Living in a perfect world?
This blog post is inspired by the tweet I saw just 15 mins before deciding to write this. Lex Fridman took to twitter to express his rage on the current state of journalism in the United States.
Journalism is broken.— Lex Fridman (@lexfridman) September 21, 2020
This is not something new. We see this every day in India as well. There is no question of whether this is true or not. This is true. Journalism is broken from the very roots of it.
Journalistic objectivity requires that a journalist not be on either side of an argument. The journalist must report only the facts and not a personal attitude toward the facts.
This is never the case. No mainstream journalism is unbiased. Some support leftist agendas, while others support rightist. All of that is fine as long as they are not on either side of the argument. They are supposed to report the facts, they are not supposed to tell you their personal opinion and orientation towards those facts. While objectivity is a complex and dynamic notion that may refer to a multitude of techniques and practices, it generally refers to the idea of “three distinct, yet interrelated, concepts”: truthfulness, neutrality, and detachment. And we see the absence of this objectivity in journalism every day. Neutralism is a joke, there are clear ties between journalists and political parties. Mind you, it’s not just the one side of the political compass which is doing this. It is everyone.
This is not me speaking. This definition of Journalistic objectivity is picked from Wikipedia. These are the textbook definitions, which refers to how things should work in ideal scenarios. You can see that none of this is followed. I can argue that journalism is more of a propaganda tool these days. And what do I mean when I say “these days”? Journalism has always been more or less the same. Earlier it was print media, then the radio, then the Television which still is there, and now social media. The only thing that has changed is the ability to hack your brain. It is a lot easier to play with your psychology using social media than it is through Newspapers.
Is this everywhere?
Let’s not limit ourselves to journalism. Look around, find a job, go and look at the dictionary definition of the job and there is a 90% chance that you would find an astronomical difference between the definition and what is happening. A lot of you would argue that this does not apply to the tech domain, private jobs.
At the level at which people like you and me see, the assertion is correct. Because we don’t create a difference. But as you move up the ladder, look at the management of the company. The people who create a difference in the world. You will find some inconsistencies in a few cases. Again, I agree that this number will be way lower than what it is in the public space or non-tech private space. You might have heard about the fall of WeWork because of the malpractices of their CEO. WeWork was supposed to go public and file for an IPO this year. Instead, they lost billions of dollars in valuation in a matter of months. Lots of times, companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are questioned on how they affect human psychology without us allowing them to. You might remember the US Presidential Elections of 2016. You can see how close we are to committing these ethical violations without knowing.
Educating Humans or Preparing the Workforce?
This is a key problem with our Education System. Ethics is a course in Law Schools because lawyers need to understand that fine line which they should never cross. Because while we, the normal people are dealing with non-bailable ethical violations once in 2-3 years, they do it all the time. Having said all this, if you do some research about it, people actively ask questions on why ethics is required in Law Schools as well.
Ethics as a course seems useless, right? It doesn’t teach them a skill which will earn them some money. But it makes a ton of sense to entice them with this idea of ethics. At the end of the day, education is supposed to take humanity forward. Employment is just a mere byproduct.
Education is about human flourishing
Those opposed to the idea of education being primarily about employability say that such an approach reduces education’s scope. Education is about more than simply getting a job, and it is about more than academic achievement.
Education that leads to the human flourishing described by Aristotle must be rounded, seeking to develop a range of social and emotional skills in addition to academic disciplines to help produce good citizens, rather than merely good workers.
So? How should we educate?
It’s not a new thing to hear from a political party who says that they will eliminate corruption. Alright, let’s start by defining the term “Corruption”.
dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
In short, a person is corrupt when they do something that is “unethical”. This topic is so sensitive that one can say that it allowed Mr. Modi to come in power. The question is whether or not corruption can be eliminated from society?
Some may argue that it can not be. Some of you may also say that yes, it’s very much possible. Demonetisation was all about corruption, black money. But it failed. It failed because of a corrupt system. It failed because the system is corrupt beyond imagination. In the end, you can’t have a solid plan for something unaccounted. It’s extremely difficult to remove black money from the system and part of the reason it is difficult is that people put in all their intellectual power to hide that from the government. You can see that a person is richer than what they should be, but when it comes to proving it on paper, it’s next to impossible. This is also because they use all the possible loopholes in Indian Law.
