A certain politician in the Virgin Islands enjoys pontificating on national news and social media about how we got here to this sad place. The great man is clearly intelligent and thoughtful. However, he fails to look in the mirror.
For all the pontificating on corruption — even making apologies for past misconduct — all is charade if there is no true change in national morality. The lesson from countries battling with corruption and crime is that there is no true change without a change in the national mindset. And this change is very difficult to achieve.
Corruption begins in the heart and mind. Corruption and dishonesty are personal choices. When did the rot set in for the Virgin Islands? Some will assert that it happened at the change from an agrarian community to a tourism- and financial services-based economy.
Once upon a time, the VI was a truly God-fearing community. Post-slavery and the plantation, religion was a core component of community. It still is.
Today there has been an explosion in church building. However, is the fear of God still part of the community’s DNA? In religious societies that are deteriorating morally, why has religion not been an influence on morality? That is a rhetorical question left to the reader to decide.
Morality in the VI is religion and church, not any personal moral code. However, morality has never been worse, with the explosion in single-parent homes, gun crime, and fraud.
In countries like Venezuela and Nigeria, observers will pontificate that the countries went south after the prosperity and easy money culture started by oil discovery.
Countries that grew prosperous over many decades of a slow hard slog up the mountain to the Promised Land were able to adapt better to affluence, with successes better absorbed by institutions, society and culture. The preceding is simple hypothesis, of course — even fairy tale.
The fact is no one knows why some countries become corrupt to the point of national disaster and crisis and others are able to absorb prosperity with good governance and civil institutions and structures that work well.
Countries in Northern Europe tend to be far less corrupt than countries further south. Is there a geographical component to corruption? The answer must be no. Russia is a northern Eurasian country that is one of the most corrupt nations on earth. Canada is on the same latitudes. Canada is far less corrupt than Russia.
Simple observation will show that there may be two factors in the corruption debacle: history and government. Corrupt countries tend to show a clear history of corruption beginning at the inception of organised rule. Southern and Central American countries show a vast culture of corruption, for instance, as do countries in post-colonial Africa. This culture has never abated. It has been the sibling of tyranny and the cult of the strongman.
Is there something inherent in black and third-world culture that drives corruption? That is a controversial and even upsetting question. However, countries ruled by black leaders with black populations appear to be more corrupt than white or Caucasian societies. Countries further south are much more corrupt than northern European countries that possess the best quality of life in the world.
The preceding assertions are all simple observation and speculation. However, these questions are worth asking.
Why would a VI blessed with billions of dollars in national revenues over the past 30 years be grappling with runaway corruption and crime today to the point of national crisis? Why is Nigeria, a country that has enjoyed hundreds of billions of dollars of oil revenues, termed the poverty capital of the world? Why is Venezuela in freefall after possessing billions of barrels of oil within its borders?
On the other hand, why do countries with far less wealth and fewer natural resources than these countries enjoy some of the highest standards of living in the world, with low levels of corruption and mismanagement?
The preceding is worth pondering.
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