Today, while crossing the foot over bridge, I came across an incident that brought my vehement concern over the minute cognizance of mine which regards the basic human values. I saw an old lady, may be around 80’s, crossing the road. It was peak hour time and the traffic was all over the road. She was trying to cross the road, probably because she didn’t have the will to step up and down off the giant bridge. With all her ability, she tried to keel across the road but wasn’t able to take the steps ahead. As whenever she took one, some vehicle came and she kept on vacillating to and fro. She kept on struggling the best she could. But soon, I saw three boys who parked their car and went to the lady, halted the spurting traffic and helped her to cross road patiently. An instant twitching smile came on my face, as the boys really did a great job.
Many a times, we find ourselves in such a situation where one has to go out of the way to help others. Those who can and does, reflect their moral and ethical values. By helping the old lady, the boys clearly demonstrated the concrete base of morality and the way they stopped the traffic to let her cross, defines the ethical ground.
‘Morality’ simply means the principle which tells us the distinction between right or wrong and good or bad. It is something which depends upon one’s knowledge of understanding and ability to interpret. As Mahatma Gandhiji says, “Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality”. The one’s basis of moral values may differ from culture to culture or society to society or community to community, but at the end essence of it remains the same. I date back when I was a toddler, my family continuously taught me to regard others by “Namaste”, saying “Thank you”, and so on. This is the very beginning construction of one’s moral base. As we enter into the age when we start adapting the intellectual teaching of our family, we get bind to the moral thinking of the society which we have been taught for long, since born. One’s moral values are deeply linked with the cultural and religious background. It is not necessary or essential that the moral values will be ethical in the view of different cultures, religion or society. This is where the distinction comes within the society. Ethics on the other part are set of common realized values of the entire society. It may or may not be based on moral values. Ethics is an outcome of one’s self-reasoning ability to the practice, behavior, intention, action, even in one’s thought also. These are the codified or normative version of do’s and dont’s. According to the great philosopher of times Immanuel Kant writes,” In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so”. In short, having adhered to certain moral values does not make you ethical, but being ethical does make you moral.
Often certain questions keeps on embarking me like why being moral and ethical is necessary for us? How does it matter and affect, if one doesn’t adhere to it? Moral values starts building as said above from the family, society or community and school. We learn as we grow. It construe that moral values are intrinsic, they are bounded within a specific culture. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t have extrinsic value. To understand it, consider a 5 year old boy Rahul. He has never been taught anything by parents or relatives. The very first day he goes school, he learns to greet teacher or in fact taught to do so. So every time the teacher comes, he makes his habit to greet teacher. Similarly, now think that if the parent teaches Rahul to wish relatives, worship in temple, eating vegetarian food, and so on. He will too make it his habit and soon it becomes a moral code for him. While in school, Rahul learns to share his belongings with his friends and helping schoolmates in their work. While playing with them, he learns how the combined effort of his team wins and so on. The whole idea and approach towards the community builds up. Now to understand how moral values and teaching differ between societies, consider Rahul’s classmate Imran. Imran on the other hand has been told to greet with “Assalamu alaikum” to his relatives, being non-vegetarian, worshipping in Mosque and so on. The difference in moral conduct clearly reflects, but while we get into the essence it will be the same. While in school or away, both of them will help each other and playing together. So, it clearly tells us that the moral values differ among different cultures, society etc. Despite of this difference, they still are coherent with each other in one or another way.
On the other hand, ethics goes parallel with the moral values. But if in conflict, the ethical values will always overcome as these are higher version of the former. Coming back to Rahul and Imran, albeit of their different cultures, they have to follow the norms specified by the school. They have to adhere with the dress code, prayers, teachings and everything that is codified by the school. In the much broader prospect of one, if working in a company has to follow the company norms, if doing business has to follow the management norms, and as a whole living in a country has to strictly adhere to the Constitution. So, in a place where the people of variant cultures meet, work, and or come together for specific cause. We seldom have choice to consider the validation of one’s decision or choice on moral principles. That is why in formal world, we use the word ethical. It is always taken that the person with the ethical values will always have high moral values.
Everywhere we may go, we’ll find the importance of culture, religion, society or community and where these all co-exist, we find moral values and ethics. It’s hard to separate one from these values, as they make up the basis of our everyday chores, and makes us suitable to live in society with so diversified and enormous rich culture, especially in country like India.