes. In Italy, the government hires building contractors that put “profits before safety” which could have been the reason that the Morandi bridge collapsed, taking 38 lives. In Russia, Vladimir Putin managed to stay in power for over 17 years, since 2000, despite the maximum term being 6 years. This included a period where Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s apprentice, held the position “in name at least” so that Putin could remain in control, while it still looked legal. All three of these are clear examples of power leading to corruption practices.
That’s not to say that there are no corrupt leaders, but their rarity is what makes them stand out. One example is Nelson Mandela, a leader who had significant contributions in ending the apartheid in South Africa, bringing equality to all. He donated a third of his presidential salary to the poor and sick. His selfless acts of generosity will be remembered forever, and yet so few other leaders are known for similar traits. A world with everyone like Mandela would be one without corruption, and yet we are so far from achieving this goal.
I don’t understand why so many governments are oblivious to the value of anti-corruption. The 20 least corrupt countries in the world are all are in the top 50 countries for GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per Capita. This is a clear correlation that transparency benefits a country, and yet corruption still goes on. Maybe, a small bribe at a tollgate doesn’t seem like a lot, and maybe these people deserve all the help they can get, but if everyone paid their taxes and was fair to the system, everyone would have better lives.
All over the world, people in positions of power exploit their status despite promises of honesty and justice. From the lowly positions of a gatekeeper all the way to prime ministers, people are corrupt. But no matter where it occurs, it brings an adverse effect. In governments, schools, and businesses, people are corrupt. Sometimes it is to help society, but more often than not, it is for personal gain. From bribery, to blackmail, to embezzlement, leaders have chosen to do what is best for themselves, rather than their subordinates because of their base instinct of selfishness. But that doesn’t mean we give up.
The new Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has already caused “more than a million Communist Party Officials” to be disciplined in recent years due to corruption. If other similarly corrupt countries followed their lead, it could bring about a huge change.
As individuals, we can also act. Talk to people, raise awareness, protest against the government’s unjust actions. Kurt Cobain said, “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” We are the youth. The duty is ours. Let’s not watch in silence anymore. If we don’t bring the change, who will?
Edited by Archi Nokrek.