Dedicated to Mohammad Nouman- ‘truly, a genuine man.’
It was a slightly warm early September night when I, along with a couple of other friends, went to say farewell to a dear friend of mine Mohammad Nouman who had a flight to catch the next morning back to London. Nouman was visiting Pakistan on vacation and was leaving in the next morning. We had a good laugh and discussed all that parting old friends do. He is an old mate whom I have proudly known since the fall of 1994 and have come to truly cherish our friendship. He is such a kind soul who truly justifies the notion ‘one gem of a person’ – someone who could be looked up to.
We were talking about different things when the topic of his flight back to the UK came up and he said he wished he would be transported back in the new ‘Premiere’ flight of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) given that his flight while coming to Pakistan through PIA was a horrendous ordeal. Upon my enquiry he informed us that even the lights and buttons on his switch panel above his head did not work. There was no entertainment during the flight and that the food was not of proper quality. The aircraft was not that good and so was the service. Then he said something that instigated me to write this article in relating to the dilemma this nation or society is facing. It is not something hard to counter but requires an understanding of the basic ideologues, without which, things such as these may never be corrected. He said:
“These are the basic things, you do not need rocket-science or huge budgets to fix them. I mean there must be managers and staff and what not, why do they not do things that are doable and supposed to be done without someone reminding or inquiring about them.”
I instantaneously understood what he meant and where the actuality and causality of this problem might tend to lie. This is a menace that is eating up our society. What he intended to mean was to tell us that there are some problems in our systems that are caused merely due to a laid-back attitude and nothing else and only a bit of efficiency could resolve those for good; without any extraordinary steps or additional funds, so to speak, yet those are there and not being taken care of. This also reminded me of the term Sarkari (belonging to the government) and how people handle things that are not their private property. It is not only relevant for the people working for the system but also the users, like the passengers of the aircraft, who also would tend to misuse any facility they are offered, as if they are the last ones utilising that. This all leads up to a higher cost of repair and maintenance- but well we all have a ‘who cares’ attitude for that, do we not?
Nevertheless, the people working for an organisation would not care to perform such functions as initiating to resolve something as small as perhaps reporting a malfunctioned switch panel in an aircraft etc so that it could be fixed. Even if it is reported, the one receiving the report might not forward it to the relevant department and so on and so forth. Similarly, if one looks around this nature of the general worker exists in almost every field and industry and not only in the airline mentioned above. This laid-back approach, this lack of sense of belonging, has helped shape a society that cares less and shows an irresponsible attitude not only in offices but in public affairs and private lives as well.
Consider the broken civic sense of closing an open tap in a public place, helping someone cross the road, not crossing the traffic signal when the light is red as some would cross it if the traffic warden is out of sight. Consider the same traits demonstrated by people in organisations like not being bothered by untidiness given that it is for the Cleaner only to look in to, not correcting someone else not putting heed to general SOPs, not reminding others and oneself towards basic sense of duty. This makes one wonder as to what is causing all of this? Yes man is a social animal and would not behave correctly in the absence of laws and a social code, values and certain culture etc but every contemporary society has all these things and even then one witnesses such audacities. This lack of sense and sensibility, tolerance, understanding and realisation is what cripples a society from within and generally halts or otherwise hampers progress and growth- not to mention the glorification of a society or nation in general.
It made me ponder over the subject and at first I thought this is due to the lack of sense of duty and responsibility. While this is true, yet the problem is deeper than the skin and as one keeps thinking one realises that it has to deal with the overall fabric of how a society behaves and what inculcates such tendencies. If one is to consider Pakistan, for instance, the major religion here is Islam and that has the most beautiful code of conduct for the people that focuses on showing kindness and mercy to fellow human beings and defines the shape of public life towards a concretely positive direction. Similarly, inasmuch as the culture and tradition is concerned, it can be traced back to the Indus valley civilisation, which by all means, is the first ever known civilisation of ancient times. The culture of this region has been shaped by different invaders and settlers including the Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. This was once the grand Mughal empire and before that the eastern gate of the Buddhist-Gandhara civilisation. The point that I am making here is that a region that has such a bright and colourful history of civilisations and empires must demonstrate that lost glory in some way. But that is not the case. If one examines all religions, cultures and traditions; they all seek to improve the human person whereas when one looks at the actual happenstance of today, one witnesses a stark contrast to such teachings.
