Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Bribable Peoples

Tunisian protester against corruption
Tunisians take part in a demonstration on April 29, 2017 in Tunis after the parliament debated a bill that would grant amnesty to businessmen accused of corruption during Ben Ali’s rule. FETHI BELAID/ AFP

Hakim Marzouki

It is wrong to exonerate people from corruption on a basis of generalist, populist and vague quotes. Those have to know that there were many cities like Rome throughout history conspiring against their “Caesars”. Many societies entangled their rulers in a swamp of nepotism, distinction, and corruption in exchange for their silence!

Yes, there are people that governments can bribe. You can see this especially in the third world countries. Likewise, such a phenomenon occurs in corrupted regimes that continue to exist as long as corruption systems do. Such systems are the mere reason for having such regimes in the absence of a state of law. Moreover, these regimes depend on political feudalism, and sectarian, tribal and regional loyalty to ensure their legacy.

As the saying goes, stairs are “cleaned from the top”. However, societies are the cornerstone upon which states and civilizations are built. Throughout history, justice is the basis of governance and development. Nevertheless, corruption rots countries from the bottom. Though these countries used to look intact and firm, they fall out of the blue as a reason of corruption.

Corruption is like racism and other diseases of social origin. Such kind of phenomena is born on the boundaries of ideas. They grow out of instinct and psychological readiness. Prevailing culture either feeds corruption or limits its spread and exacerbation. In fact, those phenomena are connected to an ethical system that starts with family as the first educational entity. After that, they go further to reach various institutes of state and society.

Corruption remains a hindrance to development efforts in various countries as it drains peoples’ wealth and capabilities. Furthermore, corruption disrupts law and prevents development that contributes to improving the living conditions in societies. Corruption also works to undermine state-building projects. In fact, it is one of the most significant factors that turn states into failed ones and create a terrorism incubating environment.

Tunisia, for instance, has been suffering from a hellish triangle during the past years. This triangle includes terrorism, smuggling and tax evasion. In fact, this triple alliance is like a cancer that cannot be easily defeated without activating deterrent laws. None of these triangle’s edges would benefit from failing the other. In other words, corruption is a suitable sphere and a fertile soil for all social pests that cannot be blamed on the state alone.

Corruption cannot be resisted with laws and decisions only on paper. Rather, it is a war fought by countries on all fronts. Such wars are fought on educational and ethical levels where individuals should be held accountable. We cannot blame the legislative, executive, and judiciary authorities on that. The same applies to media given the role assigned to it.

We have to return to the slang proverb in Arab countries that says “Hey Pharaoh, who made you a Pharaoh? He replied ‘No one stopped me.’” Blaming governments is easy, behind which corrupts and victims, bribers and the bribed, rulers and the ruled alike can hide. However, addressing corruption is a task that requires bravery and selflessness. Unfortunately, these are qualities that are very distant from our society’s culture as the proverb says “feed the mouth, and the eye feels ashamed.”

Corruption in the Arab world causes woes of all kinds. In fact, it is a disease that laws cannot deter, given that the corrupt finds or creates loops for himself even if he is in the position of the legislator or the executive authority. Moreover, he feeds on the greed of simple people applying the saying “After me comes the flood”.

Thieves always prevail over those who seek reform. This is a rule proven by experiment and evidence all over the world, including developed countries. As a matter of fact, corruption has created defense mechanisms. By sticking to playing the carrots and sticks method, legal system cannot defeat corruption unless there is an internal resistance. This resistance should relate to a culture of a society that is saturated with moral values and represent an impermeable wall against corruption.

It is not an exaggeration to say that many peoples encourage their governments to engage in corruption either intentionally or otherwise. Tax evasion might be the best example for such a case. Examples also include other forms of civil disobedience and demanding compensation for grievances, especially in the “Arab Spring” countries. The Tunisian situation might represent an intense model for such a conspiracy on public money. It looks like as if the state is an enemy that must be constantly avenged through cheap methods of extortion. Those methods are practiced in the name of “legitimate public demands.”

Slogans and populist discourses have blinded us to the fact that people are not innocent of corruption. They use methods containing a lot of wordplays and twist the truth in the name of democracy and legitimate demands. This is ironic to the extent that those people might establish an association under the slogan of addressing corruption, while its members are engaged in corruption between each other.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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Mattia Yaghmai
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