A noted author said, “Every civilisation depends upon the quality of the individuals it produces”.
I was recently reading about the lost civilisations of the world. Their stories of rise and fall are truly intriguing. In most of these lost civilisations, societal collapse and increasingly corrupt and unethical practices were identified to be the prime reasons for their decline.
On the other hand, while standing on the doorstep of 2020, I was attempting to map the current happenings from around the world and that of those lost civilisations. Are we close enough to an apocalypse? Will we survive or will our civilization too be lost?
There is no doubt that in 2019, the world and specifically the Asia Pacific region, which is one of the key engines of the present day world, has been witnessing many tectonic shifts. This year, in many conversations with acquaintances, I did hear them exclaim, "Have you heard the news today?", "Did you read one more act of shame came to the light?" "Has the world gone insane?" "What is going to happen to our next generation?" These were some of the expressions resulting from the media revelations/reports of many incidences ranging from mega-scale financial frauds, acts of terrorism, economic warfare, aged-care abuse, child/female abuse and many more....
I kept thinking about it. The context of unethical practices almost always emerged as the key theme, each time, be while reading about the lost civilisations or that of the present day malicious events. Hence, I thought to further analyse the scientific perspective, to dechipher the fundamental reasons as to what leads someone to get into an unethical mode?
In a recently published Harvard Business Review article titled, 'The Psychology behind unethical behaviour', organizational psychologist Dr. Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg notes the three psychological dynamics that leads to unethical behaviour, which she calls-
a. Omnipotence: when someone feels so aggrandised and entitled that they believe the rules of decent behaviour don't apply to them.
b. Cultural numbness: When others play along and gradually begin to accept and embody deviant norms and
c. Justified neglect: When people don't speak up about ethical breaches because they are thinking of more immediate rewards such as staying on a good footing with the powerful (Wedell-Wedellsborg, 2019). Well, we have loads of them in all the above three quadrants.
But, what if we just see the malicious and widely reported events of 2019 from another angle? Is there still all gloom? This year saw many major anomalistic events and misdeeds of many years come to the light and miscreants penalised. Though, it may at the first glance play a negative note, yet the hard works and sacrifice of those who brought the offenders to justice, thereby re-establishing order and ethics, should not be ignored.
Hence, while we enter the leap year 2020, can we not say there is still hope and a firm commitment of at least a few, to social justice for a better tomorrow? And that our civilisation shall not be lost...at least not that soon...
Cheers to a brighter and fulfilling 2020!
Wedell-Wedellsborg, M (2019), The Psychology behind unethical behaviour. Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2019/04/the-psychology-behind-unethical-behavior
Dr. Jayantee Mukherjee Saha
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