Morality and ethics, the missing link?

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In the last weeks I have been seriously studying the development of my kids at school. Some of us are raised without any religious or otherwise foundation that gives you a kind of sense about what is right and what is wrong. Freethinker, maybe a rationalist, you might call them. I was raised with a roman catholic background but moved away from the rituals and habits a long time ago. Now, my wife Jacqueline and I struggle with what happens to our kids and the questions is how we teach them right from wrong.

Materialistic and competitive attitude and behaviour is common among the kids and their friends. But it is not just kids: this behaviour looks predominant in many places in society, especially business.

In The Netherlands you see an increase in Islamic churches and a decline in Christian churches. In the UK a similar change, but there is a steady growth in churches, predominantly in smaller denominations. Are people getting more religious? Or are they looking for some moral foundation for their lives?

How do we achieve a global society? What do we educate our kids about what is right and what is wrong if we are aiming for them to be happy and successful in a global society? How can you learn to trust people if you have no common ground? Society is splitting and dividing, people are thinking for themselves and each has his or her own opinion on what is right and wrong. This development seems to have accelerated since the 90’s.

Traditions in the western world followed morals that I believe mostly originated from the Abrahamic religions. Schools were and are created with a religious foundation, thus including a moral system, unconscious to many, that had some commonality even stretching beyond religious dogma. Nowadays, I don’t see much of that anymore as schools are becoming more and more distanced from any moral system leaving us parents with the task to teach or children about this. But what should we teach them if we want them to live in harmony a world that has so much diversity?

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The four levels of perception tell a story about the development of mankind in history and time as well as the development of children. The levels stack, so moral education is an essential part of the development of any human being. If you leave this out, or leave it shallow you end up with people that show zero and first level behaviour most of the time. It is the same like getting rid of our legal systems: war and strive would be our harvest, society would collapse and there would not be a safe place to live. Leaving out moral and ethical thinking is almost as bad.

Individualistic behaviour discerns itself from narcistic behaviour because of the moral code between the two. Individualistic behaviour recognizes others people’s rights more than narcistic behaviour! How to keep and achieve trust is a hot topic nowadays and rightly so. Many people recognize that it is harder and harder to trust others. This is because we do not share a moral code that leaves us free in our individualism, our pursuit of religious freedom, atheism, freethinking or something completely unique to you.

Hence we feel empty and alone in a society that lacks a common basis that touches our feelings and heart. Laws cannot do this for you, as these are a product of rational thinking. We are not rational beings and most of our decisions in life are based on other factors!

The four levels of perception tell a story about the development of human beings and what is needed to connect and trust others, thus helping to understand how to achieve a global society. The levels also indicate short versus long term connection. At the fourth level, the strategy driving behaviour is aimed at long term trust, relationships and connection. At the zero level, behaviour is aimed at instant gratification and a fast buck.

Using the four levels of perception I must conclude that morals are needed, whether it be at school, in business or at play. Businesses often have a code of conduct, a code of ethics or some other form of business principles on the shelf. Do they have a strategy that implements these company morals and makes sure the culture actually is developed using these? Do employees actually live these? If not, the result will be a display of narcistic behavior by many. Is that actually what you would want as a business owner or leader?

Looking at politicians nowadays, I wonder how people like Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Mark Rutte,  Theresa May, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan look at morals? Maybe if they were clear on that, and demonstrated that they actually live by some form of code or principles, they would receive more trust?

Back to the reason why I started writing this: what do we teach our kids on the thinking about right and wrong? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know…. yet.

Because we want our kids to have the skills to live in harmony with any other person on the planet. Whether they want or like to, that is their choice, but they should have the skills to meet with anyone. Anyone from any religion, background, dogma, culture, language, colour, race.

Teaching moral and ethical thinking could be the missing link to redeveloping our society into something that actually works globally. No single person should do this on their own, but we could start a process together.

 

Richard

 

The International Institute for Humanization

Mozartlaan 27

1217CM Hilversum

The Netherlands

richard@humanization.org

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