Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Keisha Baisden was awarded a second prize (essays catagory) in a youth photography and writing competition, launched by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in partnership with Transparency International (TI) to mark the 20th anniversary of TI, one of one of the world’s leading anti-corruption organisations. We asked young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to depict corruption and how to combat it. The competition was judged by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Transparency International and professional journalists and photographers.
I am a music therapist. I use music to help people achieve their potential, to see the good in themselves and others, and to accomplish things they never thought were possible. I have seen lives changed, connections formed, and spirits renewed, all through music-making. This is why I believe that we can use music to address social ills such as corruption.
Corruption comes not just in action, but as a result of polluted hearts, minds and spirits. When people have lost empathy and consciousness, greed and lust for power take over. To stop corruption in all spheres, we need a spiritual revolution. We need to expose people in authority as no different from others. We need to inspire communities into togetherness. This is why every country has a national anthem, for example, to encourage a united spirit, to support equality, and to inspire community. Research has shown the benefits of communal music making. This simple act encourages understanding and promotes empathy. When we sing together, the rich man is no better than the poor man.
I also believe that one of the main causes of corrupt behaviour is a lack of empathy and understanding. If one cannot see the damaging ripple effects of one’s behaviour, one feels no guilt. This is another way in which music can be a great equaliser. We can use music to tell the stories of those who have lost their voice in a hierarchal society. Musicians, apart from being entertaining, have a responsibility, like all other artists, to make people uncomfortable. We have an obligation to cause thought. Telling the stories that people would rather not hear is our duty.
The music of a generation is its stamp on history. As young people, we use music to define ourselves, to express our deepest longings and darkest secrets, and we depend on it to comfort ourselves. We must therefore use it to rally ourselves. Many revolutions have started on the guitar strings of bare-backed, peaceful rebels. The revolution against a world of corruption, dishonesty, and greed can use voices of hope.
Every businessman worth his salt knows that the support of youthful consumers can make or break a business. We have a great deal of buying power and influence. We have the most energy, the most time, and the impatience needed to make changes to our own societies. We often forget this, however, and that’s where musicians come in. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, etc., all have their places in history because of the way they were able to unite generations and inspire through their music. We need young musicians to fill their shoes and to rally us together to make the change.
Most cultures have used music throughout history to teach ideas and concepts. From learning the alphabet through song, to learning patriotism, to understanding religious concepts, music plays a huge part in learning. Why not use it to teach moral and ethical principles? It is effective because one can use music to present ideas in a simple, repetitive manner. Young musicians should be creating music with positive messages to help address the moral degradation that causes corrupt behaviour.
Corruption has become so pervasive that we cannot address it simply through legislation or lectures, though these things will always be important. A new approach requires innovation and passion. Young people wishing to join the fight must use the tools already in their arsenal to do so. Music has always been a part of that arsenal. We must explore the true capabilities of our voices.
Keisha Baisden, a music therapist in Trinidad and Tobago, is the second-place winner of Transparency International’s 20th Anniversary Youth Writing Competition on how to stop corruption.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not necessarily represent those of Thomson Reuters Foundation or Transparency International.