We hear the term "corruption" a lot, but very few people know what it actually means. Furthermore, many people do not realise how corrupt their own actions are.
In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.
For some, it is common place to have to pay for one's application to be fast-tracked - or even processed at all. In some places one can place money in the cubby of a driving test vehicle in order to guarantee that one passes the test. In some places one can slip a few notes to a traffic officer to avoid paying a fine. In some places one can place a few notes inside one's documents in order to get more attention from an office clerk. Sometimes money is not involved at all - sometimes the currency being transacted with is emotional - a few compliments here, a dazzling smile there, a show of kindness that induce feelings of self worth could be enough to cause an official to go the extra mile for a customer.
In truth, we all participate in some form of bribery on a regular basis - maybe not with money. Everyone knows that the best way to get something from someone else is to treat them well and make them feel good. This form of manipulation is subtle enough that it is subconscious for most of us, and to call it bribery would be enough to cause quite a stir.
In many aspects of life, a small thing often leads to a bigger thing. It is a common thing to see with an animal like a horse: to allow one hoof to step out of place usually leads to the rest of the animal going in all sorts of directions against your wishes. Could it be the same for us? Because we, even if it is subconscious, participate in a form of bribery and deem some bribery to be OK - does that cause us to allow the bigger acts of bribery? Maybe we don't want to appear to be hypocrites (see Cognitive Dissonance). Maybe we want to be able to carry on doing what we have been doing. Stopping corruption would require that absolutely ALL forms of corruption be stopped - even the "little" things. Maybe we just don't want to give that up? (Subconsciously, of course.)
How can we expect to stop something like corruption if we are willing participants? We cannot simply blame the institution - it is not the institution's fault. We are the ones who are at fault - we feel we deserve better than what everyone else gets, or we feel like we shouldn't have to wait for something, or we feel like we shouldn't have to work hard for the things we feel we deserve, or we are just used to a life of convenience - there are many different justifications for someone cutting through the red tape. Now I'm not saying that the red tape isn't ridiculous, because it is. Some of the things we have to do are simply ridiculous and a waste of time. In essence, people design effective and ineffective systems - but it is very often corruption that is the cause of any one system being a disaster - whether it was corruption at the start, middle or end of the process.
Whatever the form of the corruption - the core of it's existence is based on a sense of self interest being stronger than an interest in the community, the whole, the everything else. Those "small" acts of corruption are included because the very fact that they exist justifies the occurrences of corruption on larger scales.