By: Usep Abdul Matin
Religion teaches its adherents to control their own passions by empowering their reflection — a space between stimulus and response.
Being granted with this ability to meditate, human beings take a higher position than animals before God.
However, we are abusing the gifts given to us. What we instead choose to embrace is that which will bestow worldly profits upon us in the short-term: Corruption.
We are now locked into this condition, and yet our attitude remains positive: We are proud to be Indonesians, members of the world’s most populous Muslim nation; meanwhile corruption remains rampant.
But has this anything to do with religion? Corruption is similarly rampant in countries dominated by different religions. For example, the Philippines embraces Catholicism as its main religion.
Those religious believers who dabble in corruption, including bribery, are guilty of not listening to their consciences, the principles of which are formed by religion.
How can we strengthen willpower, and make the inner voice irresistible?
It is likely that at some stage in our lives we will be offered illegal money in exchange for services that are regular parts of our jobs.
The money is stimulus, our receiving it is a response. Between the stimulus and the response is a space. Here in this space lies the inner voice, which speaks to us softly. We can not go wrong if we listen to it.
When we ignore our inner voice, we instead focus on our thoughts, feelings and surroundings.
The inner voice is an original inspiration; something we are born with, whereas our ability to assess a situation with our brain depends on learned abilities.
A decision based on the inner voice is formed from the desire to improve one’s self, or to achieve personal enjoyment.
A decision based on the latter cycle of thought is formed from the desire for stimulus, including money, or for approval or attention from others.
However, there are those who attain the highest bureaucratic positions due to their innate honesty.
Unfortunately, this inborn integrity shrinks if they are rich.
This is evidenced by the fact that these people work not for self-fulfillment, as they had before, but to accumulate artificialities: More money and power. In such circumstances, people will keep continue on their path of corruption not out of fear of poverty, but rather out of a desire for man-made rewards.
We will call this a reduction of integrity — a result of over-justification.
Both judicious and conventional people are capable of over-justification. Judicious individuals are rational; they make the best of their experiences and organizational skills to arrange rules and procedures.
In this respect, they have reasons to argue against a guilty court decision in the face of clear evidence for their treachery.
Moreover, these judicious people are responsible for recruiting others who can look after their businesses.
These successors are traditional individuals. If the inner voice is the result of a common truth or religion then rational and traditional people therefore lack moral regulations to rein in their own ambitions and desires. For them, this religion has lost most of its power.
From my reading on such behavior as reported by the media, I have discerned that when those that over-justify their actions are caught and brought to the courthouse, they often try to deny their wrongdoings as a kind of knee-jerk response.
It is as if they regard their hearing as their due right to appeal to the higher court. They do not consider their misfortune to be a result of their not having listened to the inner voice of their souls.
In fact, this defensive attitude consciously or unconsciously leads these people to conclude that they have become the victims of bad luck. Therefore, they are still not inclined to listen to their inner spirits.
In the interim, this shielding mind-set does not teach them that the hardship they face is a latent consequence of their defending their own dishonesties before judges.
Thus we can conclude: For a person who does not feel constrained by laws, all laws and limitations that do present themselves will appear intolerable.
Therefore, Indonesians should celebrate their countries’ 63rd independence day anniversary by limiting the desires that encourage them to react in this way.
Otherwise, corruption will increase in Indonesia, along with other illnesses, including radicalism and terrorism.
Becoming proactive will also help us to better hear the voices of our inner hearts — which will never be wrong.
Embracing this policy is essential for any one who confesses himself an Indonesian and recalls what his founding fathers did to liberate this country and to create a society with a better bureaucratic system, democracy and education system.
So corruption is independent of religion, but it is the nature of our political system to restrict our desires to those of our inner spirits.
The writer obtained an MA degree in Islamic Studies at Leiden University, Holland, and another at Duke University, the U.S. He can be reached at email@example.com