Pandora’s Box opens again!

By R.S. Karunaratne | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 11 2021
Columns Pandora’s Box opens again!

By R.S. Karunaratne 

The Pandora Papers have ruffled the feathers of higher echelons in many countries. They have laid bare the global entanglements of political power and secretive offshore finances. The revelations of secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-ranking public officials in more than 90 countries have shocked the right-thinking people who toil every day to earn their bread and butter in honest ways. 

Not only political leaders but also ambassadors, mayors, ministers, presidential advisers, generals and Central Bank Governors appear in the Papers. Ordinary men and women were taken by surprise when they heard that Pandora Papers has revealed offshore holdings of more than 130 billionaires from 45 countries including 46 Russian oligarchs. Others include bankers, political donors, arms dealers, drug dealers and an increasing number of international criminals, pop stars, spies and even sports giants.

 It is perhaps the biggest ever leak of offshore secret financial deals of the superrich and powerful people. The Papers has revealed the names of the perpetrators who have amassed wealth avoiding the payment of taxes. 

The names include the King of Jordan Abdullah-Hussein, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian oil tycoon Viktor Fedotov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, Czech Prime Minister Andre Babis, President of Ukrain Voldymyr Zelenskiy, Pakistani minister Moonis Elahi, and President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta. The Papers has also mentioned the name of a former minister of Sri Lanka and her husband. 

“Pandora Box” is a metaphor in modern times and the proverbial phrase refers to a source of endless complications or trouble arising from a single miscalculation. While reading Western Classical Culture for my degree, I was fascinated by the Pandora’s story found in ancient Greek mythology.  According to Hesiod, Pandora was a real curse on mankind. It came like a bolt from the blue after the Titan Prometheus stole fire and gave it to humans. Until then we had no fire. It was Zeus who asked Hermes to create the first woman – Pandora – out of earth. 

To please Zeus, Hermes created a woman as lovely as a goddess. She had the gift of the speech to tell lies and a mind and nature of a treacherous dog. In the meantime, Athena dressed Pandora in silvery clothing. She taught her the art of weaving as well. Hephaestus who was thrilled by Pandora’s beauty crowned her with a marvellous golden diadem of animals and sea creatures. Aphrodite poured grace on her head but gave her cares to weaken her limbs. 

Greek mythology

 According to Greek mythology, Pandora was the first to begin a race of women, the first bride. A great misery fell on her forcing her to live with mortal men as their companion only in times of plenty. She was to desert her men in times of adversity. Her name ‘Pandora’ meant “She who gives all gifts” or “She who was given gifts.” Zeus had a sinister plan for Pandora. 

He sent her as a gift to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus who ignored his brother’s warning not to accept any gift from Zeus. When Pandora came to Epimetheus’s house, she found a jar. Out of curiosity she lifted the lid. Lo and behold! Out of the jar flew every trouble common to humanity. They were strife, sickness, toil and myriad other ills. 

From then onwards, all the troubles started afflicting men and women. However, Pandora managed to keep one spirit in the jar as she shut the lid. The timid spirit was known as ‘Elpis’ meaning ‘Hope.’ The Pandora myth explains that we should work to survive amidst difficulties. Pandora symbolically represents a beautiful figure of the dread against which we have no remedy or solution. 

Zeus created her to beguile men with her surpassing beauty and excessive sexuality. Her only duty is to spread falsehood, treachery and disobedience into our lives. She has fulfilled her task well in letting lose all the evils upon the world leaving only Hope to rely on. People steal and commit several other crimes due to many reasons. Some of us are born with a tunnel vision. 

We focus only on one thing and try to achieve it by hook or by crook. When we set our minds to unattainable goals we become blind to realities of life. When a man has no regular income, he thinks stealing is the only way out. On the other hand, we have found euphemisms to cloak our wrong doings. When you want to get something done by an official, greasing the wheels or greasing the palm seems to be ok. But that is bribery. Even fraud has become ‘financial engineering.’ People give ‘donations’ to leading schools to get their children admitted. Even such donations amount to bribery. 

Social bond theory

 According to social bond theory, employees tend to commit fraud when they feel detached from their company’s goals. In State and private sectors, promotions are not based on educational qualifications and professional skills. Everything depends on personal connections and influence. Some employers try to get the job done by any means. As a result they tend to resort to unethical ways. Most office workers pilfer small items such as ballpoint pens and writing paper thinking that they are not serious offences. 

People who have a strong moral sense usually do not commit fraud. When you do not have such a moral sense, you are likely to commit any unethical act. In most schools and universities ethics or moral science is not taught. Some of the students do not know that there is such a subject. Students are taught how to pass examinations and get jobs. 

They are hardly taught moral values that come handy in life. Most fraudsters have no past criminal record. They think they are honest people and justify what they do. Sometimes employees steal when they are underpaid or badly treated by the management. Those with financial difficulties will also steal thinking that there is no alternative. 

White-collar crimes 

Pandora Papers are not about such small fry. As pointed out earlier, it is the affluent people who commit more white-collar crimes than other social groups. They also get more unethical than others. The temptation to commit white-collar crimes is far greater for the wealthy than the poor. Sometimes it is all a matter of ego for the wealthy to maintain their high social standing. Money and power can corrupt even highly educated people. Psychologically they want to feel better than others. What lies at the bottom is greed which is a major motive for committing fraud. 

From time to time, Pandora’s Box or some other entity will expose wrongdoers to the entire world. Then the perpetrators will deny their involvement in fraudulent activities. As a result, the world will always be full of thieves, murderers, fraudsters, bribe-takers, sex maniacs, child abusers, rapists, and charlatans. However, we should be thankful to Pandora for not allowing Hope to fly away from the jar! [email protected]

By R.S. Karunaratne | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 11 2021

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