Adam and Eve’s tale of corruption

HAVE you joined the Rasuah Busters anti-corruption movement, or are you too busy with your family and worklife to notice?

Rasuah Busters, founded by Karangkraf Media Group chairman Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub, made a springing start last month with a splash of media publicity.

The rollout was all the more impressive with a viral Mak Kata Jangan (Mother Says No) video clip in three versions – Malay, Cantonese, and Tamil – featuring a mother who felt disgusted upon finding graft money in her son’s possession.

Do you feel equally disgusted? The way a person reacts to corruption depends on the judgment he makes over personal good and social evil.

The contest between personal good and social evil is a fundamental religious issue, and hence it is very surprising that there is no joint statement by major religious groups championing the Rasuah Busters movement.

The religious view of corruption is that it is a fatal malaise striking at the heart of our society – a lesson brought out by the world-famous story of Adam and Eve.

This story appears in the Torah scriptural collection (also part of the Bible) right after the account of planet earth’s creation.

God placed the couple in a garden and instructed them to avoid one tree.

“You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.”

Eve remembers God saying, “Don’t eat from it, don’t even touch it or you’ll die.”

In the ancient Jewish language of this story the word “knowledge” in such a context refers to having an experience and not theoretical knowledge, as we understand the word today.

Do note that the name of the tree is Knowledge of Good and Evil, and not Good versus Evil. The implication is that good and evil are so often paired.

The story has a talking serpent deceiving Eve into eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

“Eating the fruit” in Jewish idiom has similar connotations to the Cantonese expression “sik lui”, which means eating money.

When God warns Adam and Eve that they will die if they eat or touch the fruit, it is patently obvious that physical death wasn’t meant. Rather, corruption will cause the death of society.

After eating the fruit “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”

It’s tempting to believe that they indulged in sex and felt ashamed, but that is not the intended meaning because Adam and Eve became man and wife right after Eve’s creation and were entitled to sexual relations.

As the story says upon Eve’s creation, a man and his wife “shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

Jewish custom holds no qualms about marital sex, as soon as you tie the knot you can lie naked together without shame.

After the fruit has been eaten, God searches for Adam who has gone into hiding with his wife. “Where are you?” God asks.

Adam replies, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

They were afraid to be seen naked by God who had created them naked.

A married couple need not cover their nakedness, but the nakedness of corruption is covered up.

Cash is king and changes hands under cover.

You may ask what corrupt act did Adam and Eve partake in.

Their story isn’t a historical account of the lives of two persons, but the Torah’s literary way of dramatising human corruptibility.

Corruption isn’t just monetary, the Torah describes its scope as embracing the political, sexual and worldview dimensions as well.

Obtaining a position to advance your lust for power at the expense of society is political corruption, persuading a distraught rape victim in court to marry her violent rapist is sexual corruption, and giving primacy to bipolar sectarian demands is worldview corruption.

Corruption is hard to resist because the deed brings personal good. If you benefit from the deed, you find it good and you ignore the evil it creates for society.

As the story says: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining seichel (Hebrew), she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

The Hebrew word seichel means common sense or being streetwise.

Adam and Eve are driven out of the paradisial garden of Eden to live a perilous existence outside.

If you live in a society free of corruption, that’s a garden of Eden; if you live in a graft-ridden society where everyone is either giving or taking bribes, your existence will be endangered.

The Torah’s next story is the tragic tale of Cain and Abel, the first two children of Adam and Eve. The third story is Noah’s Ark, and here we see the final destructive effects of corruption.

After introducing Noah, the Torah comments: “God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them’.” Corruption induces violence and brings humanity to a destructive end.

It is the mission of religion to eliminate corruption, because it is the cause of our fall into damnation.

Yet the response of religious authorities to the Rasuah Busters campaign is lukewarm.

With the vast majority of citizens beholden to the preachers, the absence of anti-graft sermons at the pulpits will render the campaign less effective than it can be.

The writer champions interfaith harmony. Comments: