Basil Jarrett | The power of sunlight: Combatting corruption
AT 93 MILLION miles away from us, the sun is the closest star to Earth. And while your mind boggles just trying to imagine just how near or how far 93 million miles is, the heat that we’ve been feeling for the last couple of weeks is enough to make you think that the sun is right next door in your neighbour’s yard. It has been exceedingly hot the past few weeks, at least here in Kingston. Accompanying the heat are some long, bright sunny days, typical for this time of year.
But aside from keeping the sellers of fans, AC units and bottled water in business, there is another often overlooked benefit of sunlight and heat. With the exception of certain organisms with specific metabolic processes, light is essential for life. Conversely, in the absence of that light, most living things simply wither and die.
But note, I said ‘most things’. Because in the deep and hidden recesses of the natural world where light is absent, a silent network of parasites thrives and flourishes in the darkness. Parasitic fungi – living organisms with the unique ability to silently penetrate the outer defences of their host and derive sustenance at their expense – are able to thrive in these dark environments. Free from scrutiny, examination and interference, parasitic fungi reproduce and replicate through spores, spreading their toxic seeds and ultimately leading to the demise of their hosts.
A DRAIN ON SOCIETY
Much like these insidious organisms, corruption lurks in the obscure corners and underbelly of society, spreading its influence through intricate networks and choking the life out of the very fabric of our democratic society. Corruption, like fungi, operates stealthily, thrives on secrecy, and loves the darkness. And just as fungi can quietly penetrate and permeate the soil, corrupt elements also find their way into the foundations of our society, infecting institutions, governments, and social structures. Corruption breeds scepticism, erodes trust in our leaders, and perpetuates a cycle of moral decay. To say nothing of how it robs us of critical resources and social infrastructures.
Like fungi, corrupt individuals and entities latch onto the vulnerable among us, redirecting resources, power, and trust for personal gain, while weakening society and compromising the overall health and stability of our democracy.
But in the same way that fungi abhor sunlight, corruption also thrives where transparency and accountability are absent. Here in Jamaica today, where there is a constant battle against corruption in the public sector, the absence of light leads to the death of truth and justice. If we are to combat this menace, we must harness the power of that light, exposing corruption to the public eye and leaving its purveyors in open disgrace. In that regard, I am a big fan of naming and shaming.
Transparency International, a global movement against corruption, stands as a staunch advocate for shining a light on corruption and its devastating effects on society. But more must be done locally, especially when our corruption index score leaves so much to be desired. To my mind, the lowest rung to clear is the use of public exposure as a key tool in combatting public-sector corruption in Jamaica.
UNVEILING THE SHADOWS
You see, corruption thrives in the shadows, taking advantage of secrecy and lack of accountability. Its impact on our fate as a country is well known. In this regard, Jamaica isn’t unique, as many other nations face similarly significant challenges in combatting corruption. However, the power of light, represented here by transparency and public exposure, has the potential to transform that fight in a tangible way. Transparency is the key to holding our public officials accountable. It ensures that decisions are made in the best interests of society, and not for the well-connected and well-heeled. Implementing robust transparency measures, such as stronger public access to information laws, allows the public to scrutinise the actions of public officials and detect potential corruption. By shining a light on their activities, transparency empowers citizens to demand ethical behaviour and integrity from those in positions of leadership.
THE ROLE OF WHISTLE-BLOWERS
Whistle-blowers also have a crucial role to play in exposing corruption and safeguarding the public interest. Those courageous individuals who step forward to reveal wrongdoing, often do so at great personal risk and must be encouraged, commended and protected at all costs. I would even go as far as to say that more should be done to support and reward them for their bravery. So, too, should our media watchdogs be protected and empowered. An independent and vibrant media acts as a powerful safeguard, uncovering corruption and bringing it to the public’s urgent attention. Journalists have a massive role to play in exposing wrongdoing, investigating corrupt practices, and ensuring that our public officials are held accountable. A free press is therefore essential to maintaining a healthy democracy and curbing corruption and so, it is imperative that media outlets have the necessary resources, legal protection, and freedom to fulfil their vital role as agents of transparency.
BUILDING A CULTURE OF INTEGRITY
All of this is for naught, however, if we fail to build a culture of integrity as a base requirement for combatting corruption. Public education and awareness campaigns must be conducted to help develop and foster ethical behaviour, instil values of honesty and transparency, and empower citizens to reject corruption. Perhaps we may need to even consider formally teaching these values at all levels of our school system. There is also room for us to draw inspiration and support from global organisations, like Transparency International, which work tirelessly to combat corruption worldwide. International collaboration allows for the exchange of best practices, knowledge sharing, and capacity-building. By learning from successful anti-corruption initiatives in other countries, Jamaica can enhance its own efforts to create a transparent and accountable public sector.
The parallel between fungi and corruption underscores the importance of vigilant introspection in our societies. We must acknowledge that, much like the natural world, darkness and corruption are willing bedfellows. But by shining a light on the hidden recesses, we can uproot corruption, break its parasitic influence, and foster a society that thrives on transparency, integrity, and justice. Only through such a deliberate and dedicated effort will the power of light prevail as a truly transformative agent of change in this struggle.
Major Basil Jarrett is a communications strategist and CEO of Artemis Consulting, a communications consulting firm specialising in crisis communications and reputation management. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.