Saturday, July 25, 2015

Honesty is the best policy!

When we were in school, there were a few proverbs or phrases that were engraved on our minds through constant usage. One such phrase was 'Honesty is the best policy'. In our hostel, if someone did something deceitful, or had told a lie, the repartee used to be, "remember, honesty is the best policy". 

This maxim used to mean that if we maintain honest behaviour in our day to day life, it will reveal our good character and sincerity, and will bring honour and happiness in the long run.

As a kid, I used to rationalise that human beings are perhaps inherently dishonest, for us to have felt the need to parrot such quotes deep into our minds. As an adult today, my rationale sort of stands verified with experience and observation. Indians, in general do not have the strength to be honest and truthful. They don't have faith in honesty to yield a happy life. It is a confused or partial faith in honesty that gets compromised easily in day to day living of our lives. It is unlike the developed western economies where we can say that only people in particular are dishonest. Overall, they do not feel the need to be dishonest.

Personally, I have always had a deep relationship with this phrase. I thought and still think that it is an universal truth. Honesty benefits our life and make it beautiful. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be going the other way. Our societies are becoming dishonest and deceitful by the day. It is irrespective of the fact that the density of temples or mosques or churches are increasing. To common logic, places of worship should increase the incidences of honesty in a society. In contrary, it seems that rising dishonesty is the reason why worshipping places are mushrooming in every banyan tree possible. It seems that we are becoming a society of sinners to our own conscience, and we need worshipping places to placate our conscience, to seek forgiveness from our Gods. It is easy to say sorry to our Gods, as we do not have to deal with Him in our day to day business. Some of us who deal with God everyday, whom we call the Pujaris, are even dishonest to their Gods. They take money to take 'the sinners' to God faster with minimum hassle.

Our society was never like this. Temples were made and maintained by kings and rulers. General public used to visit those temples (or work of art and magnificence) during special festivals. Instead, societies used to have customs and rituals that they used to practice during births, deaths, marriages, full moon, eclipses etc. Perhaps, we didn't feel the need for so many temples, mosques and other places of worship.

I do not completely understand why and when we started losing faith in honesty. However, I have a theory that originates from my studies about oppressed societies. Societies oppressed by rulers and colonial powers, often face scarcity of resources that they have to fight for to exist. During times of extremes, basic instincts to survive over-rules concepts of fairness and honesty. It becomes a situation of him vs me, or his family vs mine to acquire the bare necessities food, shelter and protection. The rich becomes richer and fewer. The poor becomes poorer and more in numbers.

India have had British oppression for 200 years, in which period the even the Industrial Revolution in Britain was financed by de-industrialisation of India. India weavers, textile merchants, and even agriculture was affected. India’s share of the world economy by the time the British arrived on its shores was 23 percent. By the time the British left, it was down to below 4 percent. India's trade share in textiles was 27% which was down to 2%. We have had British PM Winston Churchill leaving us to die during the Bengal famine, as late as 1940s, when he had diverted essential supplies from Bengal to pile food reserves for the British.

There is another think tank that believes that oppression of India had begun much before British arrived. If we agree to that part of history, India had had over 600 years of oppression.

It is perhaps this oppression that has evolved or rather, spoiled our character to such depths in our collective minds that seven decades of independence have made almost no difference to India's character in terms of our belief in honesty. Just like our economic size in relation to the world has not changed after independence. Six centuries of colonial ravages cannot be undone in two decades or seven.

From my life, I have enough evidences that honesty has a direct relationship to long term happiness. Dishonesty, unfairness, lies and deceit have a direct relationship to long term sadness and misery. If we look closely at any corrupt family over a period of twenty years, my theory about happiness will be prima facie proven right.

Worshipping places do not make a society honest and fair. It is at best an escape from the turmoils of being dishonest. The worst consequence of too many worshipping places is a divided society with a false sense of security.

We need to restore our faith in honesty and in being good. It is the only way to rise from our perils and lead a happy and content life. Honesty and fairness can also bring economic progress distributing wealth equally in terms of the amount of hard work being put in by the society. It will create a feasible business environment and eco-system that will enable all of us to do fearless business with minimum risks.

I re-affirm with full belief that honesty is the best policy, and believe me, it will prove itself to be so in your lifetime, if you belief in it.