Our Readers' Opinions
April 5, 2007
What would I think about this if someone else did it?

by Iris Mounsey 05.APR.07

The newspapers present it; and we read the gory, gruesome details of murders, armed robbery, rape, and violence from all sectors of society. Even the nation’s schools are not exempt and some are reeling from the tensions brought about by the availability of weapons. The moral degeneration of our society is glaring, and so evident, that even the proverbial blind man with green beer bottles over his eyes could see it.

But what is the cause of this societal breakdown? The so-called ‘importation of foreign values’ from American TV; the declining influence of the church on socio-political affairs; failure on the part of teachers and the school system; etc. are some of the suggested reasons for the apparent breakdown.{{more}} While I do not debate the validity of the above explanations, I would like to suggest that we revisit the problem of social and moral decay with a more introspective attitude.

Somehow, we mostly prefer to see wickedness as something alien to ourselves; something that only lunatics who have sprouted horns and hooves and who wear black capes, are capable of committing. But don’t we all practice this dark art of wickedness? How often do we find ourselves playing a Judas role in a Gethsemane scene? Of course, we don’t murder people, but haven’t we participated in character assassination? Maybe, just maybe, we haven’t done any of these heinous acts; but what about those we allow others to commit by never trying to stop them, or worse yet, by covering up on their behalf?

Is the value system we subscribe to flawed? Yes! Because it says that if someone else does it, It Is WRONG!, but if I do it, ‘It’s alright, permissible, not so wrong’. This fundamental flaw – which I call hypocrisy – has in my opinion contributed greatly to the moral degeneracy seen in society. This hypocrisy, practiced on a personal level, is what permits seemingly decent people to participate in clear-headed acts of purely gratuitous evil which replicate the conditions of the Tower of Babel to breed not just confusion of tongues but an outright Hobbesian “war of all against all.”

This practice of hypocritical behaviour results from the absence of personal integrity. Those of us who lack it most, are, oftentimes, the ones who are quickest to blame extraneous factors for what has gone wrong in our societies. We may be able to point out the guilt of the high profile offence or offender. But would we want to accept that our seemingly innocent and innocuous ways – the little pilfering of office supplies, a little malingering on the job, the little discourtesies that do so much to destroy and deflate the other’s ego – may have exerted such a strong influence on the mind of the offender that he or she was motivated to do one better? We may not; but then, responsibility is not conferred on the basis of personal opinion!

One may recall that at the Nuremberg Trials, the defendants, without exception, accused and blamed each other for the atrocities that had been committed; and they assured the world that they had always been against the wanton destruction of human life. Yet not a single Nazi leader had had the courage to voice his opposition when it counted most.

Persons who possess integrity, on the other hand, always act responsibly, in accordance with strong moral principles even when it may prove personally disadvantageous to practice ethical conduct. In so doing, their lives demonstrate that they know the good; they will the good and they do the good – all of the time!

How do they do it? Perhaps, they test the moral worth of the action by asking themselves the question, “What would I think about this if someone else did it?” Or maybe, they wonder, “Were I to go on trial for this act, would I be able to defend it?”

But, whatever it is, perhaps, we should follow their example and perhaps, we should direct others to model their conduct by urging, “Go thou and do, likewise!”