August 22, 2009
I leave for school tomorrow, which means my summer has (after tonight) officially come to an end. Given that it has been quite the summer and I probably will not have much in the way of exciting news to blog about in the coming school year, I thought I should take a moment to wrap up this blog.
Though this may seem unconnected I would like to start this post by revisiting corruption: Last time I wrote about or really thought about the issue of corruption I was sitting next to Cailey bemoaning the obvious corruption in the Nepalese police force. “At least the U.S. doesn’t have problems like that,” I thought even as I continued to be disheartened by the health care debates raging on this side of the Atlantic.
While on a security line in Doha I happened to be standing next to a Princeton Professor who was doing work on what kind of aid measures actually work. In an attempt to produce a soundbyte of decent intellectual quality I mentioned the blatant corruption that I had heard about and witnessed. The professor was not impressed and was quick to point out that we have corruption in the US as well, we’re just better at hiding it. Though I agreed, it did seem that at least on a basic local level our government appears to be doing something right. Unfortunately when we got to the end of the security line our conversation ended and we went in different directions. Happy thoughts of going home quickly pushed out thoughts governments and corruption.
I did not give the subject much more thought until I began reading Stiglitz “Making Globalization Work.” If it was not already, it quickly became obvious that I am not the first westerner interested in development to have been struck by the obviousness of government corruption in developing countries. As Stiglitz writes, there is in fact an enormous focus on corruption throughout the developing world. However he also writes the the corruption of campaign contributions by major corporations is larger and perhaps “more insidious to democratic processes than the petty but more pervasive corruption involving small bribes to government officials,” (pg 55). Additionally he goes on to say that when government salaries are high/adequate this kind of corruption is quickly extinguished.
Upon reading his words I realized that though first hand observations are an invaluable part of my learning process, there is also a need for background research. In this particular case I need to think more deeply about the implications of corruption in developing AND in developed countries. I consider myself to be fairly well traveled and well-educated but over the course of my time in India I was struck again and again by how much I did not know. Often I would think I understood something after a quick glance at a situation, “my observations are so revealing and insightful,” I thought after my first week in India. Of course the more I immersed myself in the culture and issues, the more I was forced to realize that I understood much less than I had originally thought. There are of course a number of different ways in which a person can learn about an issue and I am exceptionally lucky in that this summer I have been in an environment where opportunities for learning abound. My first hand observations have opened my eyes to a culture and way of living in a way no book ever could. However I also appreciate the books I have read (and will read in the future) as they provide me with a context in which to understand new surroundings. In writing and receiving feedback from people much wiser than myself I have learned much more than I would have otherwise. A very large thank you to the CPGC for not only funding my summer in India but also for providing me with a space to write about it. I would also like to send out a very big thank you to anyone who has read or commented. Though my insights may not have always been “correct” per se, I do hope this blog gave you something to think about or was interesting in one way or another.