The roots of corruption and destruction are fed by greed

Some of the biggest problems in Malaysia today can be traced back to rampant corruption which has bled the nation almost dry.

Sep 29, 2018

By Anil Netto
Some of the biggest problems in Malaysia today can be traced back to rampant corruption which has bled the nation almost dry.

When the new government was sworn in after May 9, they quickly realised that the nation’s coffers were in dire straits.

Money, our public funds, had almost literally vanished into thin air. In its place was a mountain of debt.

The nation was fast racing towards the precipice of bankruptcy.

This was no ordinary corruption by compromised politicians. This was grand theft on an imaginable scale – perhaps the world’s biggest kleptocratic reign with 1MDB just the tip of the iceberg.

It seemed that people who were dipping their hands into public coffers simply could not be satisfied. Whatever they stole, it only whetted their appetite for more and more money, mansions, luxury cars, jewellery, designer clothes, handbags.

It was never enough. As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once observed, “Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; and the same is true of fame.”

Zunar recently came drew a cartoon in which he depicted people rejoicing after chopping a rotting tree, which represented the previous ruling coalition’s defeat in the general election after six decades in power.

But what they don’t realise is that below the ground they are standing on, the roots of religious and racial politics run deep and could sprout again if we are not vigilant. Indeed, for far too long, politicians have manipulated race and religion to divide and lord it over us while siphoning away the riches of this land.
Similarly, in the aftermath of the May 9 General Election, it may be tempting to think that we can now stem the tide of corruption and bring the corrupt to book. But the reality is that we could add to Zunar’s cartoon and depict the roots of corruption running equally deep. These roots are fed by the fertiliser of greed.

Indeed, there is plenty of greed still swirling around in our nation and in our world – especially the greed for more and more profits and income and wealth. Just look around at the skyscrapers being built – high-density expensive malls and towering high-end condo blocks, when there is already a glut of mall space and high-end homes (which most people cannot afford). These contribute to congestion, wiping out green space and blocking off the rays of the sun.

During a recent visit to Cheras I was shocked to see the Infant Jesus Convent overshadowed and surrounded by a mall, towers and skyscrapers. And the convent thought they had found a tranquil spot on the hill!

Massive infrastructure projects such as unnecessary highway projects (instead of improving public transport) and land reclamation are in the pipeline that will worsen the quality of life, add to congestion and destroy fishing grounds. Hills and forests too are being cut and flattened – all at the altar of economic growth and maximisation of profits and wealth.

Perhaps our society has lost a sense of the divine. It was Thomas Aquinas who said that there are four typical substitutes for God: wealth, pleasure, power, and honour.

But what about those who believe in the ‘Gospel of Prosperity’ — the belief that God wanted everyone to live in abundance and prosperity. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant by his wanting us to live life to the full?
But a wise old family friend in his 80s who lives a simple life in KL reminded me of Proverbs 30: 8,9 -
“… give me neither poverty nor riches, grant me only my share of food, for fear that, surrounded by plenty, I should fall away and say, ‘Yahweh-who is Yahweh?’ or else, in destitution, take to stealing and profane the name of my God.”

No wonder, the Lord’s Prayer did not say, “Give us wealth and prosperity.” Rather, Jesus asked us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

In other words, living a simple life, asking for neither great wealth or poverty – just enough for what we need (for the world cannot cope with our greed). This message is all the more important in this day and age of climate change, carbon emissions, pollution and waste, and depletion of natural resources.

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