A Hard Look At We, The People

In the previous article, we took a look at the concept of values from a psychological perspective : Life's Challenges : Are You Rough, Or Are You Tough?. Let us take a small peek at the definition and concept of the term Values from the perspective of Psychology, taken from the website "psychologytoday" : 


One important concept in psychology is values.  Thus, it is important to define values.  What are values?  Values are judgements about how important something is to us. There may be three basic attributes of values.  First, values are subjective judgments.   Second, we may make a judgement of how important something is relative to something else.  For example, one may judge that helping others is more important that becoming famous.   Third, values may be principles that help us make important personal decisions. 



Values are beliefs, and refer to desirable goals that motivate action. Values serve as standards or criteria and guide the selection or evaluation of actions, policies, people, and events. People decide what is good or bad, justified or illegitimate, worth doing or avoiding, based on possible consequences for their cherished values. Any attitude or behavior typically has implications for more than one value.  The tradeoff among relevant, competing values guides attitudes and behaviors (Schwartz, 1992, 1996). Values influence action when they are relevant in the context (hence likely to be activated) and important to the actor. {Reference here}



Values are of many types - for example Power, Tradition, Security, Conformity, Benevolence, Achievement, Stimulation, Hedonism etc; but that is not what concerns us directly. What is more important is the clarity that our actions are defined by an underlying set of criteria, which determine our actions and behaviour. This is critical : for this lays bare some rather uncomfortable questions for us Indians in general. 



What are the values that we, as a people, hold important? Keep in mind that Values are graded in terms of relative importance to us at a subconscious level. Thus, when we ask for or pay a bribe, what are we displaying about ourselves?  That for us, as individuals, the person or the self is more important than the society, the laws and the nation. And that is only for starters. 



The conscious decision to pay a bribe, or ask for one clearly means that morals mean nothing to us. And, viewed from the Value perspective, we can see that giving a bribe is as bad as taking a bribe. For, in both cases, you have made a clear choice : to you, as a person, the nation as well as the society is not as important as yourself. You grade yourself and your own convenience to be of a higher level of importance than the well-being of society and the nation.



Bribery is not at all a totally harmless activity; its damaging effects range from financial impact on the society to issues of national security. It is the same in several other aspects of behaviour. Consider unethical conduct in the job, that is condoned as routine in the modern workplace. The moment you make a choice to ignore the fake document, you are actively choosing to place the self above the law, the morality, society as well as the nation. To you, Power and Achievement are far more important than societal norms and national interests. Worse is the case of actively procreating false documents, or not doing due vigilance, or suggesting creative accounting and procedures in high value investments and transactions. You are yet again saying that you, as a person, value the self above everything else. 


This attitude and these set of values manifest themselves in any number of activities, and clearly spell out what you and I as Indians hold important in our lives, and lay bare the hypocrisy of the statements of our placing India first. The same case is in civic sense - by littering your surroundings, but keeping your house clean, you are clearly showing a definable value choice : that you place a much greater emphasis on the self than on the community. 

Every choice we make, every decision we take, exposes us for what we are, what we hold dear and what relative importance we attach to various choices and objectives in life. Our indulgence in unethical behaviour exposes us for what we are intrinsically; the famous chalta hai attitude, when observed from this POV, shows up not as chalta hai but as a clear choice for valuing self, and placing a comparably lesser emphasis on the society and the nation, even in situations where there is no chance of danger to our own lives, or any great material damage. 

Our attitude, made famous by many articles and commentors as Chalta Hai is actually nothing even close to a Chalta Hai type of attitude, which is typically indicative of a laidback and lackadaisical approach; it is actually a clear, conscious choice of placing higher value on personal convenience and benefit, placing the nation and the society at a secondary level. The only extenuating circumstance is the risk to personal or family lives; and this is a danger in very select cases. In the large majority of cases, this argument of Values holds true. 

Your choices are driven in your subconscious by what you value, as we have seen above. And the numerous unethical and at times downright illegal behaviour we display,  in both small and large cases, {like jumping red lights, saving time for us, but inconveniencing others}  clearly spell out that we dont value the nation and the society as much as we do. Had that been the case, incidences of people paying a bribe would have been lesser, unethical conduct would not have been such a serious issue and so on and so forth!

In simple terms, we place Achievement, Esteem and Power on a greater level in our own personal value sets over and above Security, Tradition, Conformity, Morality, Universalism and Benevolence. All three choices that we have made are undoubtedly important; but it is a manifest truth that they cannot be above the nation, the society and the law, or in other words - Security, Tradition, Morality. This is a clear indication that our Value Systems and Morality is in dire need of correction. 

For, it is a known fact that one can achieve Esteem, Power and Achievement Satisfaction even without the compromises made in the examples above. Thus, if a large number of people feel that in our society we cannot survive without placing self first, we are in effect stating that we as a nation, and as a society, have a Value System and a Moral Compass that is badly skewed towards the self over the nation and the society, and are thus stating that our society is in a state of decay! 

That would have been a dire indictment of us as a people, were it not for some heartening trends that are currently in a minority, but are growing in strength from day to day; giving our society a beacon of hope in the morass of decay that surrounds us in contemporary India - the growing intolerance for unethical behaviour and the rising tide of people speaking up, and calling it like it is, while also acting true to their words. Let us do all we can to strengthen this new tide... Jai Hind!

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