Thursday, September 28

NO to unholy trinity of power abuse, corruption, arrogance


A woman walking past the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission sign at the commission’s building in Putrajaya. To build the future we want free from abuse, we must begin by looking inward at ourselves and the decisions and duties we have. — Bernama file photo

THEY did not seem to fear the peril when power was in their hands. They seemed to be walking a path that angels feared to tread.

But God has been watching. A narrative of corruption and power abuse that seems to have no end has also been infuriating millions of people across the nation, making them feel aggrieved.

Even the story of a man in solitude and languishing in Kajang failed to deter former occupants of the top echelon of power. It is the story of a fallen humanity that is trapped in a vicious cycle that rings hollow.

When positional power becomes egotistical, the leader loses focus on the fact that leadership is about enhancing the lives of the people and organisation they serve.

Remember, that power is borrowed and you are just a temporary steward. The duty of care that comes with it is transitional. There must be more to leadership than just self-interest.

Leaders are not tyrants; rather, they are tools — albeit crucial tools — to be used in the completion of a particular task, as well as the supporters, mentors, and managers of those who will help them.

Leaders may abuse their authority if they fail to keep this priority in mind.

Financial mismanagement, preferential treatment when awarding contracts, excessive lifestyle choices, and an authoritarian attitude, are frequently involved in this abuse.

Together with power abuse and arrogance, corruption makes up the unholy trinity of sins.

Power abuse is the reason for corruption, arrogance and egocentricity.

But why power abuse? And why do some people morph into beings with little scruples and moral conscience?

From rustic village to positions of power

Many of them came from a humble beginning in the rural hinterland. But once they were elected to office, power changed them, elevating them to a new level of existence.

They would timidly give in to corrupt tactics in order to make quick money, while lifestyle expectations, vocabulary, and peer pressure in the political sphere changed.

It is the same story told by a different actor.

An aspiration for superiority and an obsession with greatness appear to be among the popular reasons given by critics.

The absence of spiritual intelligence, or the absence of religion, can lead to an obsession with greatness, based on studies with the help of various disciplines, including history, sociology, and psychology.

Power attracts those most likely to abuse it, and then makes them worse. Douglas Adams once wrote about a planet that was ruled by lizard overlords. The humans outnumber lizards in the world, which is a democracy, and they loathe them, yet they consistently win elections. A paradox exists here. It turns out that the humans vote for the lizards for the simple reason that ‘the wrong lizard might get in’ if they did not.

Condescending behaviour

Arrogance and corruption increase when there is a chance and opportunity for power abuse.

A morally weak person in a position of power is prone to abusing it in such a way that corruption, arrogance, and their covert manifestations rule.

Many people in positions of power exhibit arrogance and condescending behaviour, which social psychologists explain as an instance of inferiority complex that seeks a better identity of authority. In the process, he abuses his power as a show of authority and to command respect and support.

Frequently, all it takes is a quick glance in a society-sized mirror to answer the question of how someone so unqualified for the position came to be in charge.

Keep that in mind when you hear a cabinet minister in an interview stumble over responses to simple questions. Whether we like it or not, we put him there.

But do not expect him to relinquish his position even if he falls before par in terms of knowledge and performance in the eyes of the discerning public.

The position of power comes with authority, privileges and the opportunity to rise further in the hierarchy of power (in his party).

Even though he is aware that the power is temporary and only lasts for five years, it makes no difference. At the time of the subsequent election, that power may be restored, or even boosted.

People with a corrupt nature are disproportionately drawn to positions of power, disproportionately good at squeezing into them, and disproportionately likely to keep them once they have them.

How can we stop corruption in its early stages before it infiltrates the system and tempts those in positions of power?

Sometimes, some in positions of authority wilfully succumb to temptations that come in many forms.

Changing the systems

The solution is to make changes to the systems that control our societies.

Systems either accelerate the conveyor belt of corruptible people into power, or slow them down.

But what changes? Are those responsible for making the so-called changes willing to do so?

Some innate tendencies are beyond our control, but we can insist on preventing the worst among us from taking the helm — or at the very least, limiting the harm they cause once they do.

Cultures of corruption do play a role, but accountability can quickly force dishonest leaders to clean up their act.

To increase accountability, we should target the powerful people who can harm society the most with focused oversight and random actions.

No magic fix

Even with the best reforms, there is no magic fix.

There will be evil, control-crazed individuals yearning to be in charge.

Humanity is no longer a definer. The sortation process should be taken into consideration (the selection of public officials or jurors using a random representative sample), which entails picking citizens for leadership roles at random, sort of like a political jury, to better monitor their behaviour.

The resulting mistrust of public officials, political apathy and ingrained social helplessness deter citizens from taking on responsibility for and making investments in a shared future.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also demonstrated how important it is for society to be resilient during crises if people are to have confidence in their government.

Other types of power regulation and control, such as the traumatic bonding found in interpersonal cults like the so-called cults of hatred, can also be identified as personality cultism or the adoration of a morally flawless leader.

Abusers of power frequently try to exert control over others’ thoughts and behaviours. Even better, they would rather people obey them and stay within the boundaries of the space available to them.

Such leaders are not receptive to criticisms and do not want to be criticised for their errors or wrongdoings. They would not want to have their mistakes exposed.

Fiction and reality intermingle in their life.

However, we must worry about the political and social well-being of a society when criticising a political figure is equated with blasphemy, when group allegiances trump individual and family values, and when politics infiltrates fields like medicine, science, education and sports.

Ordinary people must move out from passivity

We would need to go back over the issue of power and think about the restrictions, rules, and moral standards that govern those in positions of authority.

In order to boost the morale of the leadership and stop the spread of corruption, the common people must also abandon their passivity and muster the courage to express their opinions and voices.

It means that in order to stop political victimisation from happening again and to build the future we want free from abuse, we must begin by looking inward at ourselves and the decisions and duties we have.

We need to develop methods for identifying and thwarting political subterfuge, brainwashing, and indoctrination. These methods include holding onto nuanced, multifaceted views, upholding our moral principles, and gathering information from a variety of sources.

The general public today believes that corruption permeates every sphere of the country’s society.

This is concerning for those who rely on the integrity of their leaders and the institutions established to prevent wrongdoing.

They are now aware that abuse of power and corruption will lead to the disintegration of the moral fibre of society.

* Toman Mamora (PhD Nottingham, UK) is a communication and research consultant. He comments on contemporary social and political issues, and seeks to raise public opinion on subjects of societal value.