In the state of Denmark, yes. A Jamaican version of “Hamlet” would be a challenge for any playwright (who would be our Ophelia, for example?) but let’s just insert the name of our hapless island in there, for Denmark, anyway.
Last week was celebrated (if that’s the word) as International Anti-Corruption Day. And oh, it is always so much easier to stand up and make a fine speech about corruptionthan it is to actually do something about it.
Our local anti-corruption warrior brought together two leading politicians, with the aim of pointing their noses in the direction of campaign finance reform, for a start. Fine, as far as it goes, although both political parties are wreathed in ambivalence on that particular topic. We won’t hold our breath, will we?
I won’t quote all the lofty words that were spoken by the speakers – I am sure they all meant well. A police official spent less time beating about the bush. He told us that most Jamaican police officers fail lie-detector tests, and that corruption is still a major challenge.
But as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says, “corruption afflicts all countries” – although ironically, it hardly afflicts the aforementioned Denmark, which is the second squeaky-cleanest country in the world after New Zealand, according to Transparency International‘s Corruption Perceptions Index. Times have changed since Shakespeare’s day. By the way, Jamaica is 86th on TI’s Index, so semi-rotten by global standards. I wonder about a country like Somalia, which festers at the bottom; have Somalis completely given up on their society and their economy?
The Petchary has this deep, gut feeling that, well – perhaps we really can’t do much about corruption. We can spend millions on anti-corruption conferences, we can speak for hours, we can conduct anti-corruption campaigns, we can run for office on an anti-corruption platform, we can come up with action plans. We can wag our fingers and say how terribly bad it is, and hope someone is listening. But it will go on. It might go underground, but it will be like an underground stream that never runs dry and that wells up when the rain falls.
The image of corruption as a stream, tainting everything in its path, is indeed a popular one. But a more appropriate image to me is that of a stagnant pool of water. As I pass the dismal gullies and drains of the city of Kingston, it is the kind of pollution that makes me quickly turn my head away. It is the stench that hangs over inner-city communities, especially on a hot and windless summer’s day – one that the residents have become accustomed to. They live with it.
It is a filthy pool – sometimes sickly-green with algae or colored with chemicals, sometimes with the greyish film of untreated sewage. It contains plastic bottles, and “scandal” bags (for the non-Jamaican, this is a black plastic shopping bag) containing something we would rather not know about, and the urine of rats and breeding mosquitoes.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!/That ever this should be/Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs/Upon the slimy sea.
It’s the word “upon” that I always find disturbing. The rot is so deep and thick that these creatures (“things”) cannot swim in it, they slither on the surface.
Truly rotten, like the ship that sails on it. The ship of state, perhaps.
Talking of politics, here in Jamaica the election campaign grinds on, bedecked with flags on every light pole, buxom dancing women, the eternal vuvuzelas, and the Green and Orange Ones hugging and squeezing each other for the cameras, hoping to appear on TV or in the newspapers. They call that little charade “a show of unity.”
It’s a show, all right. More anon. Still two long weeks to go, and I’ve stopped counting the days until Christmas.
- AU and ECA mark International Anti-corruption Day in Dakar, Senegal (appablog.wordpress.com)
- Mike Hanlon – 2011 Transparency International CPI Report Shows 80% Of Humans Live Under Corrupt Government (lucas2012infos.wordpress.com)
- NZ still least corrupt (homepaddock.wordpress.com)
- India Transparency International corruption index blow – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Kingston’s gullies, ugh! (jamaicaobserver.com)