What is most palpable in Pakistani society and often a subject of comments and discussion is the decline in the moral values that we once used to feel proud of. The definition of the word moral is “Concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behaviour.” From this definition, we can understand that moral decay is a decline in knowing the difference between right and wrong. Thus, moral decadence appears to be a fall in the moral standard of society. It seems to be a deterioration or a collapse in upholding our societal values, beliefs, norms, and ethical standards. Morality is an important component of a human being because it helps shape the ethical foundation that every human being has. Whether to be good, evil, honest, or deceitful are just some of the traits morality helps us develop. In discussing the application of morality, four aspects may be considered: religious morality, morality and nature, individual morality, and social morality. Without such moral rules, people would not be able to live amongst other humans. People could not make plans, and could not leave their belongings behind them wherever they went. We would not know whom to trust and what to expect from others. Civilised, social life would not be possible. The reasons for moral degradation may include: an “anything goes” attitude, banishment of the distance between “right” and “wrong”, feeling that morality is dispensable, commercial greed, redefining morality to suit one’s self, the rejection of God/religion by many, self-indulgence, etc. And the situation becomes more dangerous and alarming when the degeneracy is not even felt as such. Some people in the West argue that morality is not declining in the modern world; instead, a new morality is replacing the previous one. However, such thinking gives birth to frequent incidents of mass shootings, racial hatred, social injustice, incivility, fraud, and white supremacy; which are considered just a few of the examples of the moral decay in the West by the larger abstemious masses.
Moral development is strongly influenced by interpersonal factors, such as family, peers, and culture. Intrapersonal factors also impact moral development, such as cognitive changes, emotions, and even neurodevelopment. While our moral codes can motivate us to cooperate with others, their uncompromising and absolute nature can also lead to many negative interpersonal consequences; we tend to vilify and dehumanise those that disagree with our moral beliefs and we justify any means to a moral end. Psychologists believe that morality is not just something that people learn; it is something we are all born with. At birth, babies are endowed with compassion, and empathy, with the beginnings of a sense of fairness. Humans have a moral sense because their biological makeup determines the presence of three necessary conditions for ethical behaviour i.e. the ability to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions, the ability to make value judgments; and the ability to choose between alternative courses of action. Moral foundation theory argues that there are five basic moral foundations i.e. harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, in-group/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. These five foundations comprise the building blocks of morality, regardless of the culture. Human rights are better thought of as both moral rights and legal rights. Human rights originate as moral rights and their legitimacy is necessarily dependent upon the legitimacy of the concept of moral rights. A principal aim of advocates of human rights is for these rights to receive universal legal recognition. Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct.
The extreme forms of behaviour we have seen abroad or experienced in Pakistan are because of a decline in morality and ethical behaviour. These examples of bad behaviour get more pronounced in societies and countries like Pakistan suffering from poverty, lack of good parenting, quality basic education, unemployment, political and economic instability, rampant corruption, poor judicial system, and practice of religious bigotry for socio-economic reasons. Lack of due investment in human capital and consequent mismanagement has resulted in the production of a largely unskilled and directionless youth bulge that is multiplying recklessly. This is constantly adding to the frustration, lawlessness, crime rate, bad tempers, and fanatic attitude. Such frustrated youth fall prey to the ‘professional rent-a-crowd go-getters’ in various cloaks who in turn become mob and vote providers to the ever-exploitative ruling elite in Pakistan. The world has already suffered the horrors of two great wars due to a lack of moral education. As of today, such a situation can arise if the decay is not stopped.
What are the solutions to moral decay? Development of high moral values may include the identification of a set of values, management of personal ego, taking into consideration diverse groups of people and their views, embracing change and building consensus, and establishing unity. In an earlier published article in the first week of January 2022 titled “Dwindling Institutions of Mothers and Teachers”, I had opined that anyone with experience of living in a developed and a civilised country would know and suggest practical ways of dealing with the menaces permanently afflicting our country. However, nothing seems to work for the simple reason that the focus never shifts to the improvement of human capital and institutions. Personal experience and a closer analysis of Japan, Germany, Britain, the US, Malaysia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan urged me to write this piece, aimed at drawing the government and public attention towards the revival of the two most essential institutions needed for the production of desired well-groomed human resource needed to run the state machinery efficiently and honestly i.e. the institution of mothers and teachers. The universally accepted important roles and responsibilities of mothers in child development include the development of the strongest emotional bond with the child, giving the proper environment for the right growth, child’s behavioural development, instil trust and security, promoting family bonding, being kind, loving and caring, be thoughtful and sensitive, infuse positive attitude, permeate role of routine and discipline in life, imbue hard work, teach good manners, groom, as a useful member of the family and society, development of strong faith in religious and universal high moral values and responsibilities. After WW-II, Japan and Germany were destroyed and annihilated; however, the roles played by the mothers and teachers in re-raising their nations and states as the most developed, thriving, and civilised countries in less than four decades is worth emulation by Pakistan.
However, the cultural invasion of Pakistan by India starting in the mid-70s, the former Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and consequent pilferage of drugs, weapons, and illicit money, the rise of militancy in the name of religion, promotion and sponsorship of sectarian outfits, artificial prosperity widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots and nationalisation of educational institutions played havoc with Pakistan’s society and the state. The worst hit were the institutions of mothers and teachers who became increasingly extraneous and somewhat cast off. The political elite in Pakistan has throughout kept the masses illiterate, poor, dependent, and engrossed in endless thana–katchehry (police station, local court) vicious circles as a strategy to keep their hold on the reins of power through the exploitation of the masses. The only hope for grooming the new generations was the mothers and teachers who found themselves in a dilemma due to misplaced personal and state priorities. In today’s Pakistan, most of the disillusioned and untrained mothers are seen as immersed in alien modernity resulting in ignoring almost all the mothers’ responsibilities specified above. The teachers have also been kept deprived of the much-needed higher socio-economic status in society by successive governments; thus teachers are forced to indulge in petty ways of meeting the ends. The uneven and visionless education system is not only hurting the students, parents, and teachers but harming the future of the country. Consequently, the last four to five generations in the country are far away from the desired level of human index needed to qualify as a civilised youth. Therefore, the lack of discipline, honesty, corruption, missing hard work, violence, and extremism emanate from the deliberate failure of these two most essential institutions which build a harmonious society.
The products of moral decay are daily observed in political gatherings, press conferences, social and electronic media dog fights, and well-paid print media projections that result in torturing the people through their un-parliamentary dialogue, white lies, hypocrisy, and disgusting behaviour. If Pakistan is to overcome its perennial problems, the immediate revival of mothers’ and teachers’ institutions and introduction of the justice system at par with most civilised countries is considered an inescapable imperative. The positive results would show within two decades. The investment in human capital should be the hallmark of our National Security Policy; otherwise, like always it would remain political rhetoric. Pakistan Zindabad!
Saleem Qamar Butt
The writer is a retired senior army officer with experience in international relations, military diplomacy and analysis of
and strategic security issues