Understanding the Spirituality of Officials Convicted of Corruption

Farihatul Qamariyah | Thesis Review | CRCS

Thesis title : Understanding the Spirituality of Officials Convicted of Corruption: Case  Study of Wirogunan Prison
Author : Tjong Lio Ie (CRCS, 2013)
Indonesia is known as a country which is great in dealing with spirituality and religiosity in the society life experiences. Based on the World Values Survey (2005-2009), Indonesia ranked as the 15th highest in Spiritual Index among 45 countries in the world.  Paradoxically, Indonesia is also ranked as a country involved in the listing committed case of corruption. The evidence is Indonesia‘s ranking as 111th out of 180 countries in the world surveyed in 2009 in the release ofannual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International (TI).  By looking at this case, the stream of initial assumption is that spiritually strong people will never commit an act of corruption. Conversely in the actual fact, the case of Indonesia, however, brings on questions of law-enforcement, ethics, religion, spirituality and their relation in daily activities.

The thesis Understanding the Spirituality of Officials Convicted of Corruptiontakes the case study of three officials convicted of corruption who are currently imprisoned at Wirogunan Prison, Taman Siswa, Yogyakarta. The primary concern of the research is to examine the connection between spirituality and corruption by focusing on the life experiences of three mid-level Indonesian civil servants currently serving prison terms following convictions of moderate-level corruption.

This research consequently comes to some critical questions regarding this fact. Why can one of the most spiritual countries in the world also be one of the most corrupt? Do spiritual values have nothing to do with corruption? Is there any spiritual transformation in the most spiritual countries as their Corruption Perceptions Index shows the highest (meaning the worst) in the world? Answering the list of these questions, the author applies a local approach grounded in the experiences of civil servants who face charges of corruption.

The author applies a qualitative method and uses a social constructionist approach to have an overview in understanding the discourse of relation between corruption and spirituality. To obtain the data, semi -structured questionnaires and in-depth interviews were used by the author.

In deciding on the three corruptors as the respondents, the author focussed on those in managerial positions of as lurah or mid-level civil servants. This position is where the power of the positionmight be abused. Of his three respondents, one is Christian and two of them are Muslim. Before doing the participatory observation and direct interview session, the agreement and disclaimer were made to keep their identitiessecret.

To see the connection between spirituality and corruption, the author firstly puts a context of defining spirituality, corruption, meaning, and otherconceptual terms in use in this research. This research uses a survey method of Spirit at Work Scale (SAWS) by Kinjerski&Skrypnekemphasizing at the four distinctive factors of man‘s spirituality:  (1) engaging work, (2) sense of community, (3) spiritual connection, and (4) mystical experience. These surveys were further followed with written and oral interviews about both their responses to the categories of the SAWS questionnaire and then about their life stories,covering both their experiences at the time of the acts for which they have been convicted and of dealing with the suffering of imprisonment.

Since this research emphasizes its concern on evaluating a meaning, the author uses the tools of spirituality, religion, and psychology as the point of view to examining the case of corruptors and their life.  Through the spirituality and religion, men can interpret their life experiences in the context of suffering, death, and transcendence. Finding a meaning is a significant element since it is the way how men can survive and pass the hardship moments. In psychology as an addition, men can find a meaning of their experience on suffering if they look to the future. Therefore, these three points of view in looking at the case of the corruptors and how they deal with their case on suffered situation are very important.

In an illustration for the conceptual discussion above, man can bear any sufferings because he is promised an eternal life in heaven by religions. In psychological context, man is required to become selfless if he is in need of psychological health. There is a sense of future expectation in both reward forward. According to AuschwitzFrankl (1963, P.107), man has to become selfless to find meaning in suffering.

In relation with this case, committing corruption against selfless mode because it means self-gratification. Self-gratification in Freud’s statement is the main characteristic of id that always competes with super ego to take control of the ego. To some extent, a selfless mode leads man to the way of finding meaning while self-centered one leads man to meaningless life. Hence, both religion (spirituality) and psychology adopt the same mode of selfless to find meaning in life.

The position of spirituality is very significant for the corruptors’ life experiences in overcoming their suffered situation. The respondents’ life story and confession have come to a point of examining whether a spirituality is interplayed or not in looking at the case concerned. The findings through the research questions show that there is a kind of strong connection betweenthe need of spirituality in coping suffering in the context of corruptors’ prison experience. Based on the author’s findings in relation with the connection of spirituality and the cases of corruption he makes several arguments.

First, all the corruptors as the respondents of this research possessed a strong spirituality when they were the leaders at their office. This answer is obtainedfrom the SAWS survey method from the measurement of some points such as the spirituality, cognitive, interpersonal, spiritual, and mysticaldimensions. Second, the respondents failed to make balanced act in practicing their spirituality at work. This case is due to their ethical and practical consideration which neglect the critical comprehension of the laws. The respondents‘ premise that corruption is basically about enriching oneself is prevalent which shows the great emphasis on togetherness above individuality. To some extent, it is their unthoughtfulness and lack of professionalism which have caused them to be imprisoned as corruptors. Third, spirituality plays a significant role for them to survive the hardship of imprisonment. The three of them even gained spiritual transformation and found meaning from this situation. Last, the suffered situation initiates them to take a repentance as an inward change that is gotten from the idea of solitude. As mentioned before, the respondents’ score of spiritual assessment showed a high score, it helps them to repent without difficulty.

In addition, the author emphasizes his notion on the concept of solitude as an important gate to the account of spiritual transformation. He strengthens his assumption by stating that solitude is the answer where people have to face the atmosphereunthoughtfulness produced by modernity. Solitude in its actualization deals with the context of practice in the daily life. The act of solitude can help people to be aware more on what they are doing of their actions.

The respondents‘ life experiences demonstrate the importance of going through solitude as the spiritual gate to experience penitentiary and being born twice. Solitude is also the psychological gate for man to become selfless, find meaning in life and get motivated.