It is tempting to say that the thing most requiring a change is Society’s resistance to change. That, unfortunately, is not quite the right change to seek. Not all change may be for the good and sometimes a proposed change may require to be changed itself. Society’s resistance to change can act as a necessary brake though you could always argue as to whether the resistance is unwarrantedly high.
A change in Society’s attitudes to its constituent citizens, though difficult, is easier than an internally driven change of people. Society has various rewards that it can confer – awards, publicity and the like – which can drive attitudes. This is why my earlier post ‘Change the way you value people’ concentrated on what, in my opinion, were changes necessary in societal attitudes. An internal change of people has to be self-motivated and, maybe, driven against societal disregard and, thus, far more difficult.
When society values people it has to go on deeds. When an individual values himself he can go on character since he is the best judge of what motivates him to do what he does, if he can be honest with himself. Nothing new needs to be said about what constitutes good character. The problem, however, is that we do not practice what we preach (Nothing new I am saying here either but, then, the fact that it has been said so often has not changed much!).
Honesty is the Best Policy
All of us are in agreement, of course we are! We do live by it, as far as it is practicable to do so. Really?
‘No-one can say that I am not honest. Well, if I know my company is getting this huge order and I can buy up the shares at a low price today and clear a profit enough to fund a foreign vacation for my family, why not? I know there are rules against insider trading but who cares about them anyway?’
Looks like your pride in your honesty is less valuable to you than a foreign vacation.
‘This is the problem with being honest. Look at our neighbor. He clears about twice what I make in bribes. I have to make do with an Indica and he can buy a SUV though we are in the same position’
I’d rather you said, ‘How can a man opt for a more expensive life-style at the cost of his character’. The way you say it, it seems like you are honest merely because you are afraid of getting caught. If you say it in front of your children, you are teaching them that honesty leads to unhappiness. Not exactly what I want the children of today to be learning.
I love giving happiness to the people I love
Where is the joy in life if it were not for the people we love? If there is anything I can do to keep them happy, what greater pleasure than that?
‘Listen! I have to go to the boss’ party tonight. The CEO is coming and my boss says that if I can make it he will introduce me to him.’
‘You promised Seema that you would stay over at the hospital with Ajay tonight. How can you make it now?’
‘I know. Tell Seema that I can’t make it. They will understand.’
Right! How can you let go the opportunity of getting the eye of the Supremo? Is this a one-off or are Ajay and Seema to always understand?
One should work where one can be passionate about what he is doing
Of course! I’d love to work in an area that excites me.
‘I thought you always wanted to teach. Why this shift to IT?’
‘Where is the money in teaching, dude?’
‘College teaching is not all that bad, is it?’
‘Maybe! Quantum difference in life-style, dude.’
Ah! Yes! Your joy in working in the area you are passionate about comes a distant second to an up-market flat, car and clothes!
The point I am trying to make here is that our value systems – that are the building blocks of our character – come a distant second to social prestige. Thus, what we are doing is the replacement of all the internal drivers of self-worth with dependence on society for providing you all your sense of self-worth.
There is a Sanskrit saying ‘Paradhinam prana sankatam’. Dependence on others is distressing to the soul. What we are doing is handing over the entire keys to our happiness to others, for where can you find happiness without a sense of self-worth?
All the measures that society provides involves your comparing yourself with others much like young kids standing against each other and competing for who is taller. If you find yourself falling short and you are unwilling to accept it, then you take recourse to your race, caste, religion or gender to prove your ‘inherent’ superiority much like a short kid standing on a stool and claiming that he is taller. The problem is that you have to keep lugging the stool everywhere you go and keep getting suspicious about whether people with smaller stools are trying the saw the legs off your own. Also, anyone who, in your opinion, has a bigger stool automatically makes you feel inferior!
If there is one change that I wish every individual would make then it is that he respects himself for his values and how courageously he has stood by them rather than for what he would call his position in society. Otherwise, we could end up like the biblical character who exchanged all that was valuable to him for a mess of potage.