Ethics, Morality, Virtues, Vices; I never really put much thought into them, and instinctively followed the values I picked while growing up. Some were deliberate conscious decisions and some were ingrained habits of my life. I have always judged what’s wrong, and what’s right according to my own principles, not biased by other people’s views. And have earned scorn for that at times. But ethics, virtues and vices are very subjective terms. What may seem perfectly moral for me, may not seem so to another. And we should accept the fact and not jump into a tirade denouncing the views of others unless it brings about deliberate harm to someone.
My views and opinions regarding these topics have been both pliant and staunch at different times and my current set of beliefs and values have evolved through the years. I learned from various experiences, mostly by trial and error method. My ideals are distinctively mine, my own individual set of values and others can like it or lump it but I’m going to lead my life within the boundaries of those rules. I’m open to change and my ideals may get modified over time, but certain values are so deep-rooted and so influenced by one’s upbringing that there’s but little change in those specific ideals.
What is ethics or morality? “A code of values to guide man’s choices and actions; a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct”. But it evokes the question of what’s acceptable conduct? And do we need a code of values and if yes what should they be? How does an individual decide the principles of right and wrong and should he/she strive to get them accepted by the society at large? And who should these values primarily benefit? The individual or the society? One needs to thoroughly clarify and answer these questions before deciding their life’s ideals.
I faltered many a time at various ideals I believed in and each time the only reason was because I put others’ interests over mine. And, the results were far from what I’d predicated and diminished my image in my own eyes. That’s why I say I’ve learnt through trial and error method, I know what works for me and how I should lead my life; not being bothered by the socially acceptable “virtuous qualities” and not being an “sacrificial animal” yet again. The beneficiary of my ideals should primarily be me. I’m not talking of material and monetary benefits, but the joy and satisfaction that arises from achieving my goals without compromising my values.
The present social scenario leads me to question how the society views what’s immoral and moral. It’s based on few very irrational and archaic principles. Firstly, if an individual’s actions benefits himself more than it benefits the others around him or the society, it’s evil or selfish. Altruism is the keyword for being the epitome of morality! And being concerned with one’s own interest is synonymous to evil! If a person sacrifices his life’s ambition for the care of other people, he is considered far superior than the one who struggles all his life to fulfill his ambition. “For the greater good” is the motto. “There’s no greatness in working for oneself!” Secondly, the self-custodians of morality are hell-bent on reforming the society of everything that they perceive threatens its existence. The rights of a person to live the way they deem fit is frowned upon. One has to answer to the society at large.
There are obvious flaws in this outlook towards life. Every person on this earth has the full right to pursue their goals and ambitions irrespective of whether it pleases others or not. I’m NOT talking about indulging in irrational whims, or harming others in any way on the pretext of “doing whatever pleases me”, but working towards rational goals. But we tend to be bound by the expectations of others, and get motivated to do what’s considered virtuous in the eyes of others and thus lose track of what we always aspired to do. Dare a girl who has the responsibility of her parents on her to pursue her dreams single-mindedly without being condemned for her actions. And dare a single girl live life on her own terms without questions being raised on her character after she passes the conventional marriageable age. We live for others! I used to do feel that’s the proper thing to do too. But it suffocated me.
After a long rumination based on my previous experiences, I’ve decided on my code of ethics. I decided never to renounce what I have in life for the sake of another person, anyone at all, at the cost of hampering my own progress. I know by now few of you’ve conjured up a image of me as the ‘evil’ one. But I don’t want to further arrest my progress in life by self-inflicted pain and sacrifice for the sake of others. I feel that’s the best decision of my life so far; something I should have done a long, long time back.
I feel the following values are enough in leading a life of happiness, a life one can be proud of. I will try my best to always uphold the following set of ethics I believe in and not just preach but actually put them into practice in my life:
Responsibility: Of achieving my goals. Of making my parents proud through my actions. Of never letting my self-esteem falter. Of a constant thrive to aim high in life. Of never sacrificing for the sake of another individual, nor asking anyone else to make sacrifice for my sake. I first read this line in the oath taken in one of my favorite novels, Atlas Shrugged. I used to think that’s not possible to follow; not any more. I would strive my best to live by it.
Rationality: In exercising my choice on the course of actions to be taken at every step of my life. In originating the goals of my life. In my thinking.
Pride: In leading my life on my own terms. In not being prey to the schemes of other people. In never harming any one for my benefit. In achieving what I’ve set out to do. In the power to think.
Independence: And knowing it’s importance, cherishing it and never misusing it. Freedom doesn’t equal to drinking, smoking, using abusive terms in everyday conversations, pub hopping and whatever the youth of today associate it with. It’s okay for those who indulge in these for pleasure or out of habit, and I’ve nothing against them; it’s all about the choices we make in life. But that doesn’t and shouldn’t pressurize me to ape them to assert my freedom.
Justice: And standing up for what I believe in. Of knowing the boundaries I’ve set for myself and being true to them and not letting the moral guardians of society influence my life. And not tolerate self-interest schemes masked by altruistic approach, like the power seeking politicians “working for public good” or the the ‘moral duty’ of supporting a leech (of the human kind!).
Selfishness: Being concerned with my own interests. Doing what makes me happy, and once again, I don’t mean indulging in irrational whims.
Self-esteem: Never losing it again. For anyone at all. Absolutely no one’s worth it. The loss of of self-esteem hurts and stings the deepest and the longest.
Productivity: A focused approach towards my goals. And not doing pseudo work. Of understanding the value of the opportunities I have received and utilizing them fully.
Integrity: A moral soundness that comes from living a life that I’m proud of. Of helping the ones in genuine need without making them leeches, but never at the cost of my own survival.
Knowledge: Of striving to achieve the best of it. Feeding the most precious treasure of man, the mind.
Trust and Honesty: Of valuing human emotions and understanding the hurt that comes from lies and betrayal. Of being honest in my career always, and never settle for minor neglects that I feel won’t harm anyone. Of being honest to myself and my priorities in life. Its neglect might not bring any immediate harm, but its cumulative effect can cause major upheavals.
Love: Caring for and nurturing my relationships with my loved ones and standing by them through thick and thin. And being careful in judging who deserves my love. Not let just anyone stray into my heart.
Effort: Relying on hard work alone and never luck to progress in my career. And not shying away from hard work ever.