This is the 3rd place winning essay in TI Cambodia’s Essay Writing Contest. By Thlang Chiva.
Every time we hear or describe Cambodia as a corrupt nation, we are not referring far beyond ourselves. Most of us, if not everyone, has been involved in some form of corruption, at least by not doing anything about it. So much has been emphasized on the role of us youth in fighting corruption, but why are we still not strong enough to break through it? We all have similar complaints and frustrations over corrupt acts and their evil consequences. But why couldn’t we establish a shared action countering its existence? The reasons lie in our untapped power which is trapped by the deficiency of individual values and the fragility of common interests. Therefore, the key is to rebuild our values and be a responsible citizen starting today.
Let’s start by doing a self-reflection. Calling ourselves Cambodian youth simply means we are nearly or over 20 years old, and have been exposed to countless acts of corruption. Some of them have become social norms we practice every day unknowingly. Do you intend to get a government job with exploitable hours for another private job? When facing a conflict, do you automatically think of powerful relatives or friends who can back you? Do you decide on a supplier contract who are your relatives without serious evaluation against other bids? Do you wish to make profits from business regardless of ethics and legality? Do you prepare $10 for commune staff to get your ID card faster? This is petty corruption, but once increased in size and hierarchy, the results are socially and economically destructive. A company staff member and a minister might commit the same form of corruption based on the same mentality. That is why we have to start with individual values and the basics. If only we can establish a default value of “taking only what we are ethically, legally and professionally capable of”, we will feel ashamed to be involved in corruption and automatically say “NO” to it.
Let’s act on the basics. Nobody is perfect. Discipline ourselves and start working on it from today. It is difficult to tell how, but we should align our actions towards honesty, fairness, ethic, and legality. At least develop your academic and professional capacity so that you can fulfill your own wants without affecting others’ benefits. But don’t be ignorant! We cannot escape from the society we belong to or eliminate our identity. We must realize that corruption in our time will curse future generations resulting in social fragility, poverty, environmental destruction, and more. Corruption is an enemy of social well-being, talent, opportunity, and political freedom. Even worse, could it be a threat to the existence of our nation in a few centuries?
Participate on the ground. If you feel it difficult to start change on your own, participate in community service, anti-corruption campaigns, or any other public events promoting fairness, equality, and justice. Volunteering in community services, of any form, for some time can increase your desire to act for common interests while reducing your selfishness, the main root of corruption. Individual community participation can bring us together on the same platform projecting our power against corruption. Also, the simplest form of contribution is to be sensitive to corrupt acts and respond by making creative and artful criticism to discourage corrupt practices. Last, but compulsory, is that we must contribute to rebuilding this society by instilling anti-corruption mentality into our little brothers, sisters, and children because working against corruption is a multi-generational effort.
Corruption in our society is deep-rooted, and thus requires enormous action. But it always starts with our individual values and actions.