HIGHLIGHTING OUR MORAL COMPASS TO COUNTER VIOLENT EXTREMISM
Brian Orchard 2014, defined a compass as a relatively simple instrument based on a simple concept. With its north ward-facing needle, it is a consistent and true indicator of physical direction. By placing moral in front of compass, we evoke a clear picture of mental processes that point a person in a particular direction in life. These processes are consistent and true indicators upon which person belief and action can be based. The concept of morality on its own denotes conduct or duties based on what is right and wrong. Morality is considered to be the basis of character and is wrapped around ethics.
The Dictionary also sees moral compass as a set of values and objectives that guides a person with regards to ethical behavior and decision making. It is also a natural feeling that makes people know what is right and wrong and how they should behave.
While both the concept of moral compass and definition of morality are simple and clear, the concept of what constitutes morality to one person’s moral compass may not point in the same direction as another, as far as right and wrong conduct and belief are concerned.
A recent article in the L.A. Daily news serves as a good illustration. Written by Tom Castro, “The moral compass suddenly goes south”. The clear implication is that society is generally going in the opposite direction of acceptable moral and ethical standards. The author makes a superb case based on the recent actions of notable public figures — starlets and celebrities who operate outside and above the common laws of society, politicians and religious leaders who see themselves as immune to prosecution and whose examples raise serious questions about right and wrong.
While watching the political discourse, deadlock and chaos, and the emergence of violent extremism in the north eastern Nigeria, I often long for an authentic discussion of the core values that ought to be guiding us a society. I often feel that we are morally adrift, that we don’t have a clear sense of how to ground our identities and actions to ultimate values that transcend time and place. That is not to say that our society is largely immoral, but we are lacking clear a compass or a foundational guide as a secular people. Of course, for many like myself, organized religion is valuable precisely because it provide such a moral grounding. Unfortunately for others, organized religion does not ring the bell, it does not stand up to analytical scrutiny from the vantage point of modern science and thus it is seen as an unsatisfactory solution.
Instead of moral compass, people have been given enormous freedom to construct their own lives and make their own moral decisions. Although, this outcome has had many positive elements, it also has resulted in large number of people who are fundamentally unsure when it comes to their philosophy of life. In a fascinating book, “The battle for human nature” Barry Schwartz said “People don’t seem to know that they are doing the right thing with their lives. And they don’t know what the right things are.
A recent sociological analysis of emerging adults (the age range 18–23) drives home Schwartz’s analysis regarding the loss of a moral compass and paint an even bleaker picture of the capacity of today’s young adults to ground their perspective in a moral one. Of particular relevance here was the primary finding that emerging adults follow a loose, poorly defined moral individualism that, for many, bleeds into an extreme moral relativism. The emerging adults’ reflection on right and wrong generally “reflected weak thinking and provided a fragile basis upon which to build robust moral positions. Finally, the authors discovered that “the vast majority of the emerging adults could not think of any dilemma they had recently faced or misunderstood what a moral dilemma is”.
I believe we should return to teaching moral values, and engage in an active search for values that can guide the construction of greater societies. Gregg Henriquez Ph.D. on his quest for ultimate justifications have found three separate but interrelated values that together feel like they offer of a strong grounding in guiding my life and moral decisions which can be adopted by our teaming youths in the north east. They are dignity, well-being and integrity.
Dignity is the state of being valued, honored, respected, or admired. Well-being refers to the state of health and contentment of individuals and groups at biological, mental and social level of existence. Although happiness is often used as a key word here, but well-being is actually a much deeper construct. It refers to the degree of life satisfaction, engagement and purpose in life, as well as the capacity to effectively adapt to environmental and social spheres in a way that foster growth and positive sentiments in both individual and group/society. Then integrity is the state of being honest, sound, and coherent. Whereas dignity and well-being are decidedly humanistic construct, integrity includes value such as accuracy, truth, and logical consistency and thus, is more scientific in essence.
I strive to be that which enhances dignity and well-being with integrity. I have found that whether I am at work, at home with my family, or challenging the violent extremist narratives on social medias who do not see the world as I do, conducting research or even struggling with my own personal issues, I can use the ultimate justifications above as a guide.
Finally if the next generation of the north east is going to be successful in navigating the complexities of life ahead and do so in a manner that result is richer, deeper, and more meaningful lives, we need more discussions and proposals about what can unite us in vision and transcendent purpose.
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