A few months back, a girl stormed into my room all worked up, red in anger and fury wrote in capital letters on her face. She started screaming and shrieking about a boy who had possibly insulted her in front of her classmates. She wanted him to apologize to others. The boy was summoned and his version of the act was also recorded in front of witnesses. After a lot of arguments, threats, warnings, counseling and cajoling the matter was finally resolved. One argument struck me like a thunderbolt, ‘what he did is unethical’.
The dictionary meaning of the word ‘ethics’ is: ‘moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity’. But then, what are ‘moral principles’? The dictionary meaning is –‘the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual or a social group’. The question now arises that something that is right for me may not necessarily be right for someone else. Like for example, the girl’s screaming and shrieking was unethical for me but perfectly right according to her because ‘she had the right to shout as she had been wronged.’ So, we come to the most important question of who decides what is right and what is wrong? Is it all a matter of perception? Is everything in black and white without any gray areas in between?
A million unanswered questions cropped into the mind which kept on disturbing me throughout the day. When my students come in torn jeans and there is a lot of skin show through off shoulder tops it’s unethical from my point of view but for them it is fashion. Bunking lectures, mass bunking, hooting at faculty members or passers-by, passing comments against few faculty members, open display of affection in the corridors/classrooms, arguing with faculty or administrative staff etc., are some of the activities which people of my age may find insulting and unethical but most of the students consider it their right to do so.
So, without getting into another argument on the generation gap, I would like to just voice out my opinion that the word ‘ethics’ per se is fast becoming ‘something that belonged to the sages of yore, era’. It is time to look for another word to replace this and thus maintain the sanctity of ‘ethics’. It is rather a matter of perception of what is right or wrong and let us all, both my generation and the young generation, sit down around a round table and discuss these issues calmly and peacefully and come to a near common consensus in order to make our earth a better place to live in. J