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|Volume 12 |Issue 08| February 22, 2013 ||
Focus on Core Values
Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Al Yusuf
Anation continues to exist as a sovereign and inviolable entity only so long as its core element, the people, commonly believe in a distinct set of values that make them look different from the others. The enduring values to a nation are analogous to a lighthouse to a distressed ship. The way the lighthouse helps the ship navigate through the turbulent sea to the safety of the harbour, pursuit of deep-rooted values can help a nation navigate though an adverse environment to the safety of peace and stability. They provide the very unifying factor, direction and strength to the nation to survive all odds.
Failure to pursue a permanent set of values creates a kind of psychological vacuum only to be filled in by divergent ideas and beliefs from harmful sources. In this era of globalisation, ideas and beliefs abound in the geopolitical atmosphere like free electrons of a lose molecular structure. And those are quite prompt in filling in the gaps. Any ideological vacuum will almost invariably be filled in by those loose, ill-defined and divergent ideas sowing the seeds of disintegration.
We Bengalis, have been cruising through the ocean of time for thousands of years as a distinct nation, a distinct civilisation. The fact that we possess some unique values has enabled us to stand the test of time. Had we not been guided by these values, we would have fallen apart and would cease to exist as a nation, a civilisation. The emergence of Bangladesh as a nation-state in the world map has further refined our identity. Those nine months were irrefutably a point of time in our history when we were truly united on a unique purpose, a common set of values. But since then our values are seemingly degenerating. Our young generation is becoming oblivious about our core beliefs, and the values are eroding. It's now time that we acknowledge the fact and identify the factors that are causing the damage.
Virtues like patriotism, commitment to the purpose and sense of responsibility do not come out of the blue. They need to be infused inside the young souls and duly nourished as they grow. I suppose everyone would agree that the very basic lessons for a virtuous life must begin at home. Seemingly, most of our families are failing to impart those lessons. To accomplish the sacred mission of raising a worthy future generation, the elderly members of the family need to have adequate contact hours with the younger members and spend some quality time with them. Ironically, modern civilisation has offered us with many things but time. In the relentless struggle to cope with the renewed demands and in the insane race for wealth-making we lose sight of the most invaluable asset-Time. We seem to be always on the run either chasing success or the ambition for success is chasing us. The state of affairs with our children does not seem to be any different either. They have their individual races too. They have their routine classes in school; they have the make-up classes to compensate for the classes missed due to not-so-friendly political programs; so on and so forth. At the end of our daily races, exhausted we return home. Our children also return home after having gone through their own exhaustive schedule, equally worn-out. At that time neither do we have the energy nor do our children have the appetite to participate in such tasteless discourse as demanded by abstract topics like values, ethics or commitment.
The dearth of intimate contact hours and the resulting absence of proper motivation create the very kind of ideological vacuum in those young minds which is very prompt in hosting uncensored and harmful ideas from an infinite number of unsolicited sources. And of course the ever increasing connectivity offered in the Information Age accentuates the vulnerability of our youngsters to such damage. One of the significant features of the Information Age is that it has rendered the physical borders of nation-states meaningless. You might enforce the most stringent immigration policies, the most tightened border security and the most complicated visa formalities to check against illegal physical migration across the border. But you cannot help prevent the virtual migration of harmful thoughts, ideas and philosophy across the globe through various electronic media and internet. They keep pouring into our living rooms everyday in trillions, unfiltered, uncensored. Consequently, the young souls virtually migrate across all physical boundaries; meandering around the global market of ideas, they pick, choose and buy, unnoticed.
One can rightly attribute the rise of global terrorism to the ever-expanding connectivity offered by the internet. Someone from any remote corner of the globe floats harmful but attractive ideas only to be purchased instantly by likeminded people around the other corners. The idea proliferates, the cartel expands infiltrating all known physical borders, and we suddenly feel the existence of radical groups pervading our societies. How would Mr. X know if apparently innocent Mr. X Junior is quietly and virtually associating himself with any of these groups without realising the consequences? The most ominous aspect of the whole process is that someone does not have to physically mingle with his comrades to maintain the cartel. They remain physically isolated but psychologically vis-à-vis ideologically connected. So be careful, if you are not spending enough quality time with your child and not instilling the right set of values in his young mind, you might have to repent for that along with the whole nation.
When wealth making becomes the sole purpose of life and comfort-seeking predominates our lifestyle then values take a back seat. The problem is further compounded by the characteristic individualism of modern societies; if at all we would like to call a collection of self-seeking people a 'society'. When 'wealth making' defines the purpose, the 'horizon' defines the limit. Someone is out on an endless journey. He never knows when he has enough and when to stop. His possessions swell up and so does his anxieties to safely keep hold of them. He remains so preoccupied in earning more that he often forgets how to spend meaningfully. Of course he spends money too, but for bribing the relevant stakeholders, hiring criminals and manipulating law-enforcement. Eventually he turns out to be a monster devoid of any ethical code of conduct.
Things are even worse with the people living below the poverty line. Most of them care less about values. Neither do they have the urge nor capacity to instill the right kind of values among their children. Sending children to the school does not make sense to them as it reduces productive man-hours affecting income-generation. For them a girl a at garments factory or a boy working in the field is worth more than a child attending school. Schooling does not generate instant hard cash but the daily labor-works does. So why have the luxury? Viewed from their perspective, there is only one purpose of life – the constant struggle for earning a living; often irrespective of the means- legal or illegal, ethical or unethical.
Neither extreme poverty nor abundance of wealth is good for social health. Happiness and contentment is more a matter of perception than of the amount and quality of physical possessions. Happy people make happy societies. A nation firmly anchored in a solid foundation of 'values' can instill the right kind of perception among its citizen making them feel happy and content. It has become customary to blame the huge population for our misfortunes. But population is not only a burden but also a source of power. The more the number of people united on a common set of values the stronger we are. Sheer drives for economic freedom will not bring us wealth, power or happiness but an undaunted pursuit of the enduring values will.
Let us not then grieve over our belonging to a so-called 'third world country'. Let us not get frustrated over a huge population. Let us neither be too obsessed about global culture. Let us stay focused on the unique values that would help us feel proud and happy. Spend not all your time in chasing wealth and success. Spare a part of your time to care about the real wealth- your children, our future.
The writer is a Directing Staff in the Defence Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur.