Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lack of Trust in Society

Reading reports submitted by students is an interesting experience, says a professor writing in the Peace Weekly. Many reports show a great deal of creativity, but not a few, he says, were copied from the internet or some book. A few years ago an incident came to light that is hard to beat.  A student had submitted an essay that his professor had written for an academic journal. When the professor questioned  him about the essay, the student admitted he had taken it from an internet site selling reports on cultural subjects, and this particular report had received an A+. All he had to do, he was told, was submit it, because it had been "transformed."

Selling intellectual property without permission of the owner is a legal problem, but the moral insensitivity of many young students is a bigger problem. This is not only a student problem but a societal problem, the professor says. We have teachers plagiarizing, politicians lying, civil servants involved in corruption, breaking and accommodating the law to serve one's own ends, and all kinds of habitual evasions of moral behavior.  This widespread societal immorality is helping to make our young people immune to what a virtuous life means, and allowing our society to sink deeper in the swamp of mistrust.

In a  new year's  report from the office of statistics, we are told  that only 22 percent of Koreans feel positive about trusting others; Norway ranked highest with 60 percent. The professor reminds us that the happiness ranking doesn't have anything to do with income. When there is a lack of trust in a society, we can't expect a happy society.  
Francis Fukuyama is quoted as saying: "A nation's well being and its ability to compete depend on the level of trust." Even though a nation may be a democracy, the level of trust among the members of that society will determine the prosperity of the country, both in quantity and quality. This trust is not the kind that comes from blood, or locality or school ties, but is the  public trust among the  citizens.

The less trust there is in a society, and the less effort made for advancing the common good, the more conflict and  expense in running the society. There is in such a society, he says, no meaningful growth, only a search for profit with fraud and  betrayal.The  candle-light processions showing disapproval of actions made by the government  in the open squares of our society is a sign of this disquiet.

In a recent press conference the president stated that she is aiming for a per-capita income level exceeding $30,000, to improve the distribution of wealth and the welfare of all citizens, as well as improving the relationship with the North. All well and good, but the professor explains that without trust in the overall intentions of our society, it all becomes a house of cards. The very day she gave her press conference, a group of priests were demanding her resignation, a symbol, says the professor, of the lack of trust in our society. 
The professor concludes on a positive note. The next time he is in an elevator, he says he is going to consider the other elevator passengers as if he were meeting Jesus, and greet them in the same spirit.  In his class he will stress mentioning the names of those whose words they are using in their papers. And a further thought came to him that evening at home: it might be a good idea to get rid of all his name cards. 

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