Saturday, June 12, 2010

What is, Corruption?

Do you think you know what corruption is?

Someone takes a bribe, they are corrupt. Someone is given a promise of advancement, a better job, if they go against the interests of their job, their promises, their people, then they're corrupt. Yes?

But there are other kinds. I've been watching, "The Wire". Great show. Horrible examples are shown of how government can and probably somewhere, does work. You don't even have to know it happens, its just logical. If you want something, from someone, another department, agency, what do they get for it? Just the knowledge that you owe them? Dream on. They want something up front. Standard operating procedure. They aren't making that much money, their department is hurting for funds in order to do their job, so they make up for it, any way they can.

Maybe they have the best of intentions. Maybe it starts that way. It slips, after a while, to where they wouldn't even recognize themselves, but they justify it with the knowledge that this is how the "real world" really is.

And you know what? Maybe it is.

But you have to keep that child's view of the world or after a while, you lose track of what is right (or what is important) and what is wrong, because you get too close to what is happening. That's why it looks so bad when its exposed because those coming into it, viewing it from afar, see how bad it really is. And without all the caveats, rationalities and exigencies.

The official definitions go something like this, "corrupt": Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved; Venal; dishonest: a corrupt mayor; To destroy or subvert the honesty or integrity of; To ruin morally; pervert; To taint; contaminate.

My favorite example to hate about corruption are what concerns statistical requirements in a job. Seems to harmless. You just have to hit this score, some level, an amount or a degree; to be considered good, to keep your job, your compensation level, your bonus. I've seen this at jobs of my own.

Sometimes even arbitrary numbers are picked to prove things are going well, and bad things happen because of it. We see this in the school system all the time. They don't know how to prove schools are doing well, or how good teachers are, so they give tests to build blase stats to show how well everyone is doing. But then you still have kids graduating who can't read. Or kids get mentally beat up because of tests they have to study to pass the test, rather than study to learn. They end up not learning real lessons about how to move on to higher education, live their life, to get a job, to handle a home, or a relationship.

Why don't we teach kids what they need to know in order to make a living, maintain a home, live happy with someone, to enjoy the quality of their life?

Back to the stats. Everyone wants to look good. So they take their department stats for the past month, or quarter or year, and find a way to make it look good, better; by changing the definitions of things, or moving something from one department to another. All this has to do with people up top, who are disconnected from down below, thinking they can quantify quality. What is needed is good people doing a good job, trust, running a good department and not being so worried about what looks good and dealing with the reality of what is.

People need to worry about doing the job, doing it well, making the mission important, carrying things out in a real situation, not a made up one.

The example they played up in Season four of The Wire had to do with murder stats. Homicide was so concerned about their stats of open murders, that they knew they were leaving a couple dozen bodies hidden in many spread out houses in condemned city housing. Rather than be worried about murdered people, about finding a murderer, be they homeless or drug addicts/dealers or what have you, they buried it. It was subtle, there wasn't proof, but a cop had a good theory that should require they open houses and search, but the officer in charge refused, because it would ruin their stats. All he had to do to prove it, was pull a board off a boarded up house to see if there was indeed bodies in certain marked buildings, but he was ordered not to.

They were so worried about what? Not looking bad?

That, is patently, ridiculous. Ludicrous and I don't mean the rapper.

You should do your job. You should never HAVE to worry about how things look, as long as you are doing what you're supposed to; after all, its not you doing the bad stuff.

In this case, they wanted to turn a blind eye to murder, just because it would ruin their departmental stats? Someone should go to jail over something like that. Yes, this was a TV show. Thank God, it wasn't a Reality TV Show. But you can't tell me, that this kind of thing doesn't really happen.

In a way, I don't blame those doing it so much as I do those in charge forcing them into this kind of behavior. Its systemic.

