A revolution can either explode or implode, but it can’t do both. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Revolution exploded when the rage of people shattered old regimes and installed new ones. The most recent example of implosive revolution is the Arab Spring that collapsed violently inward after toppling a few old regimes but failing to create any of its own. A simple illustration entails the difference. The successful revolution is an explosive hurled at targets; the failed one is that which explodes in the thrower&’s hand.
In his book The Rebel, Albert Camus argues that there has not yet been a revolution in the course of history. He said what has happened is rebellion and then distinguished between the two phenomena. Rebellion kills men, while revolution destroys both men and principles.
It&’s because every revolution devours its own children. Power struggle turns the revolutionaries against each other, before the revolution loses its focus. In the end, children also devour their revolution due to lust for power, lack of vision or error in judgment. That explains why the Arab Spring must have fizzled out like torrents reduced to a drizzle.
These days the drizzle of the Arab Spring is falling in nonArab countries. Every Friday since last May, thousands of Hondurans have been marching with torches to protest against corruption at the highest levels of their government. The Guatemalans have been doing it every Saturday since April this year. Political analysts are calling it the Central American Spring.
Thus the spirit of the Arab Spring is still giving off sparks. The first of these sparks was ignited by a vegetable vendor in Tunisia who set himself alight to protest against the corruption of municipal officials. Two weeks ago that protest had a more creative manifestation in Afghanistan when artists painted a blast wall outside Kabul&’s presidential palace with a huge pair of eyes in bright, almost psychedelic colors. Alongside the eyes, a slogan reads: “Corruption cannot be hidden from God or from the people”. In faraway Zambia, billboards are gently exhorting the public to say no to corruption.
More than anything, corruption has been a silent disaster. Experts claim that if not for corruption, the GDP growth in Bangladesh could pick up another two per cent. Corruption hurts people&’s life besides being morally wrong.
Nicholas Ambraseys of Imperial College London and Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado at Boulder have established the connection. They show that the extent of corruption tells us not only about poverty in a country but also about the consequences of earthquakes. Their study found that an earthquake of a given magnitude is more devastating where corruption is more virulent.
Because, bribes make it possible in highly corrupt societies for buildings to be thrown up without regard for codes and regulations. When shaken by earthquakes, these buildings are completely obliterated, killing their inhabitants. For example, the earthquake that measured 7.0 on the standard scale in Haiti in 2010 killed more than 300,000 people, while a magnitude of 8.8 earthquake in the same year killed fewer than 1,000 people in Chile.
One of the interesting sides of corruption is that it follows the same bulk rate for crime that is followed by the postal service for mail. The petty crimes are punished, but big ones are given concessions. That explains why corruption doesn’t spur the indignation it should. In hugely corrupt societies, people even forget corruption is wrong for the same reason fish don’t drown in water. The corrupt mind creates its own logic, before that logic creates its own mind.
In fact, corruption is the generic name for crimes, which are known by their brand names: theft, robbery, pimping and extortion. Every corrupt person commits at least one of these crimes, some committing more or all of them. Bribery being a combination of theft and extortion, commission is robbery, embezzlement is theft, solicitation is pimping, influence peddling is pimping mixed with extortion, and blackmailing is extortion in its more sinister form. If these are the methods of corruption, its scope includes abuse of discretion, favouritism, nepotism and clientelism.
Revolutions always erupt against decadence, which is moral or cultural decline characterised by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury. Corruption is a barometer of that decline showing how a nation degenerates at its own expense. Whether a revolution explodes or implodes depends on the depth of that degeneration. When the infection goes beyond the ruling class, a nation loses its strength to seek renewal like trees cannot be transplanted once roots are deep into the ground.
The Occupy Movement is another revolution that in recent times lost its momentum before running its course. Corruption destroys principles taking men to its logical conclusion. They can only kill each other because the principles they destroy are also destroying them.
THE DAILY STAR/ANN