Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 11 December 2019

Cheats will never prosper and here's why they won't

Cheaters ultimately end up cheating themselves as well as those around them, writes Maryam Ismail.
Ramin Bahrani’s film, 99 Homes, starred Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon as Rick Carver Hooman Bahrani / Vesic Photography
Ramin Bahrani’s film, 99 Homes, starred Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon as Rick Carver Hooman Bahrani / Vesic Photography

Who says cheating is wrong? Justin Thomas thought so in his recent column for The National. Thomas said an essay writes you – meaning you are transformed by the process and without it you lose the chance to improve yourself. Taken on a grander scale, people who fake work or get jobs based on connections, without having the skills needed to perform, can ruin a business or even a whole country. 

How many of us would want to be seen by a doctor who cheated their way through medical school? A teacher who doesn’t even know phonics to teach their children reading? Or bankers who think that you have too much money and they deserve a little bit of it? Cheating may seem innocuous, but the truth is someone always gets hurt by it.

The most tragic form of fraud that I have ever seen was in the aftermath of the 1999 earthquake in Izmit, Turkey. There were tower blocks that were built using sand, with calamitous consequences. One of the engineers responsible claimed ignorance. Nothing could help those who were killed in their sleep because their roof caved in. There is a tradition of the Prophet Mohammed, in which he chose people based on their abilities and required them to be honest and tell if they couldn’t do a job. It’s only fair that they do so.

Think Enron, the Houston energy company that cheated millions out of their savings, or Bernie Madoff, who cheated his Wall Street investors out of billions.

Prestige, power and money are what people are after when they do wrong.

In the film, 99 Homes, set during the 2008 housing crisis that caused the entire global economy to choke, Rick Carver, a shady estate agent, lays downs the law: “America was built by rigging a nation – of the winners for the winners, by the winners.”

Every aspect of Rick’s life is a game of cheating. But he doesn’t really sleep well, he is always on the look out for who is after him. He keeps a gun on him at all times and changes houses often.

From cutting up the driver next to you on the road, which causes accidents and wastes time, money and sometimes lives, to parents who nag teachers into changing their child’s school grades, cheating is endemic in our lives.

Braggers who love to tell everybody about the freebies they got because they “know somebody” will eventually cause their friends to shun them.

These micro-aggressions of everyday cheating pile up and may cause some to just throw their hands up and join the rest of the losers.

What should we do? Grab cheaters by the neck and say: “That’s enough?” These things usually burn themselves out eventually, so you should just keep the faith.

La hawla quwwata illa billah is a short Islamic prayer against those who cause oppression and harm with their dishonesty and corruption. This supplication asks Allah to hold those to account and for his blessed protection.

Also, try to be patient in your lane and don’t be bullied by those who seek to disrupt you. If you child gets all A grades in school but seems not to know how to read or write, find out why and demand their true results.

Cheaters are going to cheat, but as long as we remind them that this is unacceptable, they might do it less of it.

Maryam Ismail is a sociologist and teacher who divides her time between the US and the UAE

Updated: May 14, 2016 04:00 AM

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