“Not so much why some things go wrong from the viewpoint of the authorities and the management of the social scene, but how the system works in the first place, what are the presuppositions and by what means it is held together. The fundamental sociological problem is not crime but the law, not divorce but marriage, not racial discrimination but radically defined stratification, not revolution but government”, Berger. Now pause for a moment and carefully think about Berger’s definition of social problems. And then, think about why the fight against corruption has been so difficult if not impossible in many parts of Africa.
Economists and development practitioners alike view corruption as one of the most serious problems facing poor countries. It corrodes democracy and undermines the most fundamental principles of democratic societies. No doubt, Liberia is a victim of this human phenomenon. In Liberia, the fight against corruption has been so difficult because we have not paid much attention to the actual cause of corruption. No doubt, you will agree with me that “poverty” is the root cause of corruption. It seems that policy makers are not doing enough to address poverty in our communities. As a result, poverty has helped nurture the culture of corruption in Liberia. Corruption is a culture and a harmful social problem tearing our nation apart. Therefore, viewing corruption from a cultural dimension will help us win the fight against this notorious human phenomenon. In fact, corruption is a social problem. Every social problem deserves societal attention and collective solution. Corruption is not only the product of material incentives, but is also powerfully influenced by cultural orientations that are acquired through socialization in a society.
Have you ever sat and thought about how corruption is destroying the agents of socialization, for example schools? Schools are one of the key agents of socialization in every society. In most schools teachers ask students for money in order to pass a course. Unfortunately, this introduces our children to corruption in elementary schools, later to colleges and then to work. For these children, our future leaders, paying money to pass a course is an acceptable social norm. Think about other important social institutions that are contributing to this social disorder – culture of corruption… School is not the only agent of socialization helping to build this culture. These practices destroy our value-system and make our society less competitive. On the other hand, it may be fair to assume that teachers engaged in such practices are under serious financial stress and pressure. Probably, they may not be earning enough salaries to sustain their families. This brings us back to the issue of poverty.
Now the trouble with this prevailing culture is that our future leaders are trained and imbued with the notions that corruption is an acceptable human value. Alas, this has transformed corruption into a culture. It has dramatically reduced the level of trust and honesty in our society. As a result, most Liberians perceive politicians and government officials as devoted not to the public interest but to their own enrichment, so trust in government has declined. With this notion, our national government cannot win this fight alone; we will need massive involvement in this process. We need to introduce a new social order. This seems to be a huge fight!! What do you think? As noted previously, corruption is a social problem and requires collective solution. In order to win the fight we need a new social order. Students should learn to say no to teachers asking for bribes, taxi drivers should say no to policeman and so on.
The goal of this article is to start a massive public discussion on how to build a new social order in Liberia.
Engaging Liberians to win the fight against corruption!
Musa V. Sheriff