What Values Should Form The Foundation Of Society?

values

AS far back as the 4th Century, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote The Republic and The Laws, laying down the fundamental principles of how values would be the foundation of governance. It was Plato’s idea that society should be guided by philosophers, who possess wisdom and a deep understanding of truth and virtue.

Religions have provided guidance on the establishment of societies and communities based on values — those to embrace (harmony, truth, non-violence, etc.) and others to avoid (jealousy, violence, disregard for human life, etc.). 

Repeatedly drilled into us, as the centuries rolled by and nations evolved, much of these age-old values have been installed through umpteen policies and guidelines. Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Angela Merkel are iconic figures who shone the light in this context.

Today’s Values

So here we are now, in 2024. Singapore has been known to prioritise values such as discipline, harmony, respect for authority, and collective well-being. A strong emphasis on social order, education, and economic prosperity. 

Western democracies such as the United States, Canada, and many European nations often emphasise values like individual freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights.

This sounds well and good. However, there are fundamental issues, not in one particular country, but in the system as a whole.  

Let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves this question.

Have we truly made “values” as part of the economic indicators of a society?

I believe we have in a number of ways. 

For instance, Social Well-being Metrics have been considered as they go beyond traditional economic indicators like GDP to assess the overall well-being of a society.

For a long time, we have understood that by incorporating “values” into economic indicators, we have been able to move towards a holistic understanding of societal progress that takes into account not only material prosperity but also the well-being of individuals, communities, and the planet. There has been an alignment of economic policies and priorities with broader societal values and goals.

We have made considerable progress as we have ‘Inequality Measures’ (ie. the Gini Coefficient) and ‘Ethical Business Practices’. All related to corporate social responsibility, labour standards and adherence to ethical principles in business operations, and more. We also have the Social Cohesion Index, Corruption Perception Index, Political Freedom Index, and the list goes on.

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The Search For Values

But there is a missing link. Why are we still uncovering nuances in the system? The answer is simple.

We have not allowed ourselves to take the radical decision to place ‘values’ as the primary measurement to drive the engine of the system.

‘Values’ are still considered the broader, secondary measurement. Financial indicators overrule, and this is the flaw. This is why those who dedicate their lives to an honest social cause struggle to survive and why the word, ‘governance’ is being pounded with doubts and suspicion.

As Former US Vice President Al Gore said it was time to bring the Climate Agenda to the forefront, I say this with conviction. It is time to switch the scales and place values such as ‘Integrity’ as a primary measuring indicator.

In other words, a Key Value Integrity (KVI) for all organisations and societies to strive towards. Common sense tells us that the lack of integrity can be a significant factor in exacerbating conflicts and prolonging resolutions.

Sustainable Values

After all, we have achieved great strides with the ‘sustainability’ agenda. This is a promising agenda that finally places the needs of Planet Earth first after years of advocacy. Gore fought hard for more than 40 years to get this message across. 

Now, let us make ‘Integrity’ our hero.

Organisations around the globe are now in a frenzy to meet ‘sustainability’ standards — the not-so-new buzzword. If you don’t meet it, you will fall behind. And that has resulted in an abundance of sustainability training opportunities in the race towards getting yourself or your company ‘sustainability certified’.

Important, yes. But what is just as important is ‘Integrity’. And even more powerful is when ‘Integrity’ is coupled with ‘Truth’. With that, we achieve and maintain trust and transparency at higher levels.

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Truth And Integrity

At THROUGH THE GOLDEN DOOR, we felt that both Truth and Integrity come together as a formidable force. Such values in a person, community, organisation or, collectively as a nation, ensure that the fundamentals of that collective stay intact — unshakeable to the destructive forces of wars, discrimination and poverty.

We discovered, especially Post-pandemic, that misinformation was a devastating force leaving people in a fearful state of flux, at times pitting them against each other. Integrity of information became paramount, and so did the rise of the controversial ‘fact checkers’, with their perceived biases. Moreover, the Covid-19 timeline further enhanced the desires of the Gen Z who make up so many of the passionate advocates for truth, social justice and equality.

Blockchain technology, which was invented more than 15 years ago (and in some aspects AI) is now worshipped as the solution that ensures transparency, and the integrity of information is tightly rooted in the system. As a veteran technologist, I completely agree.

However, human behaviour and the decisions taken that lack integrity, will tarnish the system. Like a virus, it will always find a workaround. Politics is scaffolded with layers upon layers, that you never know what is true any more. 

Where do we draw the line?

Truth And Love

This takes us back to Plato’s ideology. The foundation of a just and harmonious society rested on the cultivation of specific values both within individuals and within the system of the society as a whole.

A wise person once said to me: “Truth is never true, unless it is full of love.”

That made perfect sense. Shift the mindset and instal the systemic blueprints based on ‘truth & integrity’ and you create a unifying force — of love.

“Honesty, is such a lonely word…” the heart-wrenching words from Billy Joel’s hit single Honesty. If I had a chance, I would say to him, “Write another song. Call it ‘Truth is Unifying’.”

A profound statement, a golden truth. If upheld, situations like Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and all other long-drawn battles and unrest, could cease to exist. We would have finally learned to be Human.

Tahira Amir Khan is the Founder of THROUGH THE GOLDEN DOOR, a social enterprise to create societies of trust by laying down the foundational values of truth and integrity in society and business.

A Technologist for over 20 years, she is Author of Through The Golden Door: The Doorway to Our Advancement.

The Golden Door Gala Dinner & Awards

24 March 2024, Singapore Cricket Club

Details & Tickets: https://zurl.co/xmHs

“This will be the fulfilment of a dream of so many who envision societies where destructive conflict is minimised and responsible freedom flourishes. It will include awards for those who write their important message to be delivered through non-fiction books and poetry.” – Tahira Amir Khan

See also  Are We Fighting Fit?

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