CYPRUS: Is the Fight Against Corruption Hopeless?

Gradients of Corruption in Society. Brian Pinkowski
Gradients of Corruption in Society. Brian Pinkowski

Sometimes angry and passionate responses provide the basis for insights.

I received several such responses on my blog post Cyprus, Global Finances and Corruption.

“Brian, corruption was with humanity from its beginning and will be with us till our disappearance. I am certain that no seminars or academic teaching will be able to eradicate corruption. Power brings abuses and corruption and humans are doing everything to be in control, have power and rule over others and therefore, being able to be corrupt, cheat, abuse and take advantage. “

This comment was met with several supporting comments from others.  The comments in general go after the banking industry.

This is probably no surprise, but I often hear these sorts of comments.  People are very, very, angry about the corruption and economic impacts it has in both developed and undeveloped countries.

Politicians hit the “snooze button” on the alarm from the 2008 Economic Crisis and again with Portugal and Spain, but with Cyprus and the threat to reach into people personal bank accounts to cover debts incurred by the poor judgment of politicians – the snooze alarm is screaming again.

Two things come to mind.

First, I choose to interpret these comments as expressions of frustration and disappointment that people and institutions are flawed.

Second, the ability and integrity of people and institution cannot be measured as an all or nothing matter.  Like most things, there is a gradient scale of corruption.   Perfection and godliness might be at the top end of the scale and death of society or some post apocalyptic social chaos might be at the bottom end.

Success of institutions and people is often indirectly measured against such a scale.

Transparency International, the Financial Action Task Force, the World Banks “Doing Business” Reports, Amnesty International, and the UN’s monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals all measure aspect of this scale.

Society Changes.

In the U.S. and other countries there is often a history of a frontier where lawlessness reigned for some period of time.

Indeed, in the U.S. in the 1960’s and 1970’s law enforcement was troubled with corruption to such that many people of my age have personal experience with police officer acting like criminal gangs.  This was such a problem that an entire movie genre arose from it.

And while things have not reach a godly set of behavior, they are significantly better and the vast majority of people view law enforcement as a public service worthy of trust.

Many people have personally observed both positive and negative changes in society.  Therefore, they know that something can be done to improve things, notwithstanding a moment of discouragement.   I’ve talked about this in We Can’t Change Corruption – It’s Part of Our Culture.

Things move up and down on the scale of corruption as society attempts to handle things that aren’t working properly.  I discuss this scale in simplified fashion in two videos:  What is Anticorruption? Part 1 and What is Anticorruption? Part 2.


In some countries, the efforts to create positive change are much slower because of a combination of social factors ranging from crushing poverty that pushes people to take immediate survival actions they know are wrong for personal long term survival and the community to weak democratic institutions that have been captured.

Knowing about these challenges can be overwhelming.  It can be difficult to find a way to improve things.   However, society and culture does change.  And changes can be in a pro-survival direction, or in the direction of decay.

Global or even societal changes don’t really happen overnight.  They build based upon observations and discussions such as are happening now.

When the impetus for change happens, it may happen quickly, such as in Egypt, but even monitoring of Twitter and Facebook will be too late.  The idea for change has taken root.

The first step on the scale of justice is to see what is actually happening.

These discussions show that people are seeing that something is happening that requires attention.

Brian Pinkowski

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