Prepared for CFFN, NRN-Canada, and NRNA as an input to the constitutional development process in Nepal
2009 February 19
An aspiring society should set common values for its members so as to define what constitutes an ethical action, what are the common aspirations of all, and how to sustain achievements. Although it is up to the collective responsibility of all people to decide those ultimate values, I would pose five inspirational values, five ethical values, and five preservative values to advance this important debate. I have chosen learning, passing, serving, creating, and collaborating as the five inspirational values, equality, nondiscrimination, honesty, commitment, and respect as the five ethical values, and generative, additive, inclusive, obtainable, and lasting as five preservative values for a society in which I aspire to live.
In most societies, the pressure of executing tasks is so strong that there is hardly ever time for contemplation and reflection. Our pursuits are hardly ever guided by our values – the emotionalized truths resident in us. Instead, our pursuits are driven by external pressures. We, who should have given up our lives to uphold our values, have turned into servile beings and find solace in belonging to a group, be it a community, organization, or a country. What we forget to realize is that we are most often neither united nor strong as our numbers would suggest. We are like an iron slab that is made up of magnetic particles but cannot exhibit magnetic strength. To turn into a magnet, the magnetic particles in the slab must be aligned in one direction. Similarly an organization or a group of people becomes strong only when everyone is guided by common values and aspires to reach a common goal.
What are values?
Our values are the source of our psychological energy that is needed for us to be devoted to a cause. The intensity of that energy determines how strong, aware, receptive, and intent we are to the cause. When we become disinterested in the cause, it is often because our inner values do not coincide with the values embodied in the cause. On the contrary, no ridicule, prosecution, and death can deter us if we are pursuing something that embodies our endeared values. Even our entrepreneurship takes social or business direction depending on the types of values we carry. And our undertakings appear easier, and positive results come sooner, when our pursuits are for upholding our values. Therefore, a success driven societies or organizations must build their foundations on common values that bind and align all members to a single direction.
While recognizing the usefulness of having values, it must also be known that we cannot succeed through randomly picked values. If making money is our primary value, we may not be able to give as much respect to a professor of physics, mathematics, or philosophy as we would to a person of wealth. We may not be able to take creativity as a foremost value of our society. Similarly, a pursuit of comparative happiness (unlike absolute happiness) may give us a sense of purpose but may keep us fixated in minor issues. Often the ideas of “superiority”, “inferiority”, “righteousness” and “unrighteousness” sprout out of selecting values without giving careful thought. Beliefs like “my family, clan, caste, religion, color, or gender is superior to yours” rouse in us. Therefore, there exist some “values” – call them pseudo-values or complex – that can keep us ignorant, stagnated, tense, hateful, and jealous. If pseudo-values are perceived as values, our actions may be counterproductive, erasing even the past achievements. What we think as values may very well be attachment, anger, and pride. However, thoughtfully chosen values certainly lead us to a path of inspiration, creativity, and wisdom.
Types of Values
Scholars group values in many different ways. Some say there are absolute and relative values. They say that our absolute values are those fundamental values that are independent of our culture, race, religion and time. And relative values are those which reflect our personal, cultural, and religious views that may not necessarily be viewed by other people, other cultures, and religions with the same way as we do. They are experience-driven and may change over time. Others say that there are intrinsic values (something worthy in its own right such as happiness, truth and wisdom) and extrinsic values (some worth derived from external means or from the intrinsic values such as welfare or happiness derived from helping others). Some say there are material values (augmentation of desirability or monetary-worth of something) and philosophical values (ethical value of owning something). I would leave it to the scholars of philosophy to determine what else there may be. However, it would be practical if we categorize our values into inspirational, ethical, and preservative categories.
Inspirational values are the ideals that motivate us to DO something. They unleash our psychological energy, which propel us to create, invent, or produce something. This is the manifestation of productive energy hidden within us. The reason societies get into explosion of innovation and creativity is that they give great importance to inspirational values. “I want to be a scientist like Einstein” like energy comes from one of those inspirational values. Being a great scientist or philosopher may not bring me riches but I would be willing to trade my riches for my ability to be like Einstein. Therefore, our inspirational values determine the extent to which we pour our energy into our endeavours. In doing so, some people may channel their energy into monetary endeavours, while others my do it for beyond-monetary accomplishments.
The ethical values are those values, which motivate us to NOT DO something dishonourable. Ethical values deter us from doing something that would not be good either to ourselves or to those who have placed trust on us. This is a form of self censorship of our own will. Why we would not take a bribe even when it is offered to us? Why we would hire a person for her abilities although she is not like us? Why we well-treat people who seek services in our offices? These may be because we have ethical values that set boundaries to our deeds. For example we may serve people well if we put people in a position of respect. When a person is given a position of trust, his or her conduct may be evaluated based on the ethical values. When someone breaks ethical values, we may derive psychological energy to stop their degeneration. Most revolutions happen because of a sense of breakdown of ethics in society.
The preservative values motivate us to GIVE PERMANENCE to our DEEDS. These values help us leave legacy by preserving, solidifying, or immortalizing our achievements so that the fruit of our labour could be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations. It is similar to how inherent mechanisms for survival and growth of a species emerge along with the emergence of a species. In organizations and societies, these values give rise to institutions and traditions, although they must evolve over time to suit the contemporary context.
All aspiring societies and organizations should better know what their common values are. Or else they may be just wandering like a crow lost in a cloud. It is not proper for me to say what those values should be. However, I would present five examples in each three categories of values. It is up to the collective aspiration of concerned people to decide what those values should be for them.
- Five Inspirational Values:
- Learning: We strive to learn and make others learn. We do not hide knowledge but rather spread it for the betterment of the world.
- Passing: We are thankful about other’s contributions to our lives and we strive to do good to others in return. We want to pass it on to other people and other generations.
- Serving: We all are here to serve each other.
- Creating: We like novel endeavours, we like to innovate, invent, and create. We strive for originality and excellence.
- Collaborating: We strive to work collectively to build our collective identity as families, communities, a nation, and one world.
- Five Ethical Values:
- Equality: All humans are free and equal in dignity, rights, and access to tools of empowerment.
- Non-discrimination: No discrimination shall be perpetrated on rights of humans based on race, sex, caste, class, color, religion, belief, or any other natural attributes of humans.
- Honesty: Truth is our value. We are in search of truth. We avoid paths that mislead us and others.
- Commitment: We do what we say and say what we do.
- Respect: We respect the needs of individuals, families, nations, and the world.
- Five Preservative Values:
- Generative: When someone copies our work, it helps us rather than hurting.
- Additive: Each of our new work adds onto old one and creates integrative effect.
- Inclusive: Our works reach all and benefit all (rich, poor, learned, and illiterate) equally.
- Obtainable: Our works reach far and are suitable for being taken to distant places and people.
- Lasting: Our works endure, evolve, and keep bringing results now and into the future.
Values unleash our psychological energy that propels us to do something, to set boundaries on what we do, and to give continuity to what we have achieved. Therefore, an aspiring society or organization must establish values and propel its deeds based on those values. When the values are engrained in the mindset of the members and their actions are guided by those values, the society or the organization would attain success and leave behind institutional legacy to their future generations.