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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Where Has Our Moral Compass Gone?

The more we forge onto a new world order; it is clear we find ourselves in unique territory. With the world experiencing a rise in civil unrest, political discord, economic struggle, conflict and a media industry thriving on sensationalism – it makes sense that the general population lack basic trust and confidence in government.

And let us add to the list of watching political discourse. I often experience a longing for an authentic discussion of the core values that ought to be guiding us as a society. I often feel that we are morally adrift; that we do not 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. Just amoral—lacking clear a compass or a foundational guide. Organized religion is often utilized to provide that moral compass, that direction many lacks. However, religion’s popular appeal has waned over generations, as religious institutions continue to be at odds with the facts of modern development and science.

For me, back in 1976, I attended military boarding school in North Carolina. We were taught moral philosophy, and in doing so, it created a community of common values and shared aspirations, but also military values, duty and the honour code. But now with the way our world has grown, we are seeing that higher education became a place where people learned about how the world was but were no longer teaching how the world ought to be. The result of this has been the loss of direction. No longer speaking of a world we would like to live in, we spend our time criticizing and ridiculing the world that has passed.

With the development of social media, and the establishment of our own individually curated echo chambers, people were given the opportunity to share and construct their lives as they see fit, resulting in an individual moralism rather than community, shared value system. The freedom we have all enjoyed in doing this, especially in countries where individuals lack the kind of socio-political-economic freedoms, has produced results that have left more people confused with their fundamental belief system and life values.

In all my encounters, especially with people of non-military/police backgrounds, people tend to have developed their own moral compass, based on their own dilemmas and their own experiences. This is an important process for all individuals to learn about oneself, as this ensures they will live and work within certain parameters. However, this individual process is hardly introduced as a national or global topic, our own moral compass remains focused on us as individuals, focused on special interests, rather than the common good. After all, who can we trust to lead the global morality discussion, when there is a general and real distrust of our leaders, institutions and governments. More debate over our values, of which we believe in as a group, will certainly result in a community-based approach to develop future societies.

I can go on, but I strive to be that which enhances dignity and well-being with integrity.

Although moral integrity requires us to make decisions that are consistent with our values, responsibility requires that we practice the necessary self-control in exercising rights like free speech. As responsible citizens, we should always seek to improve our knowledge rather than rely on others to do our thinking for us.

Fairness requires that we are open-minded and willing to look at relevant information from differing viewpoints. Being open-minded asks that we separate fact from speculation, rumour and innuendo.

It will take the character and courage of all of us to find our way back from the current moral wilderness we find ourselves in. The responsibility is ours and the hero is us!

Together, we must not fail.

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