Sunday, August 26, 2012

ETHICS - Then and Now

ETHICS - Then and Now
Code of Conduct - Outdated and Modern


While clearing my bookcase I came across a booklet, we were given, about various aspects of Naval Life when I joined the Naval Academy way back in the 1970’s. In this booklet there was a quote by John Paul Jones - CODE OF A NAVAL OFFICER. These words made a lasting impression on me and I tried to imbibe and follow the spirit of the code in my career and personal life.

John Paul Jones, often called the Father of the American Navy, helped establish the traditions of courage and professionalism and is remembered for his indomitable will, his unwillingness to consider surrender when the slightest hope of victory still burned, and for promoting professional standards and training throughout his naval career.


Written by John Paul Jones

It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be, as well, a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.

He should not only be able to express himself clearly and with force in his own language both with tongue and pen, but he should be versed in French and Spanish as well.

("Own language" obviously means English, which is relevant even today as English is the universal language of officers and the reference to French and Spanish probably pertains to languages of the crew of those days and in today’s context may refer to the languages or mother tongues of ship crew).

He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, and charity.

No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval.

Conversely, he shouldn’t be blind to a single fault in any subordinate, though at the same time, he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetence, and well-meant shortcoming from heedless or stupid blunder.

As he should be universal and impartial in his rewards and approval of merit, so he should be judicial and unbending in his punishment or reproof of misconduct.

In one word, every commander should keep constantly before him this great truth, that to be well obeyed, he must be perfectly esteemed.

Compare this with West Point's Cadet Honor Code which reads simply that:
A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do

Both the United States Military Academy and the United States Air Force Academy have adopted this Cadet Honor Code as a formalized statement of the minimum standard of ethics expected of cadets.

In contrast, the United States Naval Academy Annapolis has a related standard, known as the Honor ConceptUnlike the  honor codes in other service academies, the Honor Concept allows a midshipman to confront someone committing an honor violation without formally reporting it. 

At the other academies, failure to formally report an honor violation is construed as tolerating it, which is itself a violation of the code. Penalties for violating the Honor Concept can be severe, up to and including expulsion from the Academy. 

Honor Concept

Midshipmen are persons of integrity: We stand for that which is right.
We tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. We do not lie.
We embrace fairness in all actions. We ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. We do not cheat.
We respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property. We do not steal.

In India we have the Motto of the National Defence Academy (NDA) Pune

Service Before Self

and the Chetwode Credo of the the Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehra Dun

The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.

Every organisation and institution needs a code of ethics or a code of conduct. It must be stated briefly in simple language, easily understood, realistic and implementable.



OUTDATED CODE OF CONDUCT (Utopian and Idealistic)

A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do 

MODERN CODE OF CONDUCT (Practical and Materialistic) 

A cadet may lie, cheat, steal but will not get caught doing so and if he sees others lying, cheating or stealing he will turn a blind eye since it is none of his business

In today's world, a simple person who is sincere, honest and hardworking and obeys rules is dubbed a stupid dud, whereas a person who achieves  “success”  for which he does unethical things, takes short-cuts and breaks the rules but does not get caught is called SMART. 

Yes, doing wrong things to achieve “success” at any cost and being smart enough not to get caught is the “in thing” whereas being straightforward and upright is considered foolish and old-fashioned. 

Let us, therefore, not be hypocrites who SAY SOMETHING AND DO SOMETHING ELSE. 

Let us scrap the outdated Codes of Conduct which are not implementable in today's modern world where material and moral corruption prevails, power is supreme, and money in king. 

Let us rewrite Ethics in consonance with ground realty and devise new codes of conduct which are practically implementable. 

Moral Values have changed, so Rules of Ethics and Codes of Conduct have to change accordingly.  

What are your views on Ethics? 

Are old moral values and ethical concepts relevant today? 

Do you think that in the light of the changing moral values, the earlier concepts of Ethics enunciated in various religious scriptures, spiritual precepts and philosophical teachings have now become obsolete and irrelevant in today's world?

Do we now need to rewrite the rules of Ethics and formulate modern implementable codes of conduct in congruence with the prevailing current ethical scenario where all types of corruption ( material and moral) is omnipresent; and lying, cheating and stealing is considered okay.

I look forward to your views, comments and feedback.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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