When we are young, the purpose of our education seems to be to make us into good people. We are taught to be kind, hard working, courageous, wise and everything that makes us better human beings. Atleast I was and I can guess that most of the people reading this were too. Be it at home, school, church or temple, society always takes great care in advising children to be good.
Then why are we expected to discard our very carefully cultured ‘goodness’ when we become older and ‘enter’ society? The requirements by default to ‘make it’ in the world seems to be selfishness, deception, a cut-throat nature, and a flexible spine. So I ask you why it is so. Before you dismiss my words as ‘youthful optimism unspoiled by the true nature of society’, answer my question with “because that’s the way of the world” But, I ask to hear me out.
The moral education of children starts almost immediately after they have any sense to understand. Our elders often instruct infants to share toys, say ‘thank you’ and not to take what is not yours. Religion also imprints a deep conviction in the belief of right and wrong, and children often look to it to decide the course of action for a problem. The sports they play will tell them to play fair, work for a team, be humble in victory, and valiant in loss. Day by day, they strengthen their integrity with the words of encouragement for good actions from parents, teachers, elders and everyone around. The stories they read and hear will tell that the best action for any circumstance is the one that is right and just.
Slowly but steadily they grow older, and are exposed to the actual face of society around. What they see is a place where power is never questioned, integrity can be bought for a fee, rules seen as a hindrance, and relationships discarded as quickly as they are made. They are soon forced to rethink their ideals, make the line between right and wrong more flexible to movement, doubt lifelong friendships, and to keep quiet when necessary. It is not a wide staircase of success that we are given to climb, but a narrow ladder, where the only way up is by trampling the other.
Standing at the crossroads in life I ask you why I cannot retain the goodness of my childhood. I am not blind, for I have seen that society is not kind to those who refuse to comply with its rules. The contrast of behaviour expected from a child and an adult is confusing, because there should not be one. Blaming it on the fact that society is ‘just so’, is not a reasonable answer in my eye, for we make society what it is and our actions (or the absence of actions) have brought it here. Each generation owes the next a better society than what was given to it. When everyone quietly complies, things will never change. Once a value is lost, it becomes very difficult to restore it back into humanity.
So as I mourn the inevitable loss of at least half my values, I feel sad for the people we must become. The people my children will have to become. According to my elders, this transformation is necessary to ‘survive’. But truly, what kind of people must we become to ‘live’?
A concerned youngster