Saturday, 26 December 2015

Ethics - Good and Bad

What are ethics?
At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.
Ethics covers the following dilemmas:
·         how to live a good life
·         our rights and responsibilities
·         the language of right and wrong
·         moral decisions - what is good and bad?

Our concepts of ethics have been derived from religions, philosophies and cultures. They infuse debates on topics like abortion, human rights and professional conduct.
Examples of Bad Ethics are:
·         Lying to parents
·         Stealing money
·         Talking about a friend behind his back.
·         Taking credit for work one did not do.
·         Cheating on a school paper by copying it off the Internet.
·         Dumping pollutants into the water supply rather than cleaning up the pollution properly.
·         Releasing toxins into the air in levels above what is permitted by the Environmental Protection           Agency.
·         Using bait and switch or false advertising tactics to lure customers in or convince them to buy a           product.
·         Doctors not telling a patient his true diagnosis because the physician didn't know the details of the       diagnosis.
·         A dentist preforming unnecessary procedures on a patient in order to receive the insurance          payment.
These are just some of the many different examples of unethical behaviour that could occur.

A person who has good ethics is:
·         Courageous
·         Generous
·         Honest
·         Committed
·         Sincere
How to get good ethics:
So how we can develop, and maintain, the type of stable character traits which could guide and inform our moral deliberations. We can look for a role model – someone who masters the situation relevant virtues. But how to recognise the good character traits in others and just how ‘good’ an agent has to be in order to be considered suitable as a model.
Aristotle thought that actions possess moral qualities independently of what we happen to believe or feel about them. The good agent would know this as she would have what Aristotle called ‘practical wisdom’. This virtue involves both true judgment (a capacity to read situations correctly) and correct desire (i.e. only for the fine and noble).

Being good involves having characters and personal qualities that have moral worth. Gratitude, integrity and frugality are important virtues. Would a person who is grateful for the beauty of flowers in a park throw candy wrappers in the flowerbed? The answer would be ‘No’ if he has integrity.
Ethics and people:
At the heart of ethics is a concern about something or someone other than ourselves and our own desires and self-interest. Ethics is concerned with other people's interests, with the interests of society, with God's interests, with "ultimate goods", and so on. So when a person 'thinks ethically' he is giving at least some thought to something beyond himself.
One problem with ethics is the way it's often used as a weapon. If a group believes that a particular activity is "wrong" it can then use morality as the justification for attacking those who practice that activity. When people do this, they often see those who they regard as immoral as in some way less human or deserving of respect than themselves; sometimes with tragic consequences.
Ethics is not only about the morality of particular courses of action, but it's also about the goodness of individuals and what it means to live a good life. Virtue Ethics is particularly concerned with the moral character of human beings. Searching for the source of right and wrong.

At times in the past some people thought that ethical problems could be solved in one of two ways:
·         by discovering what God wanted people to do
·         by thinking rigorously about moral principles and problems

If a person did this properly they would be led to the right conclusion. Modern thinkers often teach that ethics leads people not to conclusions but to 'decisions'.
Philosophy can help identify the range of ethical methods, conversations and value systems that can be applied to a particular problem. But after these things have been made clear, each person must make their own individual decision as to what to do, and then react appropriately to the consequences.

Parents can play a huge role in instilling good ethics in a person.
There was a letter from a criminal who was facing the death penalty for his crimes.
He wrote a letter to his mother in which he thanked her for giving him life. In the next sentence, he also thanked her for taking away the same. He explained his second statement by giving some examples. When he stole money for the first time his mother helped him to spend the same. When he stole his first car, his mother again praised him and helped him to dispose of the car. The examples went on. With each bigger crime he committed, he got more praise and support from his mother. The end result of his mother’s lack of values and ethics was that her son had to pay with his life.
A survey was conducted in which participants were asked that in a hypothetical situation what they would do if a runaway car was in a collision course with five other cars. The only way to save these five car drivers would be to crash the runaway car which will cause the death of the driver of the runaway car.
People who said that they would save the five drivers by killing this one driver were considered to have ethics based on morality where the end justifies the means. Those in the opposite group were assumed to base their ethics on rues like ‘Deliberate killing is always wrong’
Of course, in real life, most people mix outcome based ethics (where end justifies the means ethics are applied) and rules based ethics. In real life  there is no morally perfect man like Yudhistira or a most immoral man like Duryodhan. Most of us are a mix of good ethics and bad ethics. The amount of good and bad that each of us have depends on the environment we have been brought up in and the values instilled in us by our parents, and teachers. But to make this world a better place, we should always strive to have good ethics. The following cartoon brilliantly depicts our real life dilemma on ethics.


