Consumerism to Corruption

Arshid Malik

The levels of corruption run so deep in J&K that it is quite difficult to discern what is honest, decent earning and what is brought home by way of public plunder and loot. People, even though agitated by practises of corruption by government officials, have accepted these pseudo-norms as being part and parcel of life in general, more so because they are pushed into believing that nothing can be achieved at the government’s end without paying a bribe. While different governing regimes, at the state and the central levels, have been talking and doing quite a bit about uprooting corruption, not much has been achieved. Commissions and other vigilance organizations founded for the sole purpose of arresting corrupt practises at the state level have not been able to achieve much.

A few days back I was with a close friend of mine who happens to be a very qualified and efficient tax consultant. While we were sipping tea, a young man in his late 20s stepped into the office and my friend introduced him as his cousin. I came to know that 2 months back he got a job in state’s Commercial Taxes Department but he was very grumpy about it. The cause for his grumpiness was that he was not able to “earn” anything beyond his “petty” salary from the department. “Brother, I had heard that people working for the department earn a lot of “under the table” money, but I am thoroughly disappointed that no such thing has happened in my case,” he told him. So, in a nut shell, he was visiting to seek consultation for earning more than he was slated to earn by indulging in corruption. We could not helping laughing out loud. My consultant friend told him that there was no scope for advising him or offering him any consultation over the matter. When the disgruntled client left, my consultant friend informed me that almost every guy known to him who gets a government job, be it the post of a peon or that of an executive officer (and for that matter even those who make it through civil services examinations), wants to earn the “dirty penny”.

So, by all standards, corruption is a malaise effecting the whole lot of us and it is not going away easy. “Chai-paani” has come off age.

Besides the code of moral conduct and work ethics, which have withered down to tatters over the decades, it is mass consumerism that renders indulgence in corruption as a prerequisite to a “good” life with upscale tendencies. If we look at our needs while stepping a few decades back in time, we had meagre needs and supposedly a square meal would suffice but now that mass consumerism has stepped in our needs have increased manifold. Our needs are no longer limited to earning to feed our families; we now want to buy latest smartphones etc.  If we cannot afford it as per our normative incomes, we need to step out of the moral, upright stereotype and mint money. The 14 inch TV does not suffice as the idiot-box had surpassed into smarter versions expanding the screens to 100 inches and more.

We cannot do without a personal vehicle and most of us love to own heavy price tagged motor vehicle and one hardly suffices. The market is now accessible at our fingertips at the behest of online shopping portals and believe me people shop to kill time these days. Mass consumerism is an evil that has let all hell loose where our needs have extended into an arena which out rightly violates the boundaries of ethics, moral values and compassion.

I am not saying that mass consumerism is the sole reason which encourages corruption but it is a major factor. In all generality frugality has taken a back seat and our personas have mingled with the inanimate. We are a soulless generation of people who won’t hesitate from slaughtering humanity to bag that style and status, a hallmark of cosmetic affluence. So, I guess, corruption is here to stay lest we mend our ways.

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