More on Corruption

A culture of corruption exists in this country, commented a Malacañang spokesman on the latest corruption report by an international survey agency. This is not the first such report, we all know. In the past similar disclosures were made on the incidence of malfeasances in Philippine bureaucracy, and always, this country ranked among the topnotchers.

An irony of the first order, indeed. How could the only Christian country in Asia be that corrupt? Of its 84 million people about 90 percent are baptized Christians. Their faith is supposed to make them exponents of the Christian values of honesty, justice, service and love. How come there's a canker in their hearts?

To explain this phenomenon a cultural anthropologist, Fr. Jaime Balatao, theorizes the existence of split-level Christianity. He says that the average Filipino suffers from a psychological aberration characterized by a dual personality. His behavior is driven by two compulsions: That of a man of the world and that of a man of God. Tension exists in his mind and heart between these two personality dimensions, and when the moment of choice comes each tries to outdo the other. Corruption happens when the secular man triumphs and sets aside what is right in favor of what is wrong. Goodness is smothered and evil gets its day. And of course the guardian angel weeps.

But why does the Filipino yield easily to worldly choices? Is the overlay of Christian ethos so thin that it easily gets warped and wiped out? Is his faith so superficial that it no longer affects his thinking and behavior? Catholic churches are full on Sundays where millions hear the word of God. Close to a million swarm the street on the Feast of the Nazarene, and here in Cebu, millions show up in rituals during Pista Senyor. Are these external display of piety a mere palabas?

Behind this tendency is a cultural value, which is heavy in the Filipino psyche - social acceptance. Psychologists say the Filipino is predominantly a social being. He is happy when immersed in a closely-knit social circle - the family, barkadas, classmates. He is unhappy when taken away from these. Thus his personality is an unindividuated one, a situation in which his views and behavior are tamped down by social demands making him wanting in personal conviction. Because society approves of religiosity, he practices it even if its rationale is unclear.

A fetish on social approval weakness one's concept of right and wrong. In this country, for example, a wealthy man is generally acclaimed and appreciated, no questions asked about how he got his wealth. Witness how trapos are idolized. Look at some of those who have been voted to high offices - are not some of them confirmed grafters? There have been adulterers in high places, tax evaders, and even homicidals. Why have the masa condoned their wrongdoing?

The unending lament about a corrupt bureaucracy is actually a lament about a society gone astray. Any efforts therefore to cleanse public offices will not work even if all the culprits are jailed because their replacements would be just as despicable as they. The pool is polluted. To purify the water the source must first be purified. In the same way, to cleanse the bureaucracy the family must first be cleansed. The family is where the individual gets his formation. His ethical values are learned therein. From his father and mother he gets not only his physical features but also his attitudes and behavioral tendencies. His idea of God and all that is sacred he learns from this intimate circle of loved ones. Talk of reforming the family - who will do this?

The church is the answer. The church seems to be helpless, but it is really a very strong organization. There may be few ordained ministers, but it commands hundreds of thousands of lay workers. With these it can do a lot to wipe out corruption - that is, if the church would first purge itself of corrupt ministers and strengthen itself as society's moral bastion.

A culture of corruption is a source of shame. But it need not be a source of hopelessness.












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