Corruption in the Corruption.

It’s become absolutely routine for us all to be deeply concerned about corruption. Corruption is, apparently, bad. It causes bad things to happen. It is the source, indeed, of all badness. Therefore, corruption must be rooted out, by the roots, wherever those roots are. The way to root out corruption is to be deeply concerned about it. To acknowledge that it is bad and causes badness to happen and so on and so forth, ad infinitum to the final nauseam.
It will be noticed that in South African discourse, corruption fulfils essentially the same signifying function as is fulfilled by terrorism in Western imperialist discourse. It is the word through which a sense of self-righeous loathing towards a nebulously-defined but absolute enemy is expressed, thus legitimating almost any action against the absolute enemy, whose ranks may include absolutely anyone, at any time, who happens to be any kind of threat to the established elite from whose ranks the discourse emanates and whom it serves.
It is for this reason that corruption is never examined as a concept.
Corruption, literally, is simply an interference in the proper functioning of a human organisation generated by the personal interests of people involved in that organisation. If someone steals from the organisation, or makes the organisation perform useless or harmful duties, or sabotages the useful activities of the organisation out of a desire for personal benefit, or even fails to perform duties out of laziness or some other desire to pursue personal comfort, then that is corruption.
Undeniably, there is a lot of it about. It is inevitable that there should be a lot of it about. Of course, one can minimise corruption through two modes; by providing monitoring systems which identify corrupt practices swiftly, or by providing value-systems shared by all participating in the organisation which promote the interests of the collective over the interests of the individual. The two can interact — for instance, a monitoring system works best when people in the organisation endorse it and feel themselves justified in cooperating with the organisation against individuals who are not doing so.
But this is actual corruption. Discursive corruption, as usual, is something else. When South Africans talk about corruption, they are not talking about corruption in organisations, which exist in large numbers. They are talking about corruption in the government. And, outside the pages of noseWeek, they are not talking about corruption in the government where that government happens to be the DA, but only corruption in the ANC government. They are therefore not talking about corruption in a sense in which that corruption can be rooted out by improved monitoring practices or by inculcating ideals of prudence, responsibility and united action. They are talking about corruption as an inevitable consequence of having an ANC government, which they (risibly) claim can be eradicated by installing a DA government in its place.
So, in short, the discourse of corruption is in itself a kind of corruption, because it exploits and indeed encourages corruption, by opposing any real action against corruption, because such corruption will ultimately serve the personal interests of the people devising and transmitting the discourse of corruption.
This, of course, explains why the removal from office of a bunch of corrupt officials, and their replacement by other officials without any serious investigation as to the new figures’ fitness, is seen as a triumph.
Meanwhile, why does the system permit, fail to act against, and not make ideologically intolerable, the concept of personal corruption?
One vital issue is the way in which neoliberalism focusses upon individual gain. Greed is good, personal greed drives the system, generates consumers, furthers the fashioning of CEOs, promotes wealth. Therefore, anything which encourages greed is satisfactory, and anything which discourages greed must be disregarded. Corruption is driven by greed. Therefore, the ideologies which promote restraint must be repudiated, and those which encourage a sense of self-worth either outside property accumulation, or worse yet, within a collective sense of mutual cooperation, must be demonised beyond all measure. Therefore, it is impossible to promote intellectual attitudes which condemn corruption.
Of course, it is possible nevertheless to condemn corruption, through deploying the strategic systems of hypocrisy upon which human political organisation rests. The rich person, sitting on an immense pile of stolen goods, pays the policeman well to hunt down the miscreant who has stolen something through methods outside the legalised robbery which is part of the rich person’s entitlement. Therefore, one can say “Corruption is bad! That person is corrupt! That person is bad!” without going into details. Corruption becomes a signifier the signified of which is floating in the air without any connections to anything else — because making connections would problematise the concept.
This, then, explains the ever-growing focus upon observation, discipline and punishment in our culture, and why the observation is invariably on issues of no real moment. When municipalities are condemned, they are condemned because their finances have not been endorsed by accountants — as if a municipality were set up purely to enhance the self-image of auditors. Once the condemnation is made, it is proclaimed to be evidence of corruption, and heads must roll. Given the circumstances in South African municipalities it is perfectly likely that the heads which then roll deserve to roll. However, this is not about corruption, in reality — it is about fulfilling the technical requirements of the monitoring system, which stipulate that every financial transaction, corrupt or not, must be legitimated by a signed piece of paper. And, of course, it is not about delivering services to the people ostensibly provided for by the administrators of the municipality. That never comes into the case.
So a clean audit can go hand in hand with service delivery protests, because a clean audit has nothing to do with either real corruption, or with the proper functioning of the system.
Meanwhile, all this talk about corruption is extremely convenient, not only because it legitimates ever-increasing surveillance to prevent corruption at low levels of the corporate world (while the “incentives” supposedly given managers in order to discourage corruption are actually a form of corruption in themselves). It also serves to distract attention from the most important form of corruption, namely corrupt policies.
The apartheid state was corrupt, and to this extent it was less destructive. (Claims that the apartheid state’s corruption only began to appear after apartheid had failed as a policy are simply apologias for apartheid which are constructed because corruption is widely seen, in the white supremacist community, as more significant and important than racial discrimination or terrorism in the cause of white supremacy.) To the extent that the apartheid state was efficient, it was destructive. Its policies were corrupt politics, intended to deliberately undermine normal human behaviour and substitute for it a destructive and loathesome set of practices.
Therefore, as the descendants of apartheid, we ought to (were we not systematically disinformed and brainwashed by our elite) determine whether policies are corrupt, before we focus our attention upon the possible corruption of those who implement them. If a policeman is commanded to shoot a demonstrator by police policy, but does not pursue that policy (whether because he is lazy, or compassionate, or motivated by principled opposition to that policy) then that policeman is not actually being corrupt; objectively that policeman is acting out of human solidarity, even if that policeman’s personal motive is ignoble.
The problem with the Zuma administration is not simply that it promotes corruption. It does that, obviously; the big corruption issue with Zuma is that virtually all of his senior appointees have turned out corrupt because his personal corruption led him to most thoroughly trust people who were corrupt as well. However, his policies are also, for the most part, corrupt; healthcare, education, policing, foreign affairs, local government, are all dominated by policies which aim at promoting the best interests of the rich as opposed to the interests of the poor, in terms of both wealth and power. The more effective Zuma’s policies are, the more corrupt his actual regime becomes. And, incidentally, this also enables corruption in the wider community, as the rich are encouraged to plunder the system and are given essential impunity to do so.
Of course, publicly condemning a corrupt politician does no harm in itself and might even encourage other corrupt politicians to mitigate their stealing and bribe-taking. The problem is that the illusion is created that the Zuma administration discourages corruption of that kind when it does not, and that the illusion is also created, once more, that the system would be all right, were it not for a few rotten apples. These excuses, faithfully parrotted in the press, are exactly like the apologias for the apartheid system in the 1980s and are made along the same lines. Therefore, action against corruption, in the fetid swamp of Zumatism, actually promotes corruption on all sorts of levels. This is why the system itself needs to be destroyed.

