THE MORAL IMPERATIVE: People, not gold or wealth, make a nation strong
Each time I travel to Japan and see its beautiful cities and high-rise buildings, I canít help but ask myself: “What makes this country strong?” I have to admit this question takes away the delight of each trip, because it makes me reflect on why our country cannot seem to move up as a nation. Nevertheless, I believe that Japan’s strength lies in the Japanese people’s faithful adherence to moral (social) values.
Confucianism, the religion that shaped Japanese culture, emphasizes the importance of correct behavior and cultivation of virtue in a morally organized world. Moral values are at the crux of the Japanese character, in effect allowing Japan to face its challenges and rise as a nation. Vaclav Havel, former leader of Czechoslovakia once said: “Without commonly shared and widely entrenched moral values and obligations, neither the law nor democratic government nor even the market economy will function properly.” While our country is inundated with corruption, poverty and strife, let us do our part and make our country strong by making moral values the guiding force of our lives, and using them to conquer our adversities.
But what are moral values? Moral values are the standards of what is right and wrong. While they are derived from our society, government and religion, it is important to keep in mind that they direct us how to behave toward each other, as well as how to understand and meet our obligations to society. Some examples of moral values are honesty, trustworthiness, being respectful of others, loyalty and integrity. Meanwhile, an immoral person is one who does wrong despite knowing the distinction of good from evil. And an amoral being is illustrated by an animal that is completely ignorant of what is right and wrong.
Our country’s problems exist not because of bad luck or the “faulty alignment of the stars,” so to speak. Our problems are ourselves, the people of this country. For a predominantly Christian nation, where virtue or morality is emphasized, it does not make sense that many people steal, disrespect their neighbors, lie to and deceive each other in record numbers. Unless we take on moral values diligently, we may never attain the best that we deserve as a people, much less become a strong nation. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it is the people of a nation and not jewelry, gold, wealth and resources that make a nation strong.
The task, therefore, is to teach and instill in our people the importance of moral values. We need our institutions – the government, the church, the schools and the media- to be involved in a concerted effort to curtail “bad behavior” in our country. One way to achieve this is for the government to create programs and enact more laws that discourage erring/immoral behavior, if not to reward good conduct. Another is to add more courses in schools to inculcate courtesy, integrity and honesty in students. If large amounts of public money are squandered in our country by individuals, I am sure we can find ways to put that money to good use, such as programs to instill correct conduct in our people. This will surely “nip the problem in the bud,” if not bear a lasting and rewarding effect on our country.
If we succeed in this, we would make our nation strong. We would be doing something that elevates us to greater heights, and helps us become ìrelevantî citizens of the modern world.
JULIUS D. TURGANO,
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