There is much misconception about the differences between ethics and values. And in the midst of the moral decay prevailing society, the distinction between the two concepts must be properly understood if we are to rise above the decadence. For this purpose, I was invited to an interview at Mariam TV on Pamela Henieni’s morning show “Aal Mawaad” where we discussed the dangers facing our ethical mettle as well as the ramifications of such actions. This article is a synopsis of the main topics discussed in an effort to bring in a wider audience pertaining to such a crucial discussion.
To address these issues, it’s essential to go back to how children are raised and educated about ethics and values. Children from day one to three years are eager to gain knowledge because it is during this time that they establish their neuronal connections. Yet we must not forget that the tender age between a day and 7 years marks the most sensitive duration during the child’s development where he/she relies heavily on their parents for all of his/her needs. Parents are responsible for planting the correct values within the child to prepare him/her for the journey of life. Most parents shrike from such an important duty; but we are creatures of habit, so whatever values we want to instill have to become part of the patterns a child, witnesses. Repetition will integrate these habits into our subconscious and we become accustomed to them to the point they become our natural and instinctive reactions.
Once the child reaches the age of 7, parents cease to be the sole and primary influencer because children become exposed to occurrences outside the family unit and become involved with new media such as peers, school, technology, and immediate environment. Children start to compare what they see outside to what they have been raised on inside their homes. Parents must take the initiative to converse with their children to find out what they are accumulating from the outside world. In Victorian England, it was customary for parents to ask their children to write what they have learned or observed daily. Any negatives were written on a yellow page and positives were jotted down on a white page. They were then encouraged to discuss what the negatives are, should they deem it necessary, and then tear the yellow page.
After the age of 14, parents need to get intimately involved in their children’s lives to have a comprehensive picture of what is happening. It becomes the parents’ responsibility to compare these outer values with the family values and adjust their dealings with their children to balance out the two. Up until the age of 21, parents should be the remote control that watches from afar and shuffles things around because that is when their offspring will take on a new identity that is independent of their former family life. They hone their own values from what they learned at home and what they learned in society to mold it into their own personality.
This mold has to be flexible to adapt because every individual is constantly being thrust into new situations that make them acquire new values. People are often thrust into unfortunate situations and undergo stimuli that cause them to skew off from the path already set. Lebanon is especially vulnerable because it has just survived a lengthy civil war that still affects the social and economic fabric of society. In most households, both parents work to provide in the strife economy and the children are often raised by maids who have a different set of values or simply not bother with instilling any values at all. Technology is another concern as it exposes impressionable to morals and practices that are completely alien to the environment they exist in. It can be very difficult to resist because parents are often failing to apply the proper techniques to instill their own set of values during the appropriate stages of children’s lives.
This generation was not given enough care while growing up to adopt the habits of their parents because they do not get enough time and attention from their busy mother and father. They are being raised by other family members, maids, and teachers who might not necessarily be concerned for the welfare of the children. Even the relatives might not have the dedication to satisfying the curiosity of these developing minds. The parents are busy at work till 5 while the children are in nurseries and schools. Between 5 something and 7 or 8, there is a flurry of activities to get dinner on the table and homework done. This leaves virtually no time for the family unit to sit and discuss the happenings. When these neglected children reach the sensitive period between 7 and 14, they clash with parents who cannot relate to them because there wasn’t enough interaction to establish a relationship of openness and trust. Parents try to enforce their norms and values on children that consider them strangers and rely instead on the misguided strong correlation with their peers. Between 14 and 21, parents will lose all semblance of control or authority they have over their children.
Globalization is harming children beyond what the absentee parents can control. They are constantly bombarded with ideas and values that do not belong to their environment they belong to and must successfully navigate. Every new discovery is immediately met on by an automatic reaction of like or dislike within our primitive brains. The conscious brain has to be modulated to convince the subconscious brain to properly receive these new values so that they become accepted. This process is complex and requires diligence that the parents of today might not have the time or the inclination for. The values need to be updated to deal with the new ethical questions that puzzle us. They should align with what is already within. Today’s children are being offered numerous lanes to walk down, and without a tangible moral background, they are unlikely to go down the path most compatible with their society. They are most likely just to follow the path that most of their peers are walking on.
Perhaps freedom is one of the most contested subjects that parents of every generation face. Each generation demands more liberty without realizing the consequences of such actions. Sexual freedom was regarded as a right for each, but there are many signs that indicate it’s a treacherous choice. This generation is not being taught about the sanctity of their own bodies and their worth. They place so little value on themselves that they freely share their bodies with just about anybody not knowing they are losing part of their essence every time they do.
Women are the ones who create standards for the entire society to follow, but our young women are now changing everything about their appearances and identity to please a society that is making unnatural demands of her. Where are the mothers whose job it is to make their daughters feel precious and beautiful? She is panting after the same unrealistic ideals. It seems we have reversed to 10th century China where women had their feet and ankles broken and tightly wrapped to prevent the feet from growing larger because dainty feet were considered a sign of beauty. Mothers and fathers are not telling their daughters that they should only be with someone who loves their faults, so these vulnerable women humiliate themselves hungry for men’s attentions.
We live in the world of Machiavelli’s “The end justifies the means”, and it is propagated by the ethical education children are being given. Parents and educational institutes of all levels do not supply children with enough knowledge to realize the consequences of their actions. This is a process that takes years and even decades to be assimilated, and yet most of the upcoming generation is severely lacking in such matters. Higher education institutes are particularly concerned with this issue because they are the gateway to life and adulthood. Children should be warned that the end never justifies the means. Each of us is responsible for paving our own paths, and we are responsible for walking that path. Should any of us protest this path, the only solution is to pave another. This is reminiscent of a king who was strolling and tripped on a branch. So great was his annoyance that he demanded the whole kingdom to be covered with protective leather, a very difficult feat. The entire court was abuzz trying to find a solution until one of the low-level servants came and asked the king: “Who don’t you make special shoes from leather that will protect you instead of trying to change the whole world?” This is a moral we could all benefit from because genuine change only comes from within.
We often fool ourselves by pretending we are noble creatures that aim tirelessly to the highest echelons of ethical behavior when reality is that we are simply creatures of habit mirroring what we witness each day until they become our norms. Adults are portraying dangerous and unethical practices and children are mimicking what they see. It is up to the adults to rise beyond what is being offered to impressionable minds. We are screaming profanity in and outside our homes. We consciously break the law and create a generation with virtually no respect to the rule of the law. Parents and educational centers are the basis of the change, but it takes dedicated and cohesive efforts to shake off the shackles of ignorance and inequity that have weighed us down for the last few decades and steered us away from our core values and ethics.