Saturday, January 22, 2011

Value Dilemma

People who are following values diligently are sometimes faced with situations when one value seems to conflict with another. If one value is practiced, it might result in violating another value. What kinds of situations are we talking about? And how does one deal with such a situation? I give a couple of examples of conflicting situations to illustrate the point.

Instance one: An animal, say a cow, has escaped a butcher and is running down a road with the butcher in hot pursuit. It takes a side road and the butcher does not see it. He goes up to a pedestrian who has witnessed the entire sequence and asks him if he has seen the animal. If the pedestrian speaks the truth he ends up sending the poor animal to its death which it is seeking to escape from. Thus, truth (value) is seen as conflicting with compassion (value).

Instance two: A group of fundamentalists are attacking / persecuting a person for his religious views which are conflicting with theirs. The attacks are ferocious and life threatening. A group of neutral by-standers are watching this and have to decide whether to interfere or not. One value (that of protecting the weak and defenceless) is conflicted with the value of non-violence.

There could be so many instances in our daily lives that put us in such a dilemma. Should one use the cane on a child or use more gentle approaches? Should one continue to trust someone even when there are instances where the trust is betrayed?

One way would be to go "with ones conscience" and "listen to the heart". All lay people would recommend this as it is easy to implement and seems most logical. The problem, however, is that one conscience is conditioned by ones upbringing and past experiences. This may lead to different people using different approaches when dealing with similar situations. This is not desirable as inconsistencies are not the sign of a mature and balanced society.

This is the reason why our seers wrote epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha to guide people on the best way to deal with situations. The reading of such epics is essential for all if we have to develop a consistent approach on dealing with value dilemmas. The stories are intricately narrated with various instances of conflicting situations and one can learn from how the characters deal with such situations. Dharma or Values are explained at length throughout such epics in a very logical and convincing way.

In the first instance given above the protection of the animal is considered as a higher value and therefore has to be followed even at the cost of being untruthful. And in the second instance, the reaction of the by-stander would be based on their caste (a brahmin may advice and a kshatriya has to fight) and in case of doubt, the value of protecting is higher than that of non-violence.

I would love to hear comments on this very important topic for discussion.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Earn Respect

I overheard two senior citizens talking about something animatedly. One said "I really felt insulted when he did what he did. After all I deserve some respect. I retired as Chief of XYZ organisation and I am no ordinary guy. I still feel hurt and upset over that incident....". He went on and on. How many of us have felt similarly at some stage in our lives? We all crave for recognition and respect. And if there are instances where we experience something else, we feel hurt and brood over it for a long long time.

I remember a favourite saying heard in my childhood days "Command Respect and don't Demand Respect". I always felt that it is important to know how to command respect and this blog attempts to address this question.

In order to command respect from other, we would need to do one or more things from the list given below. This list is only indicative and not exhaustive. Moreover, it is not listed in any particular order other than how it occurred to me. To earn and retain respect, we should:

1. Give respect to others and their feelings
2. Be humble
3. Work without expectations
4. Be selfless
5. Have courage
6. Have high integrity
7. Listen more
8. Speak well
9. Deliver on promises

It occurs to me that people tend to genuinely respect only those people who live a life of values. Others may be able to create a false respect out of fear or greed but these are short lived and certainly not heartfelt. Whatever your role in life may be - whether as a boss, a friend, a mother, a teacher, a parent or anything else, in my considered view, real respect is only reserved for value based living.

What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Embracing Values

Yesterday I read in the newspapers that B schools are planning to introduce and cover the subject of ethics in their curriculum. This thought has come about after seeing many scams that have been perpetrated by the educated professionals. I was heartened by this news as this subject is close to my heart.

I have always believed that the world will become difficult to live in unless everyone lives a life of values. Anarchy. lawlessness, violence, cheating etc. will thrive without values being practiced in earnest by people. We might progress materially but will decay in every other aspect without values guiding our lives.

Having said this, I feel that ethics or values cannot be inculcated by teaching it as a subject and getting students to learn the theory of values. People who have ethics as a subject to be passed to become a graduate might end up mugging this subject and not really understanding it or imbibing it. The very objective of introducing the subject and inculcating it might get diluted if were to be a mere topic for study.

What then is the way forward? I give below some thoughts that come to mind and hope to see it getting enriched by the comments of my readers.

1. Ethics education should begin early. Right from childhood. The parents, siblings and others who make up the child's world (core group) should be actively involved in educating the child right from the impressionable age.

2. The core group should also demonstrate and live a life of values at all times. The child who is thus exposed to value living at an early age will imbibe it and practice it.

3. Encouragement should be given to the child every time she confirms to the value living concept. She should be lavishly praised for every single example in her life which shows values. Her mind should thus get firm on living a life of values.

4. If there are errors or judgement or occasions of default, it should be noted but not excessively dwelt upon. Instead, encouragement / positive strokes should be used liberally to imbibe values.

5. Others should also be spoken of highly for the values they show. This will create an intense desire in the child to inculcate those values too.

6. Children love hearing stories and they should get to hear, see and read stories wherein the themes revolve around values. The main characters should be exemplars in this area.

7. School should also be having curriculum, methods and standards which encourage values. Yardstick for judging a child should be the demonstration of values and not success / wealth etc. acquired through unfair means.

8. Society should also be built on similar lines. People who live ethically should be recognised, appreciated and even rewarded more than others who do not follow. They are the ones who should be treated as the heroes of every society.

9. Only such people who live ethically and with values should be allowed to elect and be elected as leaders and law makers.

I think the above steps outlined gives a fair idea of how I think. I know it can be branded as impractical and impossible to implement. However, I feel that if we want a clean society, we have no option but implement the above. If we work towards this relentlessly, we will eventually achieve our objective.

I am looking forward to your views on how we can create a world for the future generations which will be a pleasure for them to live in.