RECENTLY, the well-known US social psychologist Prof Dr Robert Levine concluded a six-year-long international study on the level of friendliness and willingness of people living in 23 cities around the globe to help people in need.
Kuala Lumpur ended up at the very last place in the rating, even ranking behind New York, which came second last. The well-to-do people of Singapore, known to be all but soft-hearted, came in third last.
Topping the list of helpfulness are the people of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), a crowded mega-city with a high percentage of people living in poverty and large slums unknown in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere in Malaysia. Yet, the people of Rio de Janeiro were found to be much more friendly and helpful than those in Kuala Lumpur.
Even more surprising, the people of Lilongwe, the small capital of the African state of Malawi, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, came in third after San José (Costa Rica) and in front of slum-ridden Calcutta (India) and the European cities of Vienna, Madrid and Copenhagen.
Obviously, the practice of good common moral values like kindness, compassion, honesty, and justice, etc is not dependent on economic or technological development and on the standard of living.
There can be no doubt that Kuala Lumpur and the whole of Malaysia have, during the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, undergone an outstanding economic, infrastructure and technological development.
However, it seems that during the process of development, a number of good traditional moral values and ethical standards have been partly lost. Criminality seems to be on the rise, whereas law enforcement appears to be getting weaker.
Dishonesty and corruption seem to be spreading whereas transparency and accountability appear to be in danger of becoming the exception rather than the rule.
Even in the spiritual field a growing tendency towards false piety and pure formalism without sticking to the core principles and values can be observed. As common values have not been stressed enough in the education system, relations between the different religious and ethnic groups leave much to be desired.
Last but not least, the pollution of the natural environment has reached a stage where the health of a growing number of people is directly threatened by very poor water or/and air quality.
In fact, most of these phenomena in the development process of capitalism or market economy are not new. All materially and technologically developed countries have faced and are still facing a more or less serious problem of degradation of moral values. All of us, Asians, Europeans, Africans, Americans etc, are facing it.
The basic reasons for the degradation of moral values in many economically and technologically developed countries are:
·lack of social, ecological and ethical restrictions on the market economy system,
·lack of political leaders who practise what they preach about the social, ecological and ethical responsibilities of public and corporate leaders, and
·lack of good moral education at home and in the kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities, especially the lack of education in the common core values we all share: peace, freedom, justice, respect for life and nature, kindness, friendship, love, compassion, honesty, integrity, accountability, etc.
If we let the so-called market forces develop in an unbridled way, the only rule of the market would be excessive profiteering. Then, everything including humans would be sacrificed on the altar of the “free market” and “development”. This is no exaggeration.
In fact, the trade in minor virgins and boys is already a gruesome reality in a number of countries as is the illegal trade in transplants for the sheer sake of profit.
Because of our belief in the necessity of good morals and ethics based on a faith in a Supreme Divine Being responsible for the existence and fate of the Universe, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation (KAF) has been funding the Malaysian Institute of Management’s (MIM) Tun Razak Youth Leadership Awards (TRYLA) programme and the Tun Hussein Onn Renewal Awards (THORA) programme for mid-career people.
Both programmes are strongly value-oriented so that future and present leaders should learn that there is more to strive for than just profit, power and pleasure.
It is especially important to educate everyone, especially future leaders, in the common values which all the different civilisations and faiths share. These common moral standards constitute a humane ethic, or, the ethic of humanity. In view of the process of globalisation, this ethic of humanity has been termed by the famous Swiss theologian Hans Küng as “global ethic”.
Basic contents of global ethic
In fact, the global ethic can be summarised in one precept: “Treat others as you would like to be treated” or “Do not treat others as you would not like to be treated”. That is the so-called GOLDEN RULE, which is found in the scriptures of all major faiths.
It is the fundamental ethical standard on earth. It can be characterised as the basic law of human coexistence. All other precepts derive from this mother of ethics.
And, there are a number of behaviours regarded by all faiths as sinful. Corruption, for example, is viewed as being equivalent to stealing other people’s money and lying to the public. No world religion, no faith and no philosophical belief system allows stealing and lying.
Let us all, especially the leaders, become more responsible for the future and contribute to reduce these social sins in our societies.