Practice, Don't Preach!!

Dr. Pushpy Dutt

Principal, Delhi Public School, Nashik

“No man is an island entire of himself... every man is a part of it” ; our social system is a part of every man and our value system a part of this intricate social system.

History is witness that civilisations that lost out on their moral values decayed and vanished into oblivion. It is only by virtue of our lasting moral values that Indian ethos has retained its originality and survived as a tolerant and vibrant society for many millenia. Sadly, it is now at a brink, threatened by the imposing influence of the western culture and we are on the edge of a likely major cultural transition that would take away our traditional moral values and would imbibe in our minds for ever a nucleal affiliation, that cares only for self-survival and survival and priority of only the very close and dear ones, even it be at cost of some others.

I still remember as a child when our parents taught us ethics by personal example, they set us examples of virtuosity that we followed, and we listened to what they said! They taught us to read right from wrong and inculcated in us a feeling of mutual dependence and as a consequence, of mutual respect and concern for the larger family, including to the extent of even considering the whole world as a family – the concept of “Vasudaiv Kutumbakam”. It was this tolerance indeed that made India a receptacle of many civilisations and that India was not a soveriegn country, but rather a diverse yet unified conglomeration of regional powers, bound together by a common value system. Invaders came and merged into this huge melting pot of civilisations, blending and imparting some of their own wisdom and becoming a part of this great nation.

However, as we socially move towards a nuclear family society, we drift away from our own parents, in effect, taking our own children away from ourselves, by teaching them to be not self-reliant but merely self-concerned. In our race to become better than the Joneses, we are forgetting what we were or who we were. We are unable to imbibe in our children the same social values and ethics today not because they do not listen, but because we have nothing to impart. Whereas we as children learnt to respect our elders and always placed them at a venerable position merely by their elderly status, today, there are other factors that decide the social hierarchy. Gone are the days when a child will accept a father's word on face value; today, they will weigh it in their own eyes and accept it probably if it suits them, or else they will question it, and more often than not, reject it outright!!!! And it is not merely that the parents are at the receiving end. The same applies to all elders in the society whether they be teachers, or elderly neighbours. Well, times do change and one can hardly pass judgement on the changing values that must change with time, hopefully for the better.

We cry hoarse about failing social values but we ourselves contribute little towards creating a value-rich environment in our own homes. The problem is not with the younger generation or our children. The problem lies in our own minds. We ourselves have somewhere lost our value system, giving in to what appears as profits from accepting changed values. We cry about corruption, but we would be the first ones to pay when it concerns our own work, or even accept bribes if it relates to our duties!! It is merely a matter of opportunity, or lack of it, and not ethical attitude that some people are not corrupt. Today's generation takes corrupt practices for granted and unfortunately accepts it as normal behaviour. These are disturbing trends as morality becomes decadent when falsehoods are taken to be the norm rather than the exception.

We fear the worst for the generations to come and feel that they are not responsible enough to care for genuine moral values. But then do we have our children to blame!! Are we not to introspect and find that it is our own lack of time and concern for them that has led us to this brink. We do provide for our children, Yes!! but is it enough to provide for material comforts for our family. Is that all!! Don't you think they also need personal attention and they need to be listened to and they need to see examples of personal integrity and manners!! If we make light of a decent person, making him out to be a fool...would our children consider us differently if we ask them to be decent and just!!! If we show them means of making the best of a situation by paying a small bribe, would they not be tempted to exploit a situation themselves?

What value system our parents and teachers imbibed in us, I sadly regret, we have failed to hand over to our next generations merely because we never had time for them. Not only that, we ourselves failed to practice our own value system over a period of time, and we have come so far that we find moral and social values text-bookish! We have always had the money to spare for our children, we get them the best that they need to get ahead in life, what we unfortunately do not give them is our time, our company and our examples!

It is not my purpose to preach or sermonise, but merely to warn ourselves and advise to try and look within if we are doing justice to ourselves and to our children and if we are giving them the best of value system, for degeneration is an easy process that comes naturally to any system and we have barely any time at hand now, if the trends of today are an indication of the shape of things to come.

There is no single fix-it-all solution here. We all have to improvise for ourselves based on our life experiences and our introspection. And no amount of external motivation will help unless there is an internal desire to cleanse ourselves. Our only salvation lies in being with our families more often, listening to and talking to our children and our parents, and in spending quality time together, doing introspection on our deeds each day, sharing good feelings and enriching the lives of our children so that they imbibe good social values from us, not by our preaching, but by demonstrating our personal examples.

Dr. Pushpy Dutt

Principal, Delhi Public School, Nashik