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One Response to Corruption in the Corruption.

  1. JackClaxton says:

    Your characterization of Corruption is needlessly inclusive and, in fact, deprecates the word into something without any possible meaning. What remains of it is that everybody is corrupt, and that there is no doubt that you are yourself corrupt in the extreme.

    At the same time, you’ve missed the one essential aspect of the word, which is that it presupposes dishonesty – that to be corrupt at least requires of the corrupt one to have told a deliberate lie, or to have actively concealed the evidence if his behaviour, to the members of the organisation within which he commits this dishonesty.

    Indeed, this is also central to what we South Africans include in our concept of corruption when we talk about it, that corruption must also involve some form of dishonesty, so that the difference between actual and discursive corruption is really much smaller than what you seem to imagine.

    By this truer, more accurate way of thinking about the word, then, it is not corruption to underperform through laziness or any other desire for personal comfort, to be harmful or to sabotage activities, or even to steal from an organisation. That is just theft, or being lazy and harmful or useless.

    It only becomes corruption when if you lie about it.

    And that is precisely what the honest, the pure and the good in South Africa believe when they regard corruption as an inevitable consequence of having an ANC government. Not so much that an ANC government is lazy, or incompetent, or steal, or misappropriate, but first and foremost that they lie about it.

    Come to think of it, by this improved definition of the word, corrupt is the perfect adjective to apply to the global illiberal Left?

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