Swami Responds to Kean Gibson; Corruption not Religion Related

Every Guyanese must share the concerns raised by Professor Kean Gibson (SN 12/5/19) on the plague of corruption as it continues to ravage us. However, one can’t disagree enough with her bizarre contention that the PPP’s alleged, “Tolerance of corruption is motivated by religious beliefs.”  As if this was not outrageous enough she even more ludicrously asserts “but may be the current President’s is motivated by naivety.” Corruption motivated by naivety?

Swami Responds to Kean Gibson; Corruption not Religion Related
Photo : Swami Aksharananda

Every Guyanese must share the concerns raised by Professor Kean Gibson (SN 12/5/19) on the plague of corruption as it continues to ravage us. However, one can’t disagree enough with her bizarre contention that the PPP’s alleged, “Tolerance of corruption is motivated by religious beliefs.”  As if this was not outrageous enough she even more ludicrously asserts “but may be the current President’s is motivated by naivety.” Corruption motivated by naivety?

First of all, there is a fallacious and somewhat disingenuous and simplistic comparison between an institution, the PPP, the largest political party in Guyana, and a single individual, the current President. The President, however much Gibson may want to shelter him from the stain of corruption, is the leader of and represents his own political party, the PNC which dominates the coalition.  Therefore a valid and commonsense comparison has to be between the PPP and the PNC.

Secondly, the dichotomy Professor Gibson constructs and the values she attaches to each part does not escape attention: PPP and their “religious beliefs” versus the PNC and their “naivety.”  To say that PPP’s corruption is motivated by religious beliefs, by which she means Hindu religious beliefs, is to say something profoundly damning about Hinduism.  On the other hand, she characterizes the corruption of the PNC as the behavior of an innocent infant motivated by mere naivety.

As an academic she must be aware that ideas have utility in the same way that weapons do, and such a simplistic worldview between “them” and “us” that dehumanizes the “other” and exonerates, forgives and validates “self,” is fraught with extreme danger.  It is diabolical.  This is what Professor Gibson seeks to achieve when she asserts that Hindus and their beliefs are behind the alleged corruption of the PPP.

History is littered with examples of this kind of dehumanization and its consequences and however naïve Professor Gibson thinks PNC is, she can’t be so naïve as not to be aware of the consequences of her pronouncements and the tense ethnic context in which they are made. In most cases of ethnic violence around the world, including Guyana, there have always been propagandists and entrepreneurs of hate who have exploited tribalism for their dark purposes.

When one looks at the voluminous scientific literature on the subject of corruption, from Transparency International, the World Bank, the IMF, UNDP and a host of other organisations monitoring corruption globally, including Guyana, one sees no reference of any group’s religious beliefs as a motivational factor, as we also see from the our former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran’s study of corruption in Guyana.

Another Guyanese scholar and economist, Dr. Ramesh Gampat, in collaboration with Dr. Anuradha Rajivan, produced a magisterial study entitled “Perspectives on Corruption and Human Development” examining the problem on a global scale, and here too, there is a blank regarding the religious motivation for the tolerance of corruption. Similarly, literature from especially Nigeria, South Africa and India, to name just as few countries with rampant corruption, again fails even to suggest religion as cause or motivation for corruption. 

Further, the Transparency International 2018 report ranks Guyana, with under 30% Hindus, with a corruption index of 93 of the 180 most corrupt countries of the world. Other countries with more or less similar demographics as Guyana ranks much lower in corruption index, with 78 in Trinidad, 73 in Suriname, and surprisingly 56 Mauritius with almost 50% Hindu population.  Finally, India which is rapidly approaching 1.4 billion people with 85% Hindus is ranked 78.

On the other hand, there are many countries, ten of which have been identified by the US News and World Report 2018 as the most corrupt countries in the world –Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Iran, Angola, Russia, Kenya, Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala - with miniscule or non-existent Hindu populations. What does Hinduism, or any religion for that matter, have to do with this? By all means let us talk about corruption. 

One is therefore compelled to wonder what is fueling Professor Gibson inexplicable obsessive phobia that allows her to continue her ill-founded condemnation of Hinduism? In fact, we find wherever values and the degradation of human nature are discussed, the problem of greed features prominently. As far back as it is possible to find textual references, every Dharmic tradition speaks of the evils of greed often translated as lobha in Sanskrit.  In the Mahabharata, for example, (3.2.14-19) a lengthy dialogue, between the Sage Shaunaka who instructs the Pandava Prince Yuddhisthira, highlights the evils of greed in various pursuits of life.

This is not the place for copious references to be given but a few verses from the Bhagavad Gita should suffice to put the matter at rest. For example, 3.21 teaches that our every action-thought, speech and deed-must have as its ultimate goal the welfare of the society, while from a personal devotional perspective 9.27 urges that whatever action we engage in must be offered to God as an act of worship. Finally, with a direct reference to greed, 16.21 speaks of greed, anger and lust as the triple gateway to hell,

But Professor Gibson tells us otherwise. We won’t go into the logical quagmire she plunged into in order to arrive at her assertion connecting Hinduism and the PPP, but she claims to have done a study of Hinduism and, as she herself reminds us that, “Greed is an essential element of the human condition,” she should have no difficulty in identifying clear doctrinal statements found in any one of the countless Hindu texts to the effect that, “Greed is good,” as Gordon Gekko would have us believe.  Or, at least, something near to this.

I am a staunch believer that no religion should be immune from criticism. But when we show such disdain for reason, truth, logic, facts, and objectivity all of which are essential to any scholastic enterprise, we are left with a person who is stoking the flames of ethnic animosity for which she has already been challenged in the past.  Yet, one is hopeful that Professor Gibson with her knowledge of Hinduism will favour us with some evidence that may justify her relentless attempt to disparage Hinduism.