In Pakistan, almost all of us claim that we dislike dishonesty, corruption, rudeness, arrogance, deception, and other similar vices. We find people saying that, if given a chance, they will reform the system and obliterate all the evil therein.
From politicians to bureaucracy, we all can blatantly point out whatever is not right with Pakistan. However, we find only a handful of people who can practically suggest a way forward. Above all, while it is imperative to correct what is wrong, it is even more important to understand how to do so properly. In my opinion, the way to improve society in an efficient and effective way requires that we:
- Hate the vice, not the vicious.
I recall going through a wonderful religious saying about how we should detest sin itself and not the one who commits it. I feel that this principle is applicable to the “reformation” of society as well. By acting this way, two major objectives are accomplished. First, it ensures that we ourselves don’t fall prey to the vice of “hating” another person. This itself is the root of many other evils. Secondly, by condemning evil itself (rather than the doer of evil), we demonstrate that we are principled and not prejudiced when it comes to correcting the evils in society.
To illustrate, let`s say that we know someone who is a habitual liar. We desire that he change himself and start speaking the truth. He may be a very good person overall. However, if we start hating, exposing, or criticizing him for lying, chances are that he will never rectify himself. In fact, chances are that he will become defensive and rebellious. Instead, we should be empathetic towards him, politely explaining the reason why falsehood is detestable. This can enable us to reform him without any feelings of animosity at either end.
- Promoting good more than condemning bad
Although condemning “bad” is acceptable, our emphasis should be more on the promotion of good, I believe. Advocating, supporting, and nourishing the “good” naturally eliminates the “evil” from its root. Simply disliking, condemning, and repelling “evil” does not guarantee that the seeds of goodness have been planted. Until these “seeds of goodness” are planted by promoting the “good”, one cannot reap the desirable fruits of morality in our society. Aiming at the positive reformation of society, moral virtues should not just be supported but also rewarded and recognized.
For example, in Pakistan, we often find people talking about “corruption”. There have been cases in which the corrupt have been penalized publicly. Corruption, unfortunately, does not end this way. On the other hand, we seldom see the “honest”, the “sincere”, and the “dedicated” ones rewarded. If they start getting accolades and recognition for simply “doing their jobs” properly, “corruption” will be eradicated automatically. Rewarding the honest is thus more effective than punishing the corrupt. Furthermore, this serves as an encouragement to those professionals who desire success without corruption or deceit.
- The influential should set examples.
We are all aware of the fact that kindness and other similar virtues should be taught by setting examples for others. We must understand, however, that setting these examples by prominent, successful, and powerful people in society has a greater impact. We naturally admire those who possess “power” and/or have accomplished great things in life. We idolize these “successful” ones and tend to follow what they do. If such people act virtuously, others will naturally imitate this as well. In this way, even “goodness” can become a trend.
For instance, if a highly popular leader in Pakistan acts humbly, he or she is teaching his followers the same. Instead of a bombastic speech on the importance of “humility”, the very action of the leader can have a greater influence on the hearts and minds of the masses. Likewise, an affluent magnate or businessman who engages in philanthropic activities sets a practical example of “generosity”. In fact, in Pakistan, many would believe that the cause of this businessman`s financial success could possibly be his or her “generosity.” This is how prominent personalities in Pakistan can contribute to the uplifting of moral virtues here.
A successful “correction” requires that the way it is done is impactful and effective. This is how the “reformation” and “transformation” in our society can occur successfully. As Pakistan surmounts every obstacle ahead, we, as its citizens, need to ensure that every “correction” here needs to be done “correctly”. By doing so, we can surely witness the positive change that we so deeply yearn for. In the words of Paulo Coelho,
“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”