My point in all this, is that corruption is not always what you expect. Its not the obvious bribe, sometimes its the slight of hand, the ignore, the blank stare, or the redefining of a term, in order to look good, or not look bad, or shift something off to another place. Look around you sometime. Is any of this going on around you? Maybe it happens so much, or its so entrenched, that you, that no one, ever notices it anymore.

Have the eyes of a child. And the determination of an adult, to do what you can, to end this foolishness. The world will be a better place, when you do.


  1. sadly this also happens in the hospital setting; where you have a "team" that handles any news worthy items that might slander the hospital (in efforts to uncover something)...i think this is always the interest of a business "damage control" is here to understands they would lose their job if they talk to the press, etc.and no one wants to bankrupt a hospital if it could be avoided, as it's seen as too high a price to pay.
    in regards to the desire to be able to teach the "basics" in school; that's a very tall order, what would that take? i always thought it would be great if we could have a team of psych on staff, so that the students always have that avenue to work things out....but who has the funding for that? we all are at the mercy of the luck of the draw; the parents we are dealt, we hope know how to love in the first place...that in itself is a tall order, i always knock intopeople who are a product of some sort of diffuse knowledge of what love "acts" like. it's like the blind leading the blind...and we just walk into eachothers lives(sometimes with sticks tapping and pointing)...many latch key kids, are beingbrougtht up ona steady diet of TV/computer violence and porn, etc....without anyone to help them with a sound perspective....left to navigate all the stimuli thrown at them...and without the requisite attention from their parent(s)...very bad mix, what do we expect? but what are the solutions? and the money to really ensure a mobilization of "said knowledge" that should be showered on the "disadvantaged".
    they even cut the budget for after school programs; with the thinking that it's the least productive aspectto their budget, i beg to differ. i bet if there was a way to quantify what is lost...we might see that it saved many young kids lives;from a life of crime and drugs, as they had the opportunity to throw themselves into sports or the chess club, etc. good luck to all of us, as we seem to be winding down into a morass of ennui.
    yet; unexplicably i still believe, in the nature of our youth to work this out...because the overall "good" prevails, but i hope the Nature of our world (as we know it ) is still in tack...but that; i know, is also a personal preference [no, it is sound science in regards to ecosystems that are predicated on a level of stability for it's continuum]...maybe this speaks for all living things?! psychology is the baby science that has yet to prove its own importance;therefore, it's rightful place in the world? Sue(FB friend)

  2. Ah The Wire, one of my all time favorites. Glad you liked it, the show should have gotten better exposure than the Sopranos, but America loves it's criminals for Prime Time entertainment. How would a little Amsterdam work in real life? It's a crazy world isn't it?
    I have long held that dealing in percentages is dangerous. And what is statistics if not percentages. It's how the Government and other such dangerous entities have been bamboozling us for decades. Not to worry it's just 1% more. But what is that 1% really, is it a penny increase on a dollar or 10 billion on a trillion? The numbers have gotten so big in recent years that few have any real understanding of what they mean, or actually represent. But if you play with them you can get small percentages out of most anything and that makes for good Stats. Like the unemployment stats, we see 9% or 10% but what does it mean in real numbers? If one out of three people compose the workforce that's just over 100 million total so 10% is 10 million, but that only represents those still collecting a check, it could be another 5% or more that can't collect a check and they simply don't get counted. So maybe 15 million or more total. That's larger that the entire population of some countries.

  3. Well, I was trying to point out, how we don't pay, not enough money, not enough attention, to our schools. Too long an issue for this article. But I think, if we started paying our teacher until it hurt, no, hurt really bad, paid them really really well, we'd start paying more attention to the quality of our childrens' education. The benefits of that would pay off in the end, and things would get better. The issue is the there, but no one wants to see it, but because its indirect, its too far out there to be tangible for people.
    As for stats, I learned in psych stats in college, that you can make them do what you like. I was amazed at two things, one, how amazing statistics are, how close you can deduce something before it happens, and two, how you can twist them to mean what you like. Amazing, and scary.