Evil structures in human society

In December 2020, INTERPOL issued a global alert to law enforcement across its 194 member countries warning them to prepare for organised crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.

Aug 28, 2021

In December 2020, INTERPOL issued a global alert to law enforcement across its 194 member countries warning them to prepare for organised crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.

The INTERPOL Orange Notice outlined potential criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines, with the pandemic having already triggered unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behaviour. It also included examples of crimes where individuals have been advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines.

This warning does not come as a surprise, due to the enormous scale of the problems the world is facing right now. As long as there is hardship and people are desperate for help, there will always be unscrupulous people who will take advantage of such situations.

In Malaysia, news of empty syringes being used to ‘administer’ the COVID-19 vaccines are not uncommon and such incidents have the potential of putting the country’s social and economic recovery in jeopardy. Investigations were carried out on one such incident that was captured on a video and which went viral. It was reported that the oversight was due to overwork and fatigue. Thus, the nurse was exonerated from any wrong doing. It may have been true in this case, but there were many such incidents that went unchecked, leaving the public with differing opinions. Some believe that these ‘oversights’ were actually something much bigger and more sinister.

Such cases, in addition to the recent political shenanigans of ‘frogging’ or defections of lawmakers to form new alliances with the goal of being in power at the expense of others, raises the question of how individuals are able to exploit the system to reap financial benefits and obtain influence.

Why is such shameless behaviour among politicians becoming rampant in our country? We had one General Election, but ended up with three Prime Ministers within a short time-frame. Is the enforcement of the law too weak? To what extent has it crippled our lives? Can we eradicate such evils? What hope is there for the younger generation? The news which we hear almost daily is disheartening and morally reprehensible, and seems to have a common thread. At the heart of all that we Malaysians are hearing and seeing every day is the greed and power that corrupts our society.

I believe that the perennial problem lies in the system. My take is that it is the fault or oversight of the many who are fixated in their belief that eradication of corruption lies simply with us going after individuals and their wrongful acts and to insist on greater punishment for their crimes. If that is not enough, the advocacy for new laws to be passed or to increase enforcement agency staff has been the standard response. While these approaches are helpful, the truth is our society fails at least in part because of evil social structures or systems within our society.

We live in a society or community embedded with structures, institutions and systems. Structures, as we ordinarily understand are associated with buildings that can be seen in shape, size or numbers. However, social structures are more complex and they are embodied in our mindset, in our conduct, in our culture and in the interrelation of parts or elements in our community or organisations. As time passes they evolve into customs, policies and laws without our realising it.

This is encapsulated by theologian Fr Mark O’Keefe OSB who described it as follows, “When groups of structures are organised into set ways of acting they form what are known as systems.’

Therefore, it is of no use to blame the Member of Parliament who had the audacity to say, ‘it is not wrong to steal unless you are caught’. Do we need to single him out, along with the many other politicians who have unashamedly uttered similar or even more outrageous statements without guilt or shame?

The reality is that corrupt systems are already in place; some have been there for longer than others. Earlier this year, a now repentant former magistrate granted an interview with one of the local news portals. In it he said, “The corrupt system was already in place and I inherited it. This was an open secret.”

He recalled how ‘brokers’ were among those who greeted him when he first reported for work as a young magistrate. “They are the middlepersons between the ‘crooks’ and me. My meals were often ‘sponsored’ and they also secured a place for me to stay.”

Systemic corruption, perpetrated by individuals acting out together in a wider network has a purpose, and this has created a pattern of thinking, acting and belief. The danger is that the evil structures become ‘acceptable’ over time to some people. Moral theologian Brian Lewis pointed out clearly, ‘… people see unacceptable social structures and institutions as ‘just the way things are’ or ‘the way things have always been’ and therefore none of their concern. Some people seem to be of such a mind as to simply limit the idea of justice to the criminal justice system...’

To find a solution or to eradicate corruption is a Herculean task because it is not only about an individual’s sins.

In his encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), St John Paul II acknowledged the menace and threat posed by social sins. He said, ‘the concrete acts of individuals who introduce these structures consolidate them and make them difficult to remove. And thus they grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins, and so influence people’s behaviour.’ (No.36).

“The only way to address these ‘structures of sin’ is by naming the roots of the evil,” he added

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Eddy W.
"Melentur aur biarlah dari rebung", clearly not practiced. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Be honest, how many people set their mind on heaven. Most families ill-catechize their children merely to be rich and successful occasionally sprinkling morals. Not necessarily wrong but God is absent in their life. What do we expect?