Corruption Is King

I am very angry regarding the fiasco of Common Wealth Games (CWG) and hold the Indian government completely responsible for it. With a financial expenditure of Rs 70 crore (Rs 700 million) much better was expected. The corruption charges against the organizers show that India’s pride and honor was sacrificed for personal self-interest of a few people.

The organizers have not only mis-utilized the tax payers money, they have also demolished India’s global image which was created over last two decades by millions of employees working in information technology and business process outsourcing industries. Every time a software developer wrote a code for the international client and every time a call center agent took a call for an international customer, India’s brand was built. Each successful customer outcome contributed to the positive brand image of India. It is these employees whose work got recognized globally that Indian industrialists could think of competing in global markets. The CWG organizers and Indian government have no right to negate decades of hard work of millions of workers for personal gain.

For this every Indian who has contributed to the success of India should be angry. National pride and honor has been sacrificed for corruption. Corruption is the king now.

What surprises me is that a country which won its independence by adopting a moral high ground, in the last six decades has become so corrupt. Indian population’s moral apathy can be seen from the messages on Twitter. Mr. Shashi Taroor, Member of Parliament wrote these two messages:

1)        We’ve owned up 2our mistakes &r doing what’s needed to get it right in the end. Let’s not write the obituary before the birth. Work 4success

2)        Something positive in all the criticism &breast-beating on #CWG. Confirms we are a mature democracy &have the confidence to be self-critical.

Mr. Taroor was involved in the IPL corruption controversy. His stance then also was that he returned the shares, hence all is clear. How can this be considered a mature democracy? A person participates in corrupt activities, when caught owns up to it, and hence should be forgiven. There are no questions regarding responsibility and accountability for creating an international level fiasco? 

The problem with Indian society is that corruption is at ground level and has seeped into daily life of an Indian citizen. Indulging in greed by earning money with wrong means is considered acceptable. The Indian public has lost the moral consciousness regarding corruption. There is no effort made to erase corruption from the society as a conflict in values is not felt. The normal reactions of the public when a discussion takes place regarding changing the corrupt systems are:

1)      If one asks a young person, the normal statement is- “What can I do, I am so young and junior? I have no power. Let me become somebody, and then I will do something.”

2)      If one asks a person holding a powerful position, the response is- “Wish I was young, maybe then I could do something. Now at this position a lot is at stake and at senior level all are corrupt. If I take a tough stance, I will have to risk losing everything.”

 Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is people down the line who are willing to support the corruption for personal self-interest which makes corrupt people so powerful. The powerful people continue to retain their positions while indulging in corrupt practices because of the unstinting support of the public. If the public says a “No’ to corruption, powerful people will automatically need to clean up their act.

I think one needs to explore the social psychological factors to understand the cause of public’s apathy towards corruption. A simple statement – “Greed is not good, one should have morals”, is not going to make people change their behavior.

I decided to explore the various experiments conducted on social psychology and determine how these are linked to Indian psychology for corruption. Given below is my attempt to demystify corruption psychology by understanding four social psychology experiments.

1.      The Halo Effect (Experiment by Nisbett and Wilson).

Experiment: Students were divided in two groups and shown a video of a Belgian instructor. The instructor in one video displayed a pleasant personality and in the other a cold and distant personality. The students were asked to rate the performance of the instructor including physical appearance, mannerisms and accent. The results showed that students were unconsciously evaluating the performance on likeability of the instructor. The instructor had delivered the same content and adopted same mannerisms; however he had two different ratings. The students themselves believed that they had rated the instructor without considering the likeability factor. They were unaware that the experimenter had manipulated their thought process.

Psychology: The results of the experiment can be seen in our everyday life. If a famous personality, be it a politician, actor or business leader, is warm and friendly while interacting, the public immediately forms a positive impression. A handsome actor is considered a morally good and intelligent person. Public may have negative information regarding the personality – involvement in sex, drugs, alcohol or financial scandals; however these factors are ignored due to the overall pleasant personality.

