Humanity’s diminishing conscience

3

For those who have developed the habit of making resolutions before the start of each year, it must be an ideal moment to monitor whether such intentions are showing signs of promise or going up in
smoke; even as early as only the second month of the year.

I never make resolutions. Sometimes I find the sheer unpredictability of life much more exciting. So I
tend to go with the meandering flow of where my life leads me. I usually associate resolutions with people who want to quit habits like drinking, smoking and taking drugs or even those attempting to
lose or gain weight; and I could certainly do with just two more kilos.

Not subscribing to yearly resolutions though, does not necessarily illustrate aimlessness, disorganisation or lack of planning.

Perhaps as you frantically slave towards that grand ambitious resolution of buying your first car or cow, getting married, furthering your studies or starting a business, it might be ideal to ask how many
of us have resolved to be better employees or service providers and serve our people with more integrity and selflessness.

Whether your education has armed you with a thousand skills and competencies, something much more innate could give you that extra edge at work: searching even deeper into your conscience and understanding its value in the provision of services.

A few moral scruples, coupled with a genuine desire to serve and make a difference, could heal so many of the ills currently plaguing some of our workplaces and businesses.

I will use three different scenarios to demonstrate the value of conscience at the workplace. Firstly, let us for a moment imagine this scenario: I work at the Department of Traffic and my main job description is to test new drivers and subsequently issue or deny licences accordingly.

I’m offered a bribe (whatever amount you can think of) by a clearly incompetent driver who is far from ready to use public roads. The alluring sight of cash softens me up and the incompetent driver gets the licence.

Days later, this same driver gives a ride to one of my children and causes a horrific accident in which my child gets killed.

No need to ask how I would feel to make this coincidental discovery, but my child’s death would forever be on my conscience.

It reads more like a soap opera script, doesn’t it? Even if I do not discover this uncanny coincidence, I would still have unknowingly played a role in this death.

A simple conclusion would be that my child would have been killed by my insatiable greed.
The tendency could be for some of us to dismiss this as having very little probability of occurring in the manner just dramatically portrayed above.

But even the smallest probability is still a likelihood and cannot be casually dismissed as impossible. I wonder who, among those who issue drivers’ licences, would like to be visited by this reality. I
cannot imagine an aspirant passenger airline pilot bribing their way to a dubious licence and subsequently causing a fatally disastrous crash; unless this happens in a country where corruption and rot have degenerated into a malignant tumour which is far beyond containment. In such a case
the strict international airline regulations would simply deny air space to planes piloted by such dubious characters.

A traffic cop who receives a bribe from a taxi or bus driver of a clearly unroadworthy vehicle is no different.

What if they discover that the same unsafe taxi or bus they allowed to proceed was carrying their child or parent when it is later involved in a bad accident?

I wonder what they would eventually do with the cash upon discovering that greed had led to the death of their own blood.

All they could see were the eggs but not the trap.

The second scenario will use my main job description which is to train a teacher.
When my job is finally done on a trainee, I must have the confidence to entrust this teacher with the huge responsibility of teaching my own children, grandchildren and those of the entire nation. If I
doubt the quality of this teacher, then something is wrong.

It could be that my work was shoddy, prompting me to send my kids to a school far beyond the reach of this questionable product. This of course does not presuppose that all my teacher trainees have
the same attitude towards learning and the same degree of dedication to acquire new skills and knowledge; but especially, the all-important endless quest to educate themselves beyond the lecture room.

In any environment, unfortunately, you always have those who are committed and those who are not.
Other variables of course may also come into play: availability of resources and facilities to train a good teacher, class size, labour unrests and collective responsibility among teacher trainers and other stakeholders.

The third and final scenario is that of the medical field. Just like in teacher education, those who train doctors and nurses want to be able to prescribe — without hesitation — the services of such personnel for themselves, their family, friends and the entire nation and international community.

The trainees’ attitude and access (or lack thereof) to top training facilities aside, the trainer should have full confidence in the final outcome of the many hours they dedicate towards the
training of these professionals.

Any trashy work means the trainer should be prepared to live with the consequences of compromised standards of health care for the entire country and beyond.

As 2014 rolls on towards where all other years have faded, how many of us are ready to be guided by our conscience (where any still remains) to make a difference with improved services and engender a less corrupt world; the kind we can all take pride in?

Unfortunately some of us have created unwelcoming workplaces where no customer, client or service-seeker would wish to visit; doing so only out of desperation and lack of alternatives.
We have allowed the unquenchable quest for a few extra maloti in bribes to completely uproot our conscience and replace it with selfishness and rotten personalities.

Some of us have lost so much of our conscience that we have literally become unrecognisable
as humans.

The senseless Marikana tragedy of 2012 across the border clearly shows how lack of foresight guided by collective conscience failed to prevail when so many breadwinners were massacred in a protest that could have been easily contained by a more professional police service.

It still begs the question why employees’ grievances against their employer had to be resolved with such brutal force.

Today many struggling families only have a lump of earth or tombstone to point to when they reminisce about the life that was in striking contrast to the life that is currently.

Those who pulled the trigger simply forgot to let conscience and vision reveal the wider implications of their act.

In the end, the already lucrative interests of mining bosses far outweighed those of struggling employees.

As we keep wondering why some police officers and other sectors of employees thrive on bribes, we might as well ask why even those with fat salaries — living in the lap of luxury — just cannot avoid
the unholy temptation.

It eventually boils down to loss of conscience and unquenchable greed. The word “enough” has long ceased to exist in our vocabulary.

Perhaps I am living in Dreamland — a country that only exists in my imagination — since society in general seems more predisposed towards moral degeneration as opposed to regeneration.

Those trying to do right are getting fewer by the years and perhaps one day they will be so outnumbered that it will appear abnormal if they openly advocate goodness and honesty in a vast sea of stinking rottenness.

It is more fearful to think about the future human race than the past.

l Mahao Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho

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