I personally believe that sense of duty and responsibility is deep-rooted in human dignity and integrity of man. While ethics, rationality and morality is mainly viewed as being the main areas of reformation of mankind yet the truth that dances in front of us is in total contrast. Hence the actual reformation must then start from revitalising morality and integrity, without which, one might never be able to progress in the real sense. A society needs to adhere to morality as the guiding principle of life. Some thinkers and philosophers of the west have said even to the extent that morality supersedes religion and religion only reinforces morality. Colloquial to that, here in Pakistan, the major religion is a grand moral code and talks in graphic detail about morality making it even simpler to cater for refining life in taking the right decisions, choosing the right path, based on morality and integrity. However, with this reality in mind it gets difficult to comprehend why people do not consider religion, laws, values, culture, traditions and other things while performing their daily assigned tasks and dispensing with their responsibilities related to both work and private affairs. People would not tend to do the right thing when nobody is watching. God is watching even if nobody else is but still people tend to be careless and carefree. This means that we need to allow morality to shape our lives. Morality that is reinforced by religion as well as social norms has to take the lead role and shape human thought and conscience.
God uses analogy in everything He teaches us to suit our minds and He used the concepts of Heaven and Hell, punishment and reward to restrain and reform mankind towards a better life, a grandeur realisation of the self. He used similar notions in all major religions like Islam, Christianity and Judaism. I have always advocated the fact that if one compares all major religions of the world, one would find that the moral codes of or morality in all religions is the same. These religions are instructions from the same singular God, in any case, that have been let to evolve as per the evolution of mankind. Similarly, I am yet to come across any social norm, culture or tradition that teaches something immoral albeit wrong interpretations.
On the other hand, the war between good and evil has existed long before the advent of religion. Good and evil is the basic contrast that gives our world the day and night we live in. Man has always been crushed between the two since times immemorial. And that struggle continues till today. This also means that morality is an inherent value that existed since the day man was born and that helped him in his choices and decisions when he could not be guided by religion, customs and culture. Afterwards, with the evolving world man knew customs and traditions shaping cultures and was given religion, to be able to further foster his understanding of good and evil, in sharpening his morality. This also means that human beings need to differentiate virtue from vice, good from evil, and select their courses of actions on the basis of morality and not only on the basis of the reality of heaven and hell. Although these realities are classically great in transforming ones behaviour and attitude yet glorified will be the one who refrains from vice and evil without the fear of punishment or hell- and exhibit virtue and good without the desire for reward or heaven. If a person can uphold such a concept with dignity and discipline, such a person can be safely called a man of integrity.
Indeed integrity is what teaches doing the right thing, and not only the good thing, when no one is watching over, where there is no fear of punishment or desire for a reward. One would surely do the right thing for a reward and abstain from evil for the fear of punishment when one is being watched, commanded or ruled however, as soon as such watch is over, one might go astray. The beauty in deeds is hence to do the right things in the shadow of integrity and that is what eventually becomes virtue. There is no harm in doing the right thing for the desire of heaven or from the fear of hell but real good will only come once one abandons the idea of heaven and hell, God and Satan, and still continues to do the right thing- the right thing that his integrity sharpened by morality commands him. That is the highest state of piousness and piety and never allows a man to do the wrong thing. This shall however only be done once we shape our society on the basis of morality and let morality alone refine and build our characters.
Therefore, I conclude that for things to improve in the world and in Pakistan alike, we need to base our decisions on morality and not on greed, reward or personal gain. Because once one forms decisions based on morality, one adopts integrity which, in turn induces a sense of belonging, a sense of duty and a sense of responsibility. And together these things foster the glorification of a nation or society. This is exactly when people stop on a red light without a traffic warden in sight in the middle of the night, help others without desiring something in return and do the right thing on the basis of integrity caused by morality. This, in turn, gives rise to a greater civic sense of national responsibility towards one’s duty- in work and life alike.