Editorial: December 2009
Referring to the Delhi Metro bridge collapse on July 12, 2009, Dr. E. Sreedharan, Managing Director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said that it was lack of professional ethics that led to the deficient design and eventually its collapse. He requested the Institutes of Technology to incorporate ethics and national values as part of the curriculum. In his emotion-laden speech, he drove home the need for moral values in professional life. He asked, "Should we not educate and warn engineers and scientists coming out of the Institutes that professional ethics and values should not be compromised for short term business advantage?"
Hitting out at the corruption which plagues the country, Sreedharan said, " Corruption has crept into all walks of life and according to Transparency International, India is ranked 85th on the Corruption Scale. Can there be a greater shame to the nation?"
Many companies now realise that when they focus only on maximising profit, without paying attention to the modus operandi and the harm they produce on the environment and society, they short-circuit their own reputation and long-term growth. Uncontrolled market forces tend to favour the strong and the rich, rather than the weak and the poor; so, external regulations by independent agencies are essential. However, regulations will not take us very far without personal integrity. Individuals should be guided by values and convictions. Selfish, dishonest individuals will always look for ways to undermine the system for personal advantage.
"Those who believe in the trusteeship model realise that the wealth they generate is not just for them. They are accountable to the company and shareholders." The principle of trusteeship stipulates that they are merely caretakers and administrators for the welfare of the community, not owners of wealth. Any business enterprise that toils to maximise wealth and profit for its shareholders, turning a blind eye to its responsibility for people's quality of life, loses its moral legitimacy to exist.
Ostentation is the mantra today. 27-storey skyscrapers are birthday presents! Brazen grandiosity, in our country, where 40% live below the poverty line, is insensitive. More than one third of our children have no access to primary education, let alone higher education. 50% of our rural poor have no health cover. These are challenges that the young generation equipped with technical knowledge and ethical values should face and solve. It is time we realise that, in the end, a man needs only six feet of land.
The example of Narayana Murthy (Head of Infosys), himself cleaning his toilet, stands out because, in our country, there is a lack of dignity of labour. "If airs stop a wealthy person from hailing a taxi when the need arises, then his wealth is putting golden chains around him." Captain Gopinath (MD, Deccan 360), explains: "You simply cannot create wealth islands which are not all-inclusive. A true leader combines intelligence with an aura of personality, tenacity with sensitivity, survival and defensive instincts."
Siddharth Bhowmik (22) and his family are now part of a group who thinks that the TV, films and internet are bringing immoral, un-Indian influences into the home. The first time he used the word 'sexy,' he was only four years old. He had heard it in a Bollywood song. His grandmother told him, it meant 'someone who looks nice.' Next day, he told the neighbour's daughter, "Tu kitni sexy hai" (you are so sexy), hoping to try out his new word and make a friend. It took a lot of explanations from his parents- to him and the neighbour-to finally put the matter to rest.
A nationwide survey has shown that about 79% of those surveyed are apprehensive about the influence of the media. 62% of those surveyed agree that media and film world promote nudity and sexuality in the way people dress. 90% think that vulgarity and obscenity are increasing in television and films. The concerns are not always about sex and violence. TV has brought about a major life-style change. It is affecting our traditional family values. We do not need any proof other than the daily newspapers to be convinced of the problem.
Loss Of Morality
The sense of loss of morality and identity are almost universal concerns in a world growing increasingly complex. This manifests itself as a perceptible threat to what is seen as Indian culture. But the West is as concerned about the loss of morality. "Moral distinctions are being simply drowned in a maudlin emotion in which we have more feeling for the murderer than the murdered, for the adulterer than the betrayed; and in which we gradually begin to believe that the really guilty party, the one who somehow caused it all, is the victim, not the perpetrator of the crime."
Amos made ethics essential in Israel's relation to God. His morality was pure, self-disciplined, vigorously caring for the poor and oppressed, passionately opposed to cruelty, deceit, luxury and selfishness. Isaiah and Micah demanded a religion in consonance with the character of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel applied the bitter lessons of the Babylonian exile in relentlessly ethical ways, always within the context of God's unswerving purpose for His people. God is emphatically the author and guardian of the moral law, requiring that we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Mic.6:8). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job include practical ethical wisdom. They aimed to simplify duty into practical reverence for God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psa.111:10). Ideal wisdom is eloquently expressed in Job 31.
When John the Baptist appeared demanding purity, honesty, righteousness and social concern (Lk.3:10-14), he was only summarising the long ethical tradition of the Old Testament. Jesus took up the social conscience and relation of religion to morality. He pressed the demand for righteousness further than the Law, into the mind and motive behind the behaviour (Matt.5:17-48), back to the original purposes of God (Mk. 2:27; Matt.19:3-9). Jesus' most characteristic contribution to ethical thought was His emphasis of love. His death in love for mankind comprise His most powerful contribution to ethical achievement. Stewardship of wealth, responsibility to the State, social evils, the fact of sin's sickness-in all these realms, obedience to the will of God constitutes the Kingdom and ensures its blessings; it may even involve the loss of life, but will gain eternal profit.
The Early Church offered considerable moral training to the members, in abstinence from sins and pagan ways, steadfastness under persecution, fellowship and submission to leaders. This included lists of duties as husband, wife, parent, child, servant, slave, neighbour (Colossians and 1 Peter). Peter emphasised holiness and submission to civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-17), to masters (2:18-25), to husbands (3:1-7), and within the fellowship (3:8-9, 4:8-11, 5:5-6). This spells out the meaning of life under divine rule.
Christian moral life is best illustrated by Luke in Acts. He has described the good, happy, socially useful, bold, and transformed people, closely corresponding to the picture of Jesus. James has presented a good picture of the Church's moral stance, in a series of meditations. Paul has explained the ethical significance of faith. He challenged those who felt that, since justification is by faith alone, the believer may continue in sin for grace to abound. He emphasised that such faith is inconsistent, useless and impossible for those who are resurrected to a new life of freedom, surrender and triumph. In early Christian thought, the idea of the divine spirit had become stamped with the image of Jesus (Acts 16:7). The effect of this identification is to produce Christ-like character, the fruit of the Spirit, in every believer (Gal.5:22-23; Rom.5:5; 8:9-14). This transformation by the inner dynamic of the Holy Spirit is the central motif of Christianity.
John has expounded the ideal of imitating Christ as loving (13:34; 15:12), obeying (9:4; 15:10), standing firm (15:20), serving humbly (13:14-15). He links it with the Christian hope (3:2). Peter connects it with the cross (1 Pet.2:21-25; 3:17-18; 4:1, 13). Paul makes it the goal of worship (2 Cor. 3:18), of ministry (Eph.4:11-13), of exhortation (1 Cor.11:1) and of God's providence (Rom.8:28-29). "Be ye holy, for I am holy." (Lev.11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7, 1 Pet.1:16). "Before Christ, a man loves things and uses people. After Christ, he loves people and uses things."
This obedience is not the fearful keeping of stern demands, but the joyful response to Christ's love (1 Jn. 2:1-5, 4:10-12; 5:3). It is not bondage to a new set of laws, but a freedom to produce a character that no set of laws can ever produce (Rom.8:2; Gal.5:1, 13; Col.2:22-23).
We are part of a society where Christ has placed us as His representatives, and we must apply our Christian values to the affairs of that society (Matt.5:13-16; Jn.17:15-18). The more knowledge we have of God's law, the more He holds us responsible (Lk.12:48; Jn.9:41; Jas.2:10-12).
Through the centuries, Christian ethic has made its social impact through the service and leadership of individuals committed to that principle. The Bible proclaims that "righteousness exalts a nation" (Pro.14:34). "Doctrine and life cannot be separated. It was the character of the lives of Christians which brought Christian teaching to the favourable attention of their neighbours and friends."
There is a renewed interest in ethical practices, in the wake of the global financial crisis and the exposes of many corporate frauds. The sad state of affairs at present is the result of corporate greed, and demands a number of regulatory measures. The effort is to "civilise" the market. It is necessary to purify the market in order to make it work in favour of human advancement.
It is gratifying that academic circles have recognised the importance of moral education. Many leading universities and business schools have incorporated subjects such as Business Ethics into executive training and MBA curriculum. It is hoped that a systematic treatment of ethical issues in the business environment will enable future leaders to make decisions which are morally right and ethically correct. Managers should be able to lead with integrity and resist the pressure to compromise ethical standards.
It is the responsibility of parents to bring up their children with values, right from the time they are born (Deut.4:9). But our attention is often concentrated in their advancement in career. However much they learn Mathematics and Sciences, they will never understand mercy, compassion and love for others unless we impart them to the young minds-not merely in their brains, but also in their hearts. Unfortunately, the parents are too busy to inculcate these values in the children.
Education boards should also recognise this and modify the school curriculum accordingly. This is essential to protect the next generation from going into the path of violence.
Carl F.H. Henry said, "The failure of the evangelical movement to react favourably on any widespread front to campaigns against social evils has led to a suspicion on the part of non-evangelicals that there is something in the very nature of fundamentalism which makes a world ethical view impossible." It is time this perception is changed for the better and we start having a Biblical, ethical world view.