Decay of morality

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

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