Friday, August 5, 2011

This One Stunned Me - 70% Do Not Believe That Honesty Works

While speaking to freshers at a Management College the other day I was shocked when 70% students said they believed that they could not make a decent or successful living by honest and ethical ways. 70% is a large number. There is something drastically wrong here.

I always encountered some opposition on this contentious issue but it was always in the range of 10-15%. There are bound to be cynics, there is bound to be disillusionment but this recent experience stunned me into losing my composure. I stammered and stuttered, as I tried to find out what had happened to them that they are so cynical, how they expect to survive in a world that is overwhelmingly disillusioned with honesty and ethics and values.

What have we done to these 20 year olds that even before they set out into the world they have such strong beliefs that they cannot live honestly?

It is obvious where their disillusionment stems from. The business world has no clean businessmen that one can quote as examples with all the stalwarts falling - one by one. The political world is replete with corrupt stories. The sports world has its own (though thankfully the reigning heroes the Indian cricket team is clean). All around they see flagrant abuse of power, of illegal money, of corruption, debauchery. No wonder the kids have given up this war even before they started it. That is what shocked me more than anything else - the lack of hope.

Unfortunately, we never get to hear of the good stories. Where are the good stories from business, politics, government, sports, movies in India that can show both success and honesty and ethics? There is no doubt that there are many like the story of R. Anandakumar the Collector of Erode who joined his six year old daughter in the local Government School. But we need so many more. More frequently.

I hope the media brings on a policy of showing at least one positive story whenever it brings on a sensational story dealing with dishonesty, corruption, conspiracy. Something that shows hope, honesty, integrity as examples to live up to. You owe it to these youth guys, they are the ones who are fuelling the ads on your channels. Give them something to hold on to. Same goes for movie makers, music makers, celebrities, teachers.

As far as the education system is concerned, it has failed miserably. If it has not been able to convey to its youth (the very youth that is the basis on which India becomes such a force to reckon with in these times) that education is about learning the art of discretion, about using the power of knowledge with long serving values and ethics to form a fair, just and equitable society where everyone lives with equality, harmony and dignity, Mr. Sibal, it is time to stop worrying about Anna Hazare's team and make sweeping changes and quickly. These are bigger problems that the country will have to address in he next few decades. The system as it is currently has failed, just as the parents have failed if our children are thinking in these terms.

If basic life skills are not taught, if the youth are not exposed to the right role models, I fear that we may not be in a position to claim a leadership position in world affairs - something that we seem to take for granted by 2020. We have a neighbour who is far more purposeful and who also has a clear intent on how the power equation should turn out.


Rajendra said...

I used to have a hypothesis when I lived in UP briefly that one of their major problems was a lack of role models. Some states have at least a few- businessmen like Narayana Murthy, for instance. I think they are critical for any growing young man or woman. It's a pity that so few are holding themselves up. Educationists definitely owe it to the young, but so do others.

Harimohan said...

Yes Raja, I agree. Much lies with society at large which shows them the values that are adopted. How can they ever believe that honesty works if all role models fall one by one? Parents have a big part to play, just as education and all popular culture, media and cinema included. Sadly for the youngsters, they do not even have a chance because most elders do not seem to believe in these values, nor do they think that it is worth the trouble to tell the youngsters that it works as well. That to have an integrated life, one needs to have certain basic principles one believes in.

Kiran Kumar Gutta said...

It is khadwa Sach. Hard to digest. I do agree with you that parents have a very important role to play. But who is having time now a days. Every one is busy in their own world.
If we surf any news channel, you will find news 24*7 only about the corrupt politicians.
We have politicians like JayaPrakash Narayan but media after POPULAR politicians.
Media is not intersted in persons like R V Krishna, who works as Collecter at Malkangiri, Orrissa. In Feburary 2011, moasists abducted this very bright and young IAS officer from Chand Nagar, Hyderabad. Entire village come together and prayed for his release.
I totally endorse with your views about sweeping changes in the education system.

Raghu said...

During my latest trip to India I was told there are a lot of opportunities in India for making money when compared to the USA - where I live and work. In the USA the returns are very low vs India where you can make 18% interest by just lending money. If you were to invest in Real estate they are similar or more returns.

But how do you make that kind of money? Deviate from rules and payoff officials who help you do so. In India, if you are a businessman, it is impossible to become rich with honesty. When I asked why, I was told I was not realistic. Every govt. office you go, you have to grease the palms for your file to get approved even if all the documentation is complete.

Coming from the USA, after having lived there for 12 years, I was wondering what are honest ways to get returns on my investments in India. Seems like there are very few - organic farming? Writing a book? Coaching?

I have been thinking of the same issues you have mentioned in your post. By coincidence, I came across a book "The difficulty of being good" by Gurcharan Das. This is a must read. Mr.Das talks about moral failure pervading our society. The young have no role models to look up to.

Business leaders, policiticians, religious gurus are all failing our country.

Harimohan said...

Dear KRCube,
Thanks for the book recommendation - I would certainly like to read this much acclaimed book (second time this book has been recommended to me in the past week, so I better get down to reading it). It is a difficult system no doubt in India and one where the balance seems to be skewed towards corruption but as in all cases, we must be careful not to generalise and give up. There is always a section of people who are that way (corrupt) but I feel that a vast majority will respond if we believe in their goodness. Like each one of us, everyone has their percentage of good and bad, and if we connect to the good in them, believe in the good in people, we might have a different experience. Somehow this thought that there is only one way to have a better life is through this route must be addressed. The best way is to first start living it and showing the way I guess. But then - it is difficult - the difficulty being good. Still, a satisfying difficulty I must say. I sincerely hope you give it a try KRCube and believe. I do, and as much as I can, try to hang in this side. I know of many others who do as well. I am sure it will make a difference, a small one perhaps, but I believe it does.