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Customary Morality Cannot Be a Guide to Modern Life


Everything is fair in love and war. I guess most of us would have heard these classic lines. I am not aware of the origin of the same but I have heard these lines getting repeated several times in my interaction with people. This line gives a buffer, a fake justification to the actions of the said people to get an upper hand compared to others. In this context do these people do a self-retrospect regarding our morals.

We often hear the term moral compass in amidst us. To pose a thought to the subject what is morality? Morals mean the way how a person would respond to their surroundings, to other people around them. In a country like India customs, morals, religion are all bound together inextricably. We all face scrutiny regarding the same from the society around us.

The 21st century world has a lot of dimensions. Generations before us have combined a set of customs to follow. To identify what is good and bad and to do the right thing is taught by our parents and teachers. These life lessons are carried forward by them through years.

In school and later on in college the theoretical knowledge regarding morals was showered upon by the curriculum in different formats. But it was disappointing how the same remained just a very scoring subject, a manner to get your overall percentage up. I was never that conscious of the importance of the subjects designed. The depth of my understanding regarding morals was framed by the experiences that happened to me.

In this cut throat world we see businesses, governments and single individuals fighting to gain the upper hand. Power considered as the biggest dope among them. Multinational corporations are in a rat race for that extra margin. The pitfalls they design for others are not looked down upon. but such competitive strategies are studied in deep and passed on to be learnt to future entrepreneurs as extensive learning courses. Does the integrity of the corporation come in question? A decision that can affect the life of so many unknown people directly and indirectly, thousands of jobs at stake causing repercussions many times forcing those affected to end their lives.

We have been taught as kids to give respect and to behave with kindness to those around us. To treat everyone as equals regardless of race, colour and gender. These lessons get watered down as many remain just written letters. Our prejudices and personal opinions gained from our surrounding take over. We gain confidence with each victory. Our inner self is satisfied as the monthly salary ping for our efforts in our bank account pays our bills. We forget the waves of our doings as we see the happiness of our closed ones, the smiles that were bought by the money earned the hard way.

A prostitute having to sell her body to get money. A lawyer lying to save his client who has committed a rape offence from the scales of justice. An unsatisfied wife cheating on her husband. A conman cheating hard earned savings of lakhs of people. A vegetable vendor spraying carbide to keep his produce fresh. Simple examples that we see around us. As a child I would have given a resounding “NO” to each of them.

But who am I to judge. What if the prostitute had dependents who are kept away from hunger because of her sole income? The lawyer is a professional committed to save his client regardless of his crime. Should he think of his own 9-year-old daughter who could face such a situation in future? The conman had needs to fulfil, he was never a bright student in school and lost many opportunities. The vegetable vendor has many debts. He cannot afford to waste his produce.

When we read newspapers we versions of what happens around us. But behind closed doors there are many versions to a story. We should have the capacity to be broad minded. The generation today doesn’t offer explanations for its actions. Time goes by quickly; we many not interpret many situations wisely. Wisdom accumulates with age and experiences. We can never justify our actions as being done by those around us.

Here I wrap up my essay by saying that to be brave and bold to take decisions that may go out of the norms may be difficult. But to understand that not doing so can harm many not just you over time. So reset your moral compass. Don’t give in to pressure but try to leave this world a better place than how you inherited it.

- Karthiayani Nair