Corruption: In India, quite a few famous and powerful personalities are involved in corruption cases. The general acceptance level opinion is that all powerful people are corrupt. Hence, corruption as an attribute and information regarding it is not considered negative for determining the popularity and likeability of the person.

Recommendation: While assessing the likeability of a person consider corruption as a negative attribute. Do not let perceptions of one or two positive traits overshadow the negative trait. Be aware when someone is changing your thought process on personal values.

2.      Group formations and discrimination (Experiment by Tajfel)

Experiment: An experiment was conducted on 14-15 year old boys to determine the human tendency to be loyal to a group. A scenario was created where the boys were divided into two groups and an “us’ versus “them” mindset was formed. The boys were then asked to distribute virtual money to the members of the experiment. Results showed that boys distributed more money to their own group members though they had nothing riding on their decisions.

Psychology: The results analysis indicates that humans form their social identity by their group memberships. They prefer to join groups with high status and positive image. The groups should have a high status in comparison to the other groups. Members unconsciously work towards making their group look better than others without even realizing that they have joined a group.

Corruption: In Indian corruption context, people with high status- power and money, are known to be somewhat corrupt. However, their attribute does not hold significance as people wish to be associated with powerful person to enhance their own social standing. The public subconsciously joins groups of the powerful person and starts working towards the powerful person’s goals. Hence, the powerful person’s strength increases despite being corrupt.

Recommendation: Be aware of your subconscious need to be part of a group with high status. However, do not associate corruption with power. Focus on creating your own individual identity so that group identity from association is not required significantly.

3.      Bystander Effect (Experiment by  John Darley and Bibb Latane)

Experiment: Participants were invited to a discussion through intercom so that they could not see each other. During the course of the discussion one participant would suddenly sound like he/she was having an epileptic seizure and needed their help. Results indicated that when more people were involved in the group, it took them longer to react for helping out the suffering participant.

 Psychology: An analysis of the results showed that the participants who made no move to help the suffering participant were in a heightened state of arousal and were in considerable discomfort. The non-helpers were in a dilemma. They felt a sense of shame and guilt for not helping. On the other hand they did not want to face embarrassment by exposing themselves since the success of the experiment depended on being anonymous.

Corruption: This experiment is significant since on seeing a person in crises people do nothing to help although at a personal level they are concerned. As observed, in road accidents very few people come forward to help the victim and take him/her to the hospital. The psychology behind is that law enforcement agencies are corrupt, if we involve ourselves, we will be unnecessarily drawn into legal cases. The impact of corruption is so significant that it stops the public from showing basic humanity.

Recommendation: When facing an ethical dilemma choose the lesser of the two evils. A victim’s life is far more precious than obedience to authority or fear of dealing with corruption.

4.      Conflict, Peace & Corrupting Influence of Power (Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment)

Experiment: Eleven year old boys were taken for a summer camp and divided into two groups. Initially in the first week, they were not informed regarding the other groups existence. Each group members were encouraged to form relationships and bond with each other. In the second phase, the experimenters created situations which caused conflict between the two groups. In the third phase, the experimenters created situations which would bring about peace between the two warring groups.

Psychology: The study showed that two warring groups could be reconciled and peace can flourish when the focus is on super-ordinate goals. In an earlier study, the boys had ganged up against a common enemy and in another on experimenters themselves. The results indicate when a powerful group attempts to manipulate a weaker group; the weaker group can turn against the powerful group. If the weaker group realizes they are being manipulated it becomes risky for the powerful group, as the weaker group does not play according to the rules set up by the powerful group.

Corruption: In Indian society, power is perceived to be with corrupt people. The powerful people are always playing the divide and rule game. As can be seen in Indian politics, the divisions are based on caste, religion and state. Whether it was the Khalistan movement in Punjab or Godhra riots in Gujarat, powerful people had instigated the conflict between people of two different religions. In the Khalistan movement, the weaker group had turned against the politician.

Recommendation: Be aware when powerful people manipulate the general public to create conflicts to achieve their own personal agendas. Do not become pawns in the hand of the manipulators.

