Thursday, 4 January 2007

Aren’t they all Human Values?

Why do people persist in trying to ascribe certain values to particular nations or religions? Decency, honesty, respect, compassion, love of freedom, commitment – can anyone really seriously say that these are found exclusively in a particular country or faith, implying they are not present in others?

It’s obnoxiously erroneous to claim that the propensities to hate, injure, lie, murder, etc. are to be associated with the people who have nothing in common except a geographical commonality or historical link with an established religion. Every country or faith has had its share of shameful deeds perpetrated by some of its members, but it does not condemn for all time every single person growing up in its confines. By the same token, it would be absurd to suggest that because some people have championed good human values, that should be used to trumpet the moral greatness of the nationality or religion of those individuals.

There are Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus who hurt others as well as those who devote themselves to helping others. How can any deduction be made to designate some of the religions concerned here as embodying good values as if others were by comparison evil! The only coherent line is between the good humans and the bad. The same is true of patriotic celebration of great national values as if the people of America, Britain, France, or anywhere else wanting to hoist their flag, somehow reflect a range of positive human values in a deeper, more significant way than the people of distant shores. Can this really be accepted as simple, wholesome national pride? Or should it be exposed as barely disguised prejudice which looks down on other countries and cultures as morally inferior?

The golden rule of treating others as one would have others treat oneself is found in all cultures, religions, basic moral teachings in every country on earth. Ideological interpretations or personal inclinations which move some towards self-centred individualism, some towards oppressive collectivism, and yet others towards fair and sincere mutualism, occur in every part of the world with no one having a monopoly over sound ethical dispositions.

Is it not time to recognise that there is in fact a considerable consensus over the positive values associated with the human race? Compassion, fairness, honesty, defiance against tyranny, the pursuit of happiness, care for dependents, these are not values of any single country or religion. They are human values, and they set the standard by which we judge ourselves. Of course we don’t all succeed in living up to them consistently, but the failure is a personal one. Our race, country, religion, may through the long course of history have been associated with deeds, good and bad, but each of us has our own responsibility to live up to the best moral aspirations of our times.

If we want to strengthen the moral character of individual citizens, or enable them to live in harmony and cooperation with each other, the last thing we should do is to single out one country or religion and celebrate it as the torch bearer of good values. What we should do is remind everyone that we all – regardless of our national, ethnic, religious roots – share an inspiring range of human values. And to live in accordance with these values is the basis of our true moral solidarity.

No comments: