In undeveloped countries, I expect that corruption is something that is widespread. In Arab countries, for example, I think that a good factor that helps this phenomenon to take hold is not only governments… but the people themselves!
A few weeks ago, I took part in collecting some donations for Syrian refugees in Jordan. When a fifth-year friend of mine asked me to help and I agreed, he simply then asked me to go and collect money from the students. “How would you guarantee that I will not steal the money that will be given to me?” I asked. As a result, I refused to collect any penny without giving whoever donated money to me a “Cheque-like” paper indicating the sum of money that he gave to me. Do you think that doing this decreased my respect? Did I cast some doubt on my honesty by giving a physical evidence of what money was given to me?
In another related story. I and a group of my friends are doing a research together. One of my friends was upset by my “obsession” of documenting every decision we made in the research. In particular, he was upset by my asking him to send me emails confirming that I wrote their names correctly before sending them to our supervising doctor. “Isn’t reading the names over phone enough?” My friend must have thought angrily.
One time, I knew of the following opinion that a fellow Arab of mine had:
“We are Arabs and still believe in human honesty.”
Depending on honesty… How beautiful! Is depending on honesty better than documentation and accounting? No matter how time consuming and tedious these processes are?
If Arabs still believe in human honesty, then what about other nations who are not “Arabs”? Can we deduce from the above sentence that they no longer “believe” in human honesty? As I heard and read about some of the negative views that Arabs have about the west, some Arabs seem to think that honesty is limited to them! Good ethics are only Arab’s and no one else.
How can we explain that western countries are developed although they are “not Arabs” and not “honest”? In one survey I once read about British people, “46% of them only believed in God”. So, how come that most people in the west are either atheists or believe in “wrong” religions, and still are developed? When it comes to sexual morality, I always hear and read Arabs criticizing the west in this aspect. Away from political issues, to describe Americans, the British, or even the Jews, as being “liars” or “thieves”… is something that I have NEVER ever heard or read! In fact, the situation can be summarized by this sentence a driver once told me:
“In the west, it is true that they drink alcohol and commit adultery, but they are honest. Unfortunately, we don’t have this in our society. To me, drink alcohol and commit adultery… But be HONEST”
How can we explain this: Atheists but honest? A university doctor who once taught me had this explanation:
“الكفار في أوروبا وأمريكا أمينين مش لأنهم أحسن منا. بس لأنه الواحد إذا سرق بدفع اللي فوق والي تحتيه… والمعلم بشرح وما بضيع ولا دقيقة، لأنه في كاميرا بالصف بتراقبه!”
“The infidels in Europe and the United States are not honest because they are better than us. They are honest, because if someone stole anything, he will pay everything that he has… The teacher explains and never wastes a minute, because there is a camera in the classroom watching him”
How can we explain this point of view? This Iraqi thinker said the following:
“The more stupid a person becomes… The more he becomes certain that he is better than everyone else in everything”. Ali Al-Wardee, an Iraqi Sociologist and Historian.
For me, to be honest while no one is watching is certainly a beautiful thing. But can you guarantee that all people around you are honest like you are? If only 1 out of every 1,000,000 governmental employees is stealing money, is frequently absent from his job, or is not doing his job properly, how can we find that out? I don’t think that it would be a waste of time or money to try to document and investigate what everyone is doing. After all, not all people fear God and his punishment. As in the study mentioned above, some people don’t believe God exists in the first place. So, in an opinion that “might” be in agreement with that of that of the doctor who taught me, everyone should be watched and no one should be above questioning.
To sum it up, “honesty” is something “unseen” between a human being and his “personal” God. Documentation, accounting, surveillance, or whatever you like to call it, is something “seen” between human beings. And as they say, “seeing is believing”. If we are monitored, inspected, or are asked to document what we are doing, then I strongly believe that this is a stronger guarantee of “honesty” than assuming that all people around us are working to go to heaven!