Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Effects of Modern Technology on Corruption in Developing Countries

Cause and effect relationships can sometimes be difficult to establish with certainty. This is particularly true when a particular effect has several causes that converge to produce it. On the other hand, in this series of articles, I have been focused on the different effects produced by one pair of connected causes: modern technology and modern technological environments. And I have focused on these causes as if they were the only major causes producing all the different effects being discussed. In fact, each different effect I discuss would have a different bundle of causes - some short-term, some long-term, some immediate and some remote. To try and enumerate all the causes for each effect would lead to diluting the focus I am trying to create on how modern technology and modern technological environments can have a major influence on so many disparate situations within the human field of experience.

I bring all this up now, because I am about to suggest some connections between modern technology and other displays of human behavior that, on the suface, may not appear obvious at all. In the cases under discussion, I do not presume that modern technology is the initial cause of the behavior, but rather that it exacerbates a pre-existing pattern of behavior that is somehow accepted by the culture in which it appears, even if not formally approved.

Corruption is a problem that has been surging over the last few decades in many developing countries. The people involved deal with a whole range of different activities. Among these are shady business deals involving bribes and kickbacks; the production, transport and marketing of drugs; kidnapping; and human trafficking. With regard to human trafficking, people who believe that slavery has been pretty much eliminated in our modern enlightened world should think again.

I want to explore corruption within the context of my theories on imprints. Over the years, one interesting idea that has been suggested is a correlation between creativity and corruption. Although one might think that these are two very different phenomena, both deal with reconfiguring established realities. Creativity focuses on reconfiguring and recombining the components of the sensory and cognitive realities, while corruption focuses on reconfiguring and recombining the components of the moral reality - the established moral rules of a society.

A creative approach to the world deals, to a great extent, with continual stimuli and with merging and blending grounded phenomena . This is very different from the more mechanistic approach of modern technology, which focuses principally on discrete stimuli and on well-delineated figures. Modern technology is more in sync with traditional moral rules which were means by which people gave themselves self-definition in the more undifferentiating traditional organic living environments in which they used to dwell. I have previously discussed how strict applications of traditional moralities in modern technological environments tend to make people more robotic. What I haven’t explored is the possibility that some cultures mold people in such a way that they are more resistant and antagonistic to robotizing influences.

There are cultures where most people like to recreate their world every day of their lives. These people love primary experiences, love the opportunity to make and receive new imprints to feel alive, and see excessive routine and order as an obstacle to these purposes. These people may include innovators in the humanities, but they do not tend to be innovators in the creation of technological devices that take away their opportunities to be innovative in their daily flow of life activity. Although they utilize the technology provided them as members of the 21st century, these people continue with their strong community and family relationships and their strong direct engagement with the external world in general. So there is an implicit conflict between the increasing mediation of human experience provided by advances in technology on the one hand, and the desire of these people for a more traditional organic involvement with their fields of experience on the other hand. In other words, people from these more traditional cultures tend to be more disconnected from the modern technological environments that have been given them.

One reaction particular to them is to reinforce their creative approach to life in as many different ways as possible. And here I am not talking about creating art or literature or music necessarily. A lot of people aren’t artistic in this sense. However, technological processes implicitly enforce certain more rigid patterns on human behavior, as people become more and more involved with modern machines. Many people from more traditional societies rebel against these increasing behavioral restraints from technology by finding other opportunities for more open behavior that are not so rigidly controlled by established rules. In public society, this can involve breaking and bending legal rules through corrupt interactions between people both in the government and in the private sector. Corrupt practices like bribes, kickbacks and illegal businesses not only allow people to make easy money, but they also allow them to reinforce their human essence by operating outside of established rigid legal rules that seem to mimic the rigid patterns for conduct of machines, computers and robots. In a certain way, corruption becomes a vehicle for liberation from what some of these more traditional people perceive as an overly rigid constraining mechanical order.

Corruption also creates the opportunity for making and receiving meaningful imprints on the organic surfaces of other people. At a time when modern technological environments provide few available organic experiential surfaces on which to make, preserve and receive meaningful organic imprints, corrupt practices allow for doing this through disruptive damaging imprints. Corruption is an imprint that can be left in spite of technological sensory distortion.

Certainly corruption has been around in human culture since way before the industrial revolution, let alone the computer revolution. Corruption has been a means for people to make and receive very intense although disruptive and damaging imprints long before the development of modern technology. For these people, the ability to bend and break established social and legal rules with impunity gave them an intense charge from the risk involved as well as a high from the sense of entitlement involved.

But now there is the added dimension that modern technology creates a social and physical environment where the opportunities for freer more creative behavior, for a rich vibrant life, and for meaningful imprints are greatly diminished in comparison with pre-industrial society. For people in more traditional societies, corruption takes on a greater importance as one of the few outlets available to live a more organic life.

Some of my readers may interpret this analysis as a form of support for corrupt behavior, a form of approval for immoral behavior. I would like to assure people that I do not approve of corrupt behavior, and that I would rather that people involve themselves in more moral forms of vibrant creative behavior like constructive interactions with other people in dates, encounters, celebrations and parties and like participation in the humanities. Or simply try to infuse creativity and vibrance in everyday life by constantly finding ways to do routine activities in different ways. That being said, I do accept the fact that corruption has played an integral role since the beginning of human society for the reasons I have stated and that it has a special role for more traditional societies living in modern technological environments.

Obviously, the effects of the corruption of these traditional cultures spill over into cultures that have fully embraced modern technology and propelled them forward. The freedom obtained by drug production and marketing in more traditional societies is a freedom that helps people in modern technological societies defend themselves against technological sensory distortion through the destructive consumption of drugs (although drug consumption has spread through drug producing cultures as well, providing another means to help these cultures deal with their own technological sensory distortion). But to the extent that a concerted effort is made to diminish drug consumption both in developed and developing countries, there will also have to be a focus on some of these more subtle causes behind the rise of the illegal drug business. And there will have to be a greater understanding of the role corruption, in general, plays today in more traditional societies.

© 2012 Laurence Mesirow

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