Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Politics: Is there a cure for corruption?

Today's New York Times had several articles and editorials touching on the problem of political corruption. Such corruption is one of the chief reasons that so many people in society today have lost faith in so called "democratic" institutions. Robin Toner asks the question, A Partisan Leaves; Will an Era Follow? The Times editorializes about The Fall of Hammer and in another editorial bemoans Dark Days of Philippine Democracy. To respond to Robin Toner's question, I doubt that a new era will dawn because of the fall of this or that corrupt politician. What is required is a fundamental transformation of human consciousness and human character:

In the Bahá'í writings, those individuals who are engaged in government service are exhorted to "approach their duties with entire detachment, integrity and independence of spirit, and with complete consecration and sanctity of purpose."7 Their personal fulfillment comes not from material reward but from "the devising of methods to insure the progress of the people," from experiencing the "delights of dispensing justice," and drinking from "the springs of a clear conscience and a sincere intent."8 In the end, the "happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace" of the public servant does not consist in "his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems."9

The challenge of overcoming corruption in public life is multidimensional in nature. The adoption of administrative procedures and legal safeguards, however important such measures may be, will not bring about enduring changes in individual and institutional behavior. For governance, in essence, is a moral and spiritual practice whose compass is found within the human heart. Thus, only as the inner lives of human beings are transformed will the vision of a "genuine civilization of character" be realized. (From a statement written by the Baha'i International Community. Read the whole thing here.)