And let’s first set this notion. Any set of rules and laws is bound to have loopholes. There are loopholes in Indian Laws, there are loopholes in Japanese Laws and there are loopholes in Canadian Laws. You just can’t avoid them. The government and the judiciary should put all their efforts to minimize these loopholes. But let’s accept that the minimum isn’t 0. Someone willing to find a loophole is eventually gonna find one. It eventually boils down to the ethics of a person.
Education and its role
We have tried multiple things to remove corruption, we have tried multiple ways of fixing bad journalism. None of which works. Yes, restrictions and scrutiny help. One may argue that a government enforcing stricter anti-corruption rules will lead to less corruption (or at least less corruption that is accounted for). But what happens when the government changes? What happens when the law enforcers, inspectors themselves forget their job titles and start following malpractices? And this is what typically ends up happening.
It’s about time that we realize, the problem is not solvable by enforcing stricter and stricter laws alone. Sure, that will tremendously help. But fear is not something that holds anyone back. A simple difference between a serial killer and a normal person like you and me is not “fear” of law. It’s the moral values that hold us back to do stuff which we are not supposed to do.
Education plays a tremendous role in that. From the very beginning, killing a human or an animal is portrayed to be the wrong thing in our minds. Let’s take another example if you are still not convinced. What is the difference between a Vegetarian and a Non-Vegetarian person? We all know that eating flesh won’t kill us. Still, all the vegetarian people don’t eat meat. It’s the education that their family has given them, it’s the empathy towards animals who are being slaughtered. Even if you don’t directly feel empathetic about them, this is what drives you to have a vegetarian meal. For a lot of us, it’s difficult to comprehend that an animal/bird was killed to be later served on our plate. This is what our family has taught us from the very beginning.
Inoculating Ethical values
This will be a slow process. I can say that this won’t show it’s effect as soon as it is implemented. It would take a few generations to train everyone’s brain accordingly to inject the highest ethical standards. Not a lot of them will adhere to it. But they will naturally question it. A lot of us don’t know whether our parents are corrupt or not. This is a legit question. Kids have to know this. The fear of their shredded image in their kid’s mind will stop a lot of people to get into these activities and maintain high moral standards.
The fear this time, will not be a legal one. It will be similar to the fear faced by a vegetarian person when served a nonvegetarian dish. It will be an inner voice that will make sure that the person is keeping high ethical grounds.
This education has to come in every class along with things like financial education, but more on that later. When all of us will read 15 textbooks in the years when our brains are most fragile, I bet a lot of us will turn out to be the ones choosing not to cross that fine line deliberately. This is what an ideal world would look like.
If even 60% population of India starts to do what they are supposed to do, do what they are being paid for, and I am talking about only doing what’s there in their Job Description (nothing fancy, nothing revolutionary), 90% of our problems will be solved without any efforts.
But until the government decides to implement this, we can start this on our own. We can start this from our families, our kids. We can start being a role model for them. We can start injecting these values in them. Because we all know, the world we are living in is not something we would want our kids to live in. Think about it.
I identify myself as a Hindu. Hinduism has this 4 yugas. We live in Kali-Yuga. If you look at the definition and attributes, “Hindus believe that human civilization degenerates spiritually during the Kali Yuga. Common attributes and consequences are spiritual bankruptcy, mindless hedonism, breakdown of all social structure, greed and materialism, unrestricted egotism, afflictions, and maladies of mind and body.”. I strongly believe that when does the Kali-yuga ends purely depends on us. All our stories in the mythology convey are the reduction in the ethical standards as the time passes. From Ram Rajya, a government with the highest ethical standards, to Hastinapur, and Lord Krishna where the god himself asked us to forget what is ethical, to this date where finding a person who has some ethical standards is next to impossible task. We need this education more than ever. In High Schools, Law Schools, Business Schools, Institutes of Technology, Liberal Arts Universities and pretty much everywhere.
Thanks for reading. If you would like to have a conversation about this, maybe understand my point better, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).