Crisis of Virtue

Crisis of Virtue

By: Ben S. Malayang III

We might be marching into a world of crises and a word in crisis.

The economy continues to be shaken by uncertainties. Markets are unpredictable. The prices of basic commodities are weighing down household incomes of many Filipino families who are hardly able to eat three meals a day. There is a crisis of confidence on financial institutions as we daily hear of corporations cheating on their investors, banks favoring only a few, and regulators being bought off to keep their eyes closed on books being cooked.

The crisis of the economy is made worse by a crisis of confidence on our political system. It seems that government is no longer of the people, nor for the people, nor of the people. Rent-seeking and State-capture are eroding our people’s trust on government being an instrument for the good of most. The bureaucracy is a life of its own and, instead of facilitating the aspirations of the citizen, it chokes our ability to live. Somehow, whenever we approach and deal with government, we get hurt. Corruption is more norm than exception. And what are simple letters and spirit of the law are blatantly corrupted by pretentious legalese intended to favor a few.

Then there is the widespread crisis of our environment. The air that we breathe (without which we can’t live), the waters that we need to have in order to survive, the lands on which we produce our food, all these – which are essential to life on earth – are routinely being poisoned. Limitless greed has limited the ability of our earth to support life.

Even our religions are in crisis. Fundamentalism makes faiths of all kind deadly and hurting. Religious leaders reposed with the care of our souls routinely assault our bodies and our dignity. Churches and religious organizations are being led and run like cartels.

The list of crises that plague us can go on, but what to me is the principal and core tumor creating these crises, the mother of these crises, is the “crisis of our virtue”. This is the crisis in our ability to see the good in others and to be confident that others can be as good as we are. It is the erosion of our moral courage to do what is right, and what is Godly, not what can be justified for our advantage. It is ultimately the crisis in our ability to trust others and to be trustworthy, and be trusted by others.

The crisis of virtue is shown in how we have grown cynical and skeptical of people. We see it in how we have been losing our confidence on the worth and greatness of the human being.

The crisis of virtue is seen in the excessive value we place on ourselves, over others. Our focus has become the self, not others. It is on how we can improve our performance, increase our productivity, and reap benefits and rewards. We seek the world to revolve around us, and for us to have the best of what there is, regardless of how many will lose out in the process. We seek to be on the highest mountain, regardless of how much heaps of the poor and marginalized shall need to be piled up to make us rise higher.

The crisis of virtue is seen in the crisis of our identity. We rely on opportunities with which we can get ahead of others. People’s perceptions of us drive our lives so that our values and principles, and even our faith – which are the core of who we are – become confused and rendered liquid.

The crisis of virtue finds its place in too much reliance on the external environment. We wait for what knocks on our door and go with the flow. We take what we can get, and give little in return.

When virtue is in crisis, it breeds distrust and unworthiness of trust. We refuse to believe in the goodness in others. We fracture friendships and makes harmony with those around us virtually impossible. We deprive ourselves of an experience with human goodness, and so deprive ourselves of a liberating and fulfilling life.

When the crisis of virtue spreads across society, no one can be trusted and instead of seeing in others the sunny disposition that gives us hope, we cringe at placing confidence on any one else and hope is blighted by dark clouds of despondency.

Then, when despondency blankets our hope, our institutions begin to break down. Our systems of governance lose credibility. The maces of authority across society are corrupted and scarred. And the gavels of justice become brittle with bribery. Crisis of all kinds ensue, and we start losing our future.

But we don’t lose hope.

Keep our virtues. We insist on being virtuous. Acquire power only when we are able to trust because we can be trusted. Then, virtue finally overwhelms indifference, and trustworthiness becomes the solid anchor of our institutions. We shall yet see that our marching into a world of crises today actually begins the process to restore order and hope in our world.