Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Worth of Character

Daily Sketch Wednesday, 18 November, 1998

You can get through life with bad manners, but it is easier and more honourable with good ones. Character is the only religion there is. Anonymous

The late Mahatma Ghandi of India identified what he called seven deadly sins. These are: Wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; business without ethics; science without humanity; politics without principles and religion without sacrifice of pride and prejudice. It is a truism that ‘the true rule in determining to embrace or reject a thing is not whether it has any evil in it, but whether it has more evil than good’. There is no gainsaying the fact that most of the world nations, with special emphasis on Nigeria are guilty of these seven deadly sins of Ghandi. Gone are the days when good and exemplary character is regarded as a virtue in Nigeria. Moral upbringing counts little and less these days with testimonials not worth the paper on which they were written. Students only obtain them for formality sake in contemporary times. Admission into tertiary institutions without due cognisance of the moral rectitude of the applicants has made our schools to be populated with deviants who later revel in being members of campus cults.

In the good old days, parents never compromised good character for their children. They ensured that their offspring were morally and intellectually sound. Home training inculcated through extensive discipline was their priority. A wayward, recalcitrant and obdurate child is heavily punished and in some extreme cases taken to juvenile homes for reformation. If he failed to change for better, parents do isolate or disown such a child in order to prevent him or her from soiling the family’s good name. That was a time when good name was worth more than silver and gold. Not anymore! Things have changed drastically; character, nay, good character worth much less these days. People only pay lip service to honesty and integrity in contemporary times. In fact, good character is no longer exemplary if majority opinion is anything to go by. This is because truth, honesty, respect for elders, courtesy, decorum, discipline and all other virtues which give a person good character have long been jettisoned. They have all been sacrificed on the altar of insatiable quest for money and civilisation.

Anybody that will be of good character would not contravene God’s injunctions nor is he or she expected to infract any of the seven deadly sins as enunciated by Mahatma Ghandi. What do we see today? All the laws of God and those of man are trampled upon with impunity. Any wonder things are at sixes and seven in our society? If we would respect the laws of man alone, which is an adjunct of that of God, this world would have been a better place to live in. If we would work honestly for our wealth, would allow our conscience to prick us when we indulge in sinful pleasure and would not seek knowledge that is devoid of character. Society would be orderly, peaceful and prosperous. Progressive development would also be the lot of any human society where ethics is the bedrock of business, where science is not pursued to the detriment of humanity, where there are principled politicians and politicking and also where there is religious tolerance. Utopian and fantastic as these might seem, any society that has these principles largely in practice cannot but be progressive and develop.

Conversely, it is an irrefutable fact that anybody that engages in these seven aforementioned sins is not patriotic, human nor of good character. What is the worth of character of someone who looted the nation’s treasury to amass ill-gotten wealth like many of our public office holders are doing? What is the ethic consideration of a swindler and a cheat who masquerades as a businessman or woman? Or what moral value is there in politics of prostitution, devoid of scruples and targeted at personal aggrandisement? Is hypocrisy not the name of religion without sacrifices of pride and prejudices? What also would be the worth of knowledge that is devoid of character? To my own mind, science is useless without humanity as its focus.

It goes without saying that the character of the people would reflect in the nature of government of any human society. After all, government and states are abstract entities run by people. Like a philosopher once observed, ‘let people be good and government be bad, when government is sick, the good people will heal it.’ Invariably, when we say that government is bad, it is the public office holders, the administrators and managers of government that are of questionable character.

There is a Chinese proverb that says: If there is righteousness in the heart; There will be beauty in the character; If there be beauty in the character; There will be harmony in the home; If there be harmony in the home; There will be order in the nation; When there is order in the nation; There will be peace in the world. What a cheap way to attain world order. The big question is, are we prepared to follow these simple steps instead of spending billions of dollars prosecuting wars and embarking on pace keeping missions? Believe you me; being of good character solves everything. Do I hear you say we need ethical revolution? Certainly. Let it start from ourselves, our individual homes, before it spreads abroad. Then you can be rest assured that good governance that is presently not in our character would manifest and we would all be happy for it.