“Is there anything more frightening than people?” ― Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster”.
A story about the dragon. In USSR there was one good cartoon named “the Dragon” showing the old folk tale from South-East Asia. In old times there lived one horrible dragon. From his inaccessible castle he ruled the entire country severely suppressing and robbing its population. Many brave warriors tried to kill the dragon, but he always defeated them. And then once a boy named Maung Tin, seeing how people suffered from the evil dragon and his greedy servants, departed to battle the beast. Old turtle gave a magic sword to the boy and told him the main secret: “it is not that difficult to defeat the Dragon, but more difficult is not to become it”. The last words of the dragon, before Maung Tin killed him, were “No, now you are the dragon”. It turned out that this dragon previously was a human who also wanted to release villagers, but turned into a dragon because of personal greed. The gold in the treasury appeared cursed – any person touching it became a horrible dragon.
If you want to know what happened to the boy in the end, I encourage you to watch the Dragon cartoon (in Russian). I think the moral of the tale is obvious for everyone. People, who want to change the world for better will have to gain power to do it. And by gaining power they become different people.
The history of the humankind. Another evidence that proves humans to be dangerous species comes not from folklore but from human history. From the appearance of Homo Sapience, the Earth have seen massive murders, famines, wars, apartheids, discriminations and humiliations of all sorts against the same Homo Sapience, not to talk of other living organisms. It is illustrated comprehensively in this small cartoon clip. Either consciously or unconsciously we, humans, have been doing it and there is no guarantee that we will stop. Historically humans used murders, slavery, and other forms of violence against others to protect own advantage (control certain resources).
And today, sophisticated corruption covered by manipulation of public opinion and protected by personal data protection laws could be one such other more liberal form to protect the same advantage.
Human biology. One could ask how come this is possible? We are those who follow religions, who respect truth, ethics, and integrity, who execute care and compassion. How come we steal and lie? The answer could be in our biological cocktail of thoughts, beliefs, emotions, as well as our unique abilities to communicate and act as a group (according to Yuval Noah Harari, a historian, philosopher and best-selling author). In two different times we could be totally different people driven by different hormones. We are psychological creatures, who have anger, jealousy, greed, loyalty, and many other negative emotional states can drive our decision-making in the moment.
With our (1) fight or flight response to the stress, our (2) reactions to even smallest dose of power, our (3) change of behavior when nobody watches we must admit that we are not reliable mechanisms for justice under the usual circumstances.
And how about institutions? There definitely should be something above humans. It could be a religion, a rule of law, strong institutions, technologies or something else. But what is better? Recently, I heard from multiple international organizations and missions in Ukraine that Ukraine needs strong institutions to be successful. Although that is an important factor, after seeing some anti-corruption bodies fail in Ukraine, I cannot agree that this is a major success factor. Institutions are run by people and people have flaws as described above. If we put ourselves (humans) in charge of eradicating corruption, let us be honest with ourselves, we will not succeed. So, I am not sure that anything carrying significant human factor (including institutions) will eradicate corruption. Even religions and the rule of law are subject to major subjective interpretations by humans.
Many nowadays say that one cannot eradicate corruption completely? So, are we doomed? No, I believe that every problem has a solution. It just depends on the timing to figure such solution out and implementation.
Today is the time. In our digital era humans can and should embody technology to grow transparency and plant right incentives in the society. One condition – such technology should be above humans. I will share with you how it can happen in the 2nd part of this post. Stay tuned.
Pavlo is a Counsel with a global FMCG company in a region of Ukraine, Caucasus and Moldova.
He got his LL.M. degree in International Business Law from Tilburg University, the Netherlands. He also graduated from Ukrainian university with a Master degree in Commercial Law.
Pavlo is an attorney at law admited to Ukrainian Bar, and a certified compliance professional (CCEP-I). Pavlo has been recognised in 2016 as the best Compliance Officer by one of the most reputable Ukrainian legal publisher (Yuridicheskaya practica).