The four experiments highlight the social psychological manipulation which occurs unconsciously in the human mind. Indians to curtail corruption need to understand the psychological manipulation of power players and its impact on their behavior. Indian psychology is somewhere trained to think that they are helpless to do anything, especially if the corruption is at higher level. The mindset has to change first. Indian’s should have the courage to say no to corruption. A population which is so huge, it can topple the power players easily. For example, a corrupt politician cannot survive if the people do not choose to support him or her. If the population is united and stands against a corrupt politician, the politician becomes powerless. Indians have to discard their myopic view of the situation and see the bigger picture. Gandhi was right when he said one morally courageous person can stand up against a hundred. When a hundred get united, they can take on a lakh (100,000).

On the lighter side, I can’t stop wondering at the coincidences in CWG. The chief organizer for the games, Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, an ex-army officer, was taught during service to protect India’s honor and pride and compromised both. The Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit enjoys the reputation of being extremely efficient and there is such a big fiasco in her state. The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh is considered to react swiftly to protect India’s international image, and he took his own sweet time in responding for CWG. The Queen of England is not attending the games. India is a past master in non-violently sabotaging anything and everything relating to British Imperialism. Are you thinking the same thing I am thinking?

P.S.: To read more on the social psychology experiments visit PsyBlog

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6 comments on “Corruption Is King

  1. Pingback: Corruption Is King « Sonia Jaspal's RiskBoard « Politics « Live News India

  2. Thanks, Sonia.

    Nice analysis. As you note: “Gandhi was right when he said one morally courageous person can stand up against a hundred. When a hundred get united, they can take on a lakh (100,000).”

    The Freedom Team of India is committed to the eradication of corruption. It aims to take on all corruption and incompetence in India, and to free the Indian people. This can’t happen by preaching or by lecturing. It can only happen with appropriate incentives and checks and balances, as I’ve pointed out in chapters 4-6 of BFN (http://bfn.sabhlokcity.com/).

    So I’d urge you to spare a couple of hours to read about the causes of India’s corruption and incompetence. That knowledge is critical for reform.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

    • Sanjeev,

      Thanks for the analysis and sharing your book. I have downloaded it and started reading. The first chapter definitely has a lot of thought provoking ideas on freedom. I think it will be an interesting read.

      Kind regards,

      Sonia

  3. Hi! This is James Pilant writing back to you. My regular e-mail is ngirsu@yahoo.com. I am always interested in what you have to say.

    You asked me to think about a question – “Is there a right time for internal brand management or is it an on-going process?”

    I’m sorry, my answer is neither of the above. Internal brand management should actually be episodic. Products develop and evolve overtime but being man made they change on schedule. So, brands should develop in stages. Each stage giving lessons and directions for the next move. You want a continuing body of experience. The best feedback involved both the immediate response and the more, measured response over time.
    If you were to say that there is a right time for internal brand management, the chances are that you are right. But you might also be wrong. There is more at stake and greater danger in a single correct time approach.
    If you say ongoing process, that’s often very successful. But routine procedures have a tendency to become embedded in that kind of process, and, besides, it might be better to offer up excitement and change. Episodic change offers strong elements of continuity and fresh, aggressive approach.

    It was very kind of you to ask my opinion. I am very pleased to have made a friend from so far away.

    James Pilant

    • Hi James,

      In the CWG Indian context I would agree completely with your answer. India has built an image over a long period of time. It had negative images prior to freedom. Then it had an image of a coutnry with poverty, lack of education, snake charmers and traditional culture. Now it is rebranding itself as a technology and service leader. CWG was an opportunity to build the brand further. However, it is now lost due to corruption. My view is that each positive and negative episode adds or substracts from the brand image.

      If we are not careful, the negativity will overtake the postive image. Hence, I would agree with you that we have to continously build the brand and use each episode to take it further.

      Thanks for sharing your email id. It is definitely a pleasure to interact with people from different cultures and understand the issues of their country. One can learn a lot from the intereaction.

      Kind regards,

      Sonia

  4. Pingback: Establish a Governance Structure at Project Conceptualization Stage « Sonia Jaspal's RiskBoard

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