Corruption, human rights and social justice

Monster

From http://mercurialxen.deviantart.com

Do you believe in monsters? I do, though not the ones you can find in myths, legends and fairy tales. The real world is where the monsters are… monsters, fighting for power….

Power

Have you seen Andrei Zvyagintsev’s new  film “Leviathan”? The film is set in Russia’s desolate north. The main character, Nikolai, is a soulful car mechanic who lives in a wooden house by the Barents Sea with his frustrated wife and a depressed teenage son from an earlier marriage.

His house and land are being taken from him by the state, represented here by a drunken and corrupt mayor who is closely advised by an Orthodox priest. Nikolai’s friend, a lawyer, travels from Moscow to help him fight the mayor. But that only leads to more disasters.

In the end, Nikolai loses his wife, his freedom and his house, which, in a final twist, is bulldozed to make space for a new church that is inaugurated by the mayor and the priest, who preaches about patriotism and love for the Russian state…

As the Economist points out, “Leviathan” may not break new artistic ground, but it has a lot to say about life in Russia.

Rarely has an art film evoked such fierce debate. It has been denigrated as heresy and slander by supporters of the state and the church, and praised by liberals who recognise its truths.

As noted by the Economist, a few days before the film was released in Russia, Kirill, the patriarch of the Orthodox church, took to the floor of the Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia). He praised the Soviet era for breeding “solidarity” in people and lashed out at the depravity of the West.

Tyrany

Zvyagintsev however clearly intended this film as a parable for modern human-kind, not just Russians. This movie is about the corruption and collusion of elites everywhere to exploit and abuse “the little people”.

As Frank Vogl points out in his book “Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power”, “Corruption is not a single event, but a continuum, perpetrated day in and day out against citizens by crooked politicians and civil servants who enjoy the position of power… Corruption is a political, social, and economic issue of global proportions. Today, as never before, it is a major cause of the global crises of poverty, human rights, justice, and security. It impacts us all….”


Corruption

From https://www.globalcitizen.org

While many live in denial, like the proverbial ostrich, or think that corruption is “just a way of life”, every society, sector and individual would benefit from saying “NO” to this crime. We all can:

  • Raise awareness
  • Engage the youth about what ethical behavior is and what corruption is.
  • Report incidents of corruption
  • Refuse to participate in any activities that are not legal and transparent

Against

THE END

Do Not Give the Needy Money…

“Do Not Give the Needy Money: Build Them Industries Instead”

J.W.Smith

(From Transparency for Development)

* * *

“With the record of corruption within impoverished countries, people will question giving them money. That can be handled by giving them the industry directly, not the money. …. When provided the industry, as opposed to the money to build industry, those people will have physical capital. The only profits to be made then are in production; there is no development money to intercept and send to a Swiss bank account.”

(from J.W. Smith, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle for the 21st Century)

* * *

Eritrea, 1990s

“So while we toiled away building our factory, the entire population was trying to rebuild their country. There was compulsory military service still, and those called up were put to work building roads and bridges. They did it with a lot of smarts – if you drove down the main highway into the bowels of the country there was a new 100m-wide trench of a road that had been cleared and would be a motorway eventually. On either side, palm trees were being planted and you saw an Eritrean who might be in her seventies, coming down a green slope carrying a bucket of water and tending to a palm tree. Everybody was doing something…

We eventually finished the construction of the building to international standards, and the team from Australia arrived to set up the manufacturing equipment. I watched with dismay as the first lenses were produced. It was painfully clear that the lathe and most of the equipment Fred had bought were not capable of producing usable lenses.

This was another test of character, because I had done what I promised Fred and could have simply moved on, letting the Fred Hollows Foundation sort out the mess. But by this stage the Eritreans had put their trust in me, so I sourced some generic lens-making equipment and started to put in place a plan to make world-class lenses at a fraction of the price of those distributed by multinational companies…

I wanted the Eritreans to be able to sell their lenses around the world so that they could make decent money out of this. I didn’t just want to produce lenses for eye camps in the villages. That meant the lenses had to meet international standards or no one would buy them…

It was important to me that the lenses we made were of equal or better quality than those from the multinational lens manufacturers. So I sent samples of our lenses for independent evaluation to the world expert on intraocular lens manufacture, Professor David Apple at the Medical University of South Carolina Storm Eye Institute.

“You have chosen a design which we think is an absolute state of the art in terms of surface finish and general Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) appearance,” he said in his report. “I’ve never seen better lens manufacture.”…

We had succeeded in doing something that was theoretically impossible: manufacturing world-class intraocular lenses in one of the poorest, most technically compromised countries in the world.

The other result of the new process was that the price of generic lenses plummeted globally. Ours cost three dollars to make, a fraction of what they had been produced for previously. We could get them onto the market for less than ten dollars, making quality cataract surgery accessible to the poorest of the poor.

This was also a perfect example of 100 per cent technology transfer to the local people. I don’t have to do anything at those labs and haven’t since 2003. We did the job, got in and got out, and they are expanding their operations and product ranges themselves.

Now the lenses are exported to about eighty countries and, by 2020, thirty million people will have had their sight restored due to the innovative lens-manufacturing technology.”

(from ‘Rebel with a cause’ by Ray Avery)

* * *

Nepal

“Building our next lens-manufacturing plant, in Nepal, was a lot easier, because of all the lessons we had learnt in Eritrea…

When we designed the lathes, instead of a whole lot of complicated circuit boards with lots of things that could go wrong, ours was broken into smaller units with little lights, and you could quickly isolate and identify a problem when one came up. These were named BRTs – Big Round Things – and if there was something wrong, a BRT’s light wouldn’t be shining and you just replaced that unit…

We enjoyed training local people. The Nepalese have always had a tradition of moving to other countries to live. Many of our protégés now work overseas, but they trained people to take their place before they left because we taught them that was what you had to do when you have been given a skill. You passed it on. And as they move around the world, the general level of skills will rise as they take knowledge with them.”

(from ‘Rebel with a cause’ by Ray Avery)