Picking up from the ideas in my Who Has the Power? article, I want to write about an important aspect of harnessing our personal power together with others in order to create a society that works for all. Obviously, society does not work for all at this point in the evolution of human beings, but why is that?
It comes down to one word: corruption. Corruption typically is associated with money influencing public policy. Many of the problems that we experience collectively, if not personally, are a result of public policies that favor wealthy campaign contributors over the general population. For instance, pollution is rampant because governments allow, if not favor, the production of various products that directly or indirectly pollute the environment. Poverty is increasing because governments encourage the flow of money toward a relatively small number of corporations mainly through tax regulations, subsidies, mandates (such as requirements to have insurance) or laws designed to obscure information that would discourage the public from buying certain products (such as laws to prohibit the straightforward labelling of genetically modified foods). There are many more examples of corruption and the interesting thing about the examples that I gave is that they are forms of legal corruption. So, corruption is more than merely breaking the law in order to make a buck.
In fact, I see corruption as more rampant than a few corrupt politicians or a few laws that favor the rich. We have corrupt governments because we the people are corrupt citizens! What I mean by that is that many of us place great importance on money in our lives. Some display corruption when they act in a stingy or greedy manner. Others show corruption when they are struggling to survive and feel forced to focus much of their attention on making or saving every penny they can. Both of these cases differ from the traditional examples of corruption in that instead of being motivated to gain political power, they are concerned with attaining personal power within a societal context.
That’s not all. Corruption needn’t be limited to acquiring money. In the broadest sense, corruption occurs whenever a person deviates from being authentic. Examples of corrupt action that have nothing to do with money are when someone follows an immoral law, yields to peer pressure or succumbs to manipulation. In the case of following an immoral law, the legal system uses a threat of punishment in order to get people to do things they might not want to do naturally. In the cases of peer pressure and manipulation, the threat of social isolation is a prime motivator for suppressing authentic expression in favor of conformity to a particular standard.
It seems to me that there are two forms of peer pressure: concrete and abstract. Concrete peer pressure is demonstrated whenever a person feels compelled to act in a certain way in order to avoid social isolation. Examples of this type of peer pressure include keeping up with the latest fashion and incessantly attending parties where drinking is the main event. Abstract peer pressure, on the other hand, is exhibited whenever a person feels compelled to think in a certain way in order to avoid social isolation. This type of peer pressure involves embracing unexamined traditional beliefs, be they religious, philosophical, political or scientific in nature.
Now that we have looked at how a person can become corrupt in the broadest sense, it becomes apparent that we all contribute to the existence of corruption in the world simply by not being authentic. The next thing to ask is, “How can I be authentic right now?” To answer this question, you have to be brutally honest with yourself without condemning yourself. The purpose of this self-examination is to transform destructive ways of being into constructive ways of being; shaming yourself for engaging in unconscious, corrupt behavior merely focusses on the problem instead of the solution.
I have found from personal experience that other people can be helpful in determining whether you are being authentic or not. By considering the thoughts of others who might have drastically different ideas from what you are used to, you gain a new perspective that makes it easier to question the validity of your own beliefs and worldview. If you see your religion, philosophy or scientific paradigm as the absolute truth or if you see that your political party can do no wrong, you are keeping yourself imprisoned in a mindset that will keep you from understanding who you are. After all, self-discovery is a never-ending process that deepens our understanding of that on-going mystery which is at the core of our being. As we allow this process to unfold naturally, we effortlessly learn more about ourselves and become more authentic.
As a result, becoming more authentic is a gift to the universe by the universe which created us. Hence, acting authentically is our life’s purpose. Because we are all connected in the deepest sense, to deny our life’s purpose denies the world of your gifts and results in the suffering of all to one degree or another. This is why corruption is something that we naturally frown upon whenever we see it. A few benefit from it at the expense of the many. Corruption reveals an absence in the awareness that we are all connected and that our mere existence was designed to enhance all life in some way. If this were not the case, how could you even be here reading this article?
It is one thing to identify corruption in yourself; it is another thing to actually transform the corrupt thinking and behavior into those which are authentic. Becoming authentic is not a trivial task. It is often scary and it takes practice because we typically are replacing an old way of being with a new way. Until the new way becomes second nature, the old habitual way of being can always return. Therefore, if you are determined to be the authentic person you were born to be, you must undertake the moment-to-moment discipline to confront your fears that discourage you from making the change that you desire to make.
Corruption in the world begins and ends with you! If you do not acknowledge corruption in yourself and others, you encourage it everywhere. So, continually ask yourself if you are being authentic in the moment. If you are, great! If not, what can you do to become authentic here and now? The more of us that get in the habit of doing this regularly, the less we will witness corruption out in the world and the more we will enhance each other in our day-to-day living, thereby creating a world that works for us all!