Post Mortem

Global ethics for radical societal change

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 10/31/2019 12:38:46 PM IST

 Ethics has always been the core and centrifugal principle for all human engagements and deliberations of our world—local as well as global.  Nowadays it’s gaining momentum and is being given more weightage as we and our societies face enormous problems that require ethics. As we live in a knowledge society and it is increasingly being churned and transmitted at appalling levels every day. For these, technology and its apps contribute to the changes. Knowledge is power and those who control technology and its apps domains are vested with power. It is not the countries or societies that control technologies and societies, but the corporations with billions of dollars at their disposal have the power to get into technological innovations of various kinds. They are the invisible and invincible non-state actors behind power. Power flows and trickles down to layers of power that we see and experience.

Ethics pervades into all areas of study, human involvements and engagements. Therefore, whether one likes or not, ethics shall never be averted or ignored because without ethics everything comes to a grinding halt or to put it simply is thus incomplete.   Therefore, we come across ethics as an important mediating discipline being added in almost all the disciplines and transactions. Whether individuals, communities, societies or nations of the world follow ethics or not, ethics is the most used as well as abused key word in our day-to-day life. Nonetheless, individuals, communities, societies and nations of the world keep talking about ethics. Almost all the areas and facets of science, disciplines and areas of study emphasize on ethics. 

Individuals, communities and societies are faced with numerous problems arise out of indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources resulting in climate changes, floods and tsunami,  temperatures behaving in erratic ways leading to all kinds of diseases, ailments and physical and psychological infirmities. Those who control production, distribution and consumption the important sources for any society to survive keep exploiting the human labor and natural resources to maximize their profits. Inventions and advancements are part of human desire and aspiration, but should fall within ethical guidelines that bring moderation to the human wants and desires.  For Homo sapiens sky is not the limit and they want to go higher and higher; wants are unlimited and keep growing and multiplying the human greed which is part of human nature which would never be satiated and in such situations ethics is the only leveler that brings about moderation.

Technologies and its applications are bound to create issues and problems and by all means should be responded. However, the challenges that we face from these makes us to get confounded.  Super-computers, AI and robots are now considered as super-machines and seem to have surpassed human intelligence and if this trend continues the super-machines would eventually take over the Homo sapiens. The momentum has begun and shall never be reversed. It’s gaining rapid momentum and where would it stop no one knows. It’s going to affect all the sectors including the labor force. Those with super-skills and higher-levels of professionalism would perhaps fit into the world that we are going to inherit. The future world is going to be highly robotized and super-computerized and thus become super-intelligent as we have heard and read thus far in the fictions and now a virtual reality. 

Moral values are depleting and decisions based on ethical principles are dwindling at all levels and in all the spheres of governance, individuals’, communitarian and societal life. Take for instance, business or enterprise nowadays lacks ethics and therefore those concerned about the falling standards emphasize on business ethics; hospitals and those involved in medical sciences by and large engaged in all sorts of dubious transactions—flout the standards prescribed by medical ethics; likewise environment/ecology is also going through serious crises and the future of the present and future generations seem to be at stake and therefore talk about eco-justice/environmental ethics. 

Take any discipline or areas of study or any activity including religious institutions or organizations involves in religio-spiritual activities by and large are immersed with serious problems that concerns ethics and morality. Therefore, be it individuals, communities or societies, ethics thus occupy the centrality of living and life, since unethical practices and immoral activities are on the rise. For example, when it comes to investment or profit-making we ought to ask for ethical investments or the means with which profits have been accrued. Further, in politics electorates keep asking the politicians about ‘political morality’. Hence, in all the spheres of human engagements and activities ethics and morals are inter-changeably used. This shows that ethics and morals play the most essential part in our personal and work life. 

The ethical side and moral sense of a person is invariably based on values that a person is governed by and entwined with and being propelled by sensitivity and responsibility towards community and society as well. Moral traits, character building and ethical moorings does manifest in our decisions making be it local or global, small or big matters. Once governed and rooted in solid ethical principles, moral awareness and value-orientations, the decisions we make and the ethical choices we opt for in which we are solidly grounded supposed to inform and thus illumines all our decision-making processes—personal and professional. This can be seen in one’s work ethic that reflects commitment, honesty and responsibility. 

Those insulated with normative principles and moral aggrandizements that explain rationale, process and the structure on which decisions are taken certainly leading to higher sense of accomplishment with clear conscience in all their dealings that include personal and professional endeavors. Ernest Hemingway expounds that “I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”  However, it is not feeling bad or good based on your feeling but it is much more than that. It is important what constitutes “good” and “bad” or “right” or “wrong”. Likewise, the word ‘ethics’ encompasses large domain of human behavior in which decisions are taken all the time. Ethics is premised on eternal virtues and values that entail justice, truth, love, equality, freedom, dignity, fairness, temperance, generosity and host of others. Virtues lead to higher levels of ethical living in which moral life of a person, community or society is enmeshed. 

Being virtuous, living and leading a moral life enhances the quality of life not just that individual, but also the family, community and society. Everyone wants to live and lead a good, virtuous and moral life, but only a few could translate in their life. It is difficult because one should be grounded on a set of ethical values that edifies in his or her decision making processes. Moral degradation is cancerous and it starts with individuals and gradually percolates to other sections of society.  Take for example alcoholism, substance addiction, corruption, casteism, tribalism, xenophobic tendencies, violence, hatred, injustices and many others are structural and systematic as well. It tears apart individuals, communities and societies in appalling ways. Whether secular or sacred, individuals or communities or societies there have been total breakdown of ethical values and moral attributes we find amongst diverse categories of people. 

Having good and virtuous life would have to be grounded on solid ethical premises and moral principles. They are needed for peace and harmony, love and caring, right from familial settings to societal settings. Decisions that we make are out of many choices that we have before us. A question that arise is how do make those decisions and on what bases?  Not just on the basis of our conscience. As Spinoza pointed out that “No one neglects anything which he judges to be good, except with the hope of gaining a greater good.” Ethics is a critical reflection of our actions. It is not just a descriptive science, but also prescriptive and evaluative. Changes are needed and transformation from the total chaos and degradation of our society become absolutely mandatory. 

Material and technological transformation are happening at stupendous manner, but do we have adequate checks and balances leading to all sorts of uncertainties. Take the apps and social media, do we have proper mechanisms that would filter or eliminate unnecessary materials? Nowadays many governments and citizens are asking for it. This is why ethics and morals are the most important agencies that bring moderation to value-based functioning of the societal fabric. In a fast changing world we need glocal (global+local) ethics premised on ethical parameters and normative principles that would galvanize and moderate the world in which we live.     

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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