Friday, 11 December 2015

Durga Pujo

What does Durga pujo mean to a Bengali? Vitality and teeming crowds, combining celebration with positive social action, Durga Pujo is a joyous occasion for all Bengalis in or outside Kolkata. In Bengal we have 13 festivals in 12 months of the year and Durga pujo is the crowning glory in our theme of revelries. Durga pujo in the City of Joy is like the Mardi Gras Carnival of Brazil.
The preparations start at least six months in advance, when the constructions of the elaborate pandals start. If you are part of a pujo organising committee, you tend to spend most of your time snooping around and trying to know what your rival organising committee is designing this time.
The trendy young ladies start racking their brains to come up with exclusive blouse and churidar designs which are given to tailors at least four months in advance. Two months before the pujo, the tailors flatly refuse to take orders even if you suck up to them in your best charming manner.
If you have any talent in music or dance, you volunteer for the local pandal as this is the perfect platform for winning accolades and attention. There will also be a ‘Natak’ or drama that will be performed by members of the organising committee. The rehearsals for this would start at least two months in advance. The participants would slog during the weekends or late into the night after ‘apish’ to give a perfect performance on the D-day. The dance, drama and musical programs by the local talent would be complemented by performances of renowned artists of Kolkata on Ashtami or Navami. From Shashti to Dashami, even the unkempt boy who wears baggy jeans and scruffy shirts would show up in the pandals in clean kurtas. During the day, women would wear designer sarees, but during the evenings many prefer to give the traditional wear a miss for chic cocktail wear. But the lal par shada saree remains a perennial favourite. A selfie wearing the white saree with the red border and a big red bindi is a must in front of the Durga idol. The same must also be uploaded as a Facebook profile picture.
Even Pele the legend from Brazil did the most Bengali thing feasible as he visited a Durga Pujo Pandal with Sourav Ganguli this year. Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal also is not immune from the festive cheer. She decided to showcase her musical talent this year by penning the Durga pujo theme of Suruchi Sangha, one of the popular Pujo pandals of South Kolkata. Last year, she had started her celebrations by painting the third eye on the forehead of the idol of Durga at the Chetla Agrani Club in South Kolkata. The artist who had created the idol was presumably thrilled and delighted by the talented Chief Minister’s efforts to enhance his creation.

But the common Bengali would be quite content during this time with a bellyful of grub and gelusil in his pocket.

Why do we love dogs

A group of gorillas came across a deer cub in the forest. They decided to keep the cub as their pet. But their games got too rough and the cub died. They continued to play with the dead cub for another half hour before realising it was dead and then they abandoned it. This was a special case. Normally animals do not keep other animals as pets. A monkey does not take a dog for a walk unless it has been trained by humans to do so in a circus or for any other purpose of entertainment.
So in spite of being a time consuming, energy consuming and most importantly a money consuming enterprise why do we still keep dogs? We have to look after dogs like a child and not the other way round unless it is a guide dog.
We have kids and look after them to maintain continuity of our genes and also in the faint hope that they would take care of us in our old age. But dogs cannot do that. Still then why do so many people keep dogs?
The answer is that dogs love us unconditionally. They do not care if we are beautiful, ugly, black or white, believe in any particular religion or an atheist. They do not care about our political views. They do not care if we are poor or rich. They just love us for who we are. They wait at the door when they know we are coming home. They welcome us in ecstasy every time and any time we come back home.
We can grow bored of toys, discard beautiful dresses, or expensive cars or mobiles, but we can never grow tired of our dogs. From the puppy stage right till their old age they are constantly surprising us and giving us happiness.
We may be awful cooks, but they would never complain unlike other humans (like spouses and children). They would wolf down our offerings and then ask for second helpings! All of us must have at some point of time felt like naming our dogs after our bosses, but that would be an insult to the dogs. Dogs are not psychos like some of our bosses or office colleagues.  They are great exercise partners. We would have to take them out for their walks every day come hell or high water, thus ensuring that we get our exercise as well. And as everybody knows exercise and unconditional love are two things that definitely help to improve the mood.
So dear reader, when you’re feeling down and thinking no one loves you, you can always have a dog, a playful and joyous partner to make you feel better. Dogs love to snuggle, they love to put their head in your lap, and they let you know that no matter what, they love you, and always will.


