Good People Behaving Badly
Community does not decline when bad people behave badly; it declines when good people behave badly. Don’t expect the uncouth to show civility. But it is an entirely different matter when otherwise good people, who know better, start acting below par.
There is a tendency to go with the flow. That is why there is a herd mentality. It leads to the dangers of uncritically swallowing group-think. But when otherwise upstanding people start casually indulging in chicanery through crass acts, like loosely making pledges and then breaking them, then the virus has spread wider and the tentacles have reached deeper than previously imagined.
Sometimes, the bad is not necessarily replaced by the good. Change can sometimes be for the worse.
There is no shame now for seemingly patriotic people of indulging in talk endorsing the breakup of the nation into smaller parts, for the sake of political point-scoring. Nor is there any shame of rulers in flaunting their narrow ethnic identity to curry favor among their provincial constituents, when they are supposed to be safeguarding the cohesion of the federation.
In 1981, Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas warned that “bureaucratic nationalism built on economic self-interest” and based on “ethnic-political power bases” can lead to national disintegration. He had also warned, through his landmark book (“The New Class”), that the new class that emerges in the aftermath of change is not any better. The precedent of Yugoslavia needs to be heeded in Pakistan, where the seeds of fragmentation are being sown.
The prevailing political stock is just not good enough – nor are the freshly converted champions of change. ‘Investors’ have a knack of resurfacing under a new label. They want to be on the winning side.
Innovation and re-thinking does not emerge from the affluent elites, who are in fact most threatened by it.
Faces may change but attitudes remain entrenched. A new landscape undoubtedly is emerging. But the question is whether there is a new attitude to tackle it head-on. Far better to refresh and reaffirm the vanishing values of grace, generosity, and civility that are already well-rooted in the heritage. Has the media, which furnishes an overdose of vulgar talk shows 24 hours/ 7 days a week, done a decent enough job in trying to instill in the public the values of self-improvement, consideration for the rights of others, and the virtues of fair play?
How many people who don’t miss namaz miss their appointments, deliberately come late, break their promises, and breach trust? The challenge may be more moral than socio-political. Small steps are sometimes better than giant leaps.
More frequent use of common courtesy expressions like “thanks”, “sorry”, and “please” can make life more livable. Over 200 years ago, Samuel Johnson said: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
It has been said that there are two kinds of people: the takers who eat better, and the givers who sleep better. The takers also tend to talk louder but they can only do so when the good remain quiet.