Some thoughts on Character Building

Columbia University student protest
Columbia University

The whole mayhem that is going on around us since last some years or say 2014, the one thing that critically grabs my attention is our ‘changing ‘norms for simple character building.

Look at several ‘situationships’ on our political fields; and among some politicians and how they ditch their parties nay even their uncles to be with the riding horses.  Have you wondered why do they do this?  What prompt? What inclination?

And when you scratch your heads hard and feel at a loss, your mind quickly turns to what kind of moral education they might or might not have had.

Morals and our Politicians? Morals and humans today?

Difficult to imagine.

Yet don’t we blame a man, and  more so a woman’s morals for her wrong doings.

To talk of morals in the age where babies are beheaded for pleasure by Satanyahu; in the age when relationships are formed on the basis of monies you possess should still not be futile.

Why do you think a beheaded baby doesn’t spark the same outrage in the world/ west? Why don’t starving babies melt our hearts in a similar way, everywhere?

This is something that has gripped my mind forever, since Oct 7 and beyond and above this date.

I have observed less privileged dying in riots or in accidents do not spark the same kind of grief as some rich dying accidentally in a mishap.

What do you think?

The Pune Porsche car accident is a prime example of our morality scenario. Let’s call it our collective moral apathy.

The police mishandled the case from the word go, the MLA comes rushing for the rescue and even the doctors misappropriating the driver’s blood!

Why do you think they could do this?

Money, of course.

But I believe they did it primarily because they lacked empathy. They lacked morals.

They didn’t think it was their moral duty to be honest in their work. Had we had honesty as our basic moral principle, we would see the driver arrested duly and not fed pizzas and burgers. Nay, in fact we would see no car even if Porsche running without a registration number and no under age child driving it roughly in the dead of the night.

Baat morals ki ho toh door talak jaye gi……

 We would see the politician MLA rushing out in the middle of the night with the same fervor for an underprivileged person too. We would see the doctors correctly realizing that all the bloody blood is red.

Red and nothing else.

Earlier we had sort of a simple system where black was never called white.


Do not steal…

This, I promise, has ‘often’ prevented us /me from  stealing away the beautiful pencils from our fellow classmates.

Do not ever back bite.

This has been tricky. I swear. But if you remove the word ’ever’ then it looks a bit okay.

So Dilnaz told you how Shireen ate like a hungry pig at Mansi’s wedding?

Now how could you resist,  not telling this to Salma or even Shireen?

In olden times our society (and homes as well) had simple basic morals which now don’t remain that noticeable.

This thought of morals singed me first in a class room where I urged my fresher students to strictly avoid copying in the exams. Illustrating my point I spoke of honesty. There was pin drop silence.

Uncomfortable pause of silence.

I wondered what wrong I had spoken. But I was speaking of honesty!

Nevertheless the idea of honesty appeared like the long dead dinosaurs to them.

I got the answer.

Thinking of these darn boring morals, a thought comes to my mind.

What is more important? A high educational degree from a well-known institution or simple basic morals? And where do we learn these damn morals, from?

Please bear with me.

So I have a degree from Harvard or Cambridge or that epitome of an educational institution that was built when we were busy making a Taj Mahal here, That name at which our middle class tongues start  salivating like we have seen a ripe Happoos…….or a plate over flowing with mutton biryani?

You guessed it right.

The Oxford…….

My eyes would turn widest.  

Oh, Oxford! My dear dear Oxford!

But a few years ago, when I met someone from Oxford with a doctorate on George Orwell, I   loved that person in the morning session of the seminar but despised in the evening.


There was a rumour about this Oxfordian leaking Question papers. Oh, really? I felt devastated. After the initial; how can an Oxfordian do such an act; my heart went calmer thinking about the home moral set up of this person despite she/him being an Oxfordian.

The liberal set up of the West decided to glorify a nuclear bomb through the movie Oppenheimer.

Moral apathy at its peak, you say?

We live in an age where the lines between good or bad, between honesty and foolishness, between moralities or the absence of it are no longer sharply demarcated especially for the younger eyes. In fact the changing versions of morality exhaust you; with every passing fraction of a second.  

Watch entertainment Instagram for a minute if you can hold yourself on for a few minutes.

So in such an age does Oxford matter? Does Harvard count?

 Or who and what should matter is a govt primary school teacher who teaches children; that lying is not good and stealing is a strict no no; while he himself is living at subsistence level?


But in ‘today’ ‘s moral society stealing has assumed different multiples+ plus forms; among them, misleading advts, deceptive promises of doubling the investments, or benign looking solemn govt policies controlling the prices of petrol diesel and the rest.

What if a Harvard trained engineer builds a bridge that breaks down within years taking with it, a thousand souls?

Should we call it an acute absence of basic morals?

So now the question is what is a better choice? Oxford, Harvard or a  Primary School?

And who is a better individual on the criteria of how that person is of benefit to the society/people around him.

I tell you, my views are now a changing.

Morals ; that is taught/learnt almost free at a local seminary or school or better in our homes.

Truth justice and honesty can never have replacements.

And propaganda can be powerful but its time is always limited.

 And this can be seen in the US students encampment protests at their universities where they declare they not just want to grieve but also want to be arrested to protest against the genocide being committed in Palestine by Israel and America.

These American students have actually saved America in their own way by sticking to basic morals by disallowing moral apathy.

What about children? If two children are hungry together would you give one food while dismissing the other as the second  child doesn’t belong to your religion?

Does hunger have a religion?

No, hunger is hunger. It can’t have any religion.

Blood is red throughout the world without any change in hue.

Then why don’t Palestinian children burning or being decapitated fail to impress a vast section of the world?

These encampment protests have doubled my hope and now I have started respecting even Americans!  Whose tax dollars nevertheless have always helped innocents being butchered mercilessly since 50s.

Such a university encampment  scenario , today, is difficult to imagine in our region though.

The most remarkable aspect of these protests is that youngsters are not afraid of even putting their careers on line.

Yet we can start building things up slowly but surely. And the first step would be to make our children morally conscious.

Opening the doors for the elderly for women or anyone who needs it,

No copying in our exams whether minor or major.

Not lying or trying utmost to not, and never to steal; folks.

Not charging people more than what is appropriate, for the products we sell.

Keep on adding more such basics to your list, every day.

But most of all following the principles of humanity

Hunger has no religion. Pain also doesn’t have one. Blood is the same red.

And if while feeding a child you first think of the religion of that baby then you must go and take a dip anywhere deep and try not to emerge again into this already boring world.

Asma Anjum Khan is a teacher, speaker, attempting and tempted to write.

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