What is happiness? Modern science defines happiness as the positive range of emotions that we feel when we are content or full of joy. According to the Coca-Cola Company, “Open an ice cold coca-cola and choose happiness”. As John Lennon once said, “When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘Happy’. They told me I did not understand the assignment. I told them that they did not understand life”.
When I was a small child around five, I used to find happiness in the smallest things in life. I still remember the day when I woke up and could not find my mother at home as she had gone out to a nearby shop to buy some urgently needed grocery. I was in despair. She came back in a little while and on seeing her I was deliriously happy.
When I became a teenager, happiness came from more exciting events like going to the picnic with school friends wearing a saree borrowed from my mother, or singing at a function or even mundane things like walking in the Rabindra Sarobar Lake when the Gulmohar trees were in full bloom. Happiness was when I took an exam and on opening the question paper, found that I knew all the answers or seeing my mother smile or spending Sunday with my parents eating the delicious dishes prepared by mother.
Happiness was also giving anjali during Durga puja or pandal hopping with friends wearing a new dress every day and of course saving the best one for Navami. Happiness was also when I found that my dress was better than my best friend’s or when the boy next door on whom I had a crush rewarded me with a sweet smile.
Once I started college, happiness was bunking college and going to a movie, hanging around in the cafeteria with my friends. Happiness was having the first boyfriend in my life or sharing a stealthy kiss with him. When I started my first job, happiness was the time when I bought special gifts for my loved ones with my first salary. During professional life, happiness was also when I got my first appreciation from my boss or my first promotion, or some years later when I got my own cabin.
Dear reader, learned researchers of reputed Institutes like Harvard, say that you are happiest in your thirties. I tend to disagree as I find that I can be happy at any stage of my life. Or as Deepika Padukone might put it, “Happiness – my choice” – because it is really a matter of choice. Happiness depends on me. I can choose to be happy – or unhappy. But yes, it is in my thirties that I was comfortably settled in my life. It is when people start ticking off boxes including marriage and children. It was also in my thirties that I became more self-confident and more comfortable with myself. During this time, happiness was when I come home after a long day of work and took my child in my arms.
Then before I knew it, I had reached my middle age. Depression among elder people is very common as they are coping with constant change like loss of a loved one, retirement, and loss of purpose, general regrets about life and many other things. But then again it was up to me to decide whether I wanted to be happy in spite of the circumstances or wallow in self-pity. I did not want to stop playing just because my age is increasing. Because as a wise person once said “We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” That reminds me of a story I once heard. An old man has 8 hairs on his head. He went to the barber shop. Barber asked in jest, “Shall I count or cut?” The old man smiled and said, “Colour it.” Life is to enjoy with whatever I have with me, so I choose to be happy and keep smiling. As Mark Twain said,” Sing like no one is listening, love like you have never been hurt, dance like nobody is watching and live like it’s heaven on earth.” “The idea is to die young as late as possible!” as  Ashley Montagu put it succinctly.
Now that I am growing older or rather the number of years that I have come to this beautiful earth is increasing (because after all age is just a number), I have started savouring ordinary experiences in life. Because as people become more settled, ordinary experiences become central to a sense of self. I find that the perception of happiness has changed for me over time. When I was younger, by feeling excited I would feel rewarded. But now I get a bigger boost of satisfaction from peace and calm.  In the modified words of Anne Yantha, as I grow older, I find that true happiness is not in how much I make, or how many degrees I have or how big my house is or how fancy my car is. True happiness is finding peace and joy and calmness in my life that will soon become the most important thing to me. My family is what matters to me, love is what matters to me. Things that are quality and not quantity. Rabindranath Tagore that wise sage said, “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain, or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky” – I, dear reader, hope to remain that way till the time comes for me to depart this earth.

Author : Sharmishtha Shenoy