Defining Morality in the 21st Century

The greatest struggle of the 21st century for me is how to define morality in an increasingly global village. It’s almost becoming inevitable that communities are getting closer to each other because of economic integration and political forces. Given the advantages of globalization, there are also great struggles when it comes to integrating values and customs and redefining morality. There is a sense of emergence of a new sort of morality that is accompanied by the forces of globalization. It’s good to note that countries in the global south aren’t equal partners in this process, they are simply recipients of these forces and have little power to reject some concerns and therefore are bound to lose their values and customs. There exist the silent cultural erosion that is not often talked about but is taking place.

We often prefer not to talk of a new form of colonialism, but a friend of mine whilst we were engaged in a discussion mentioned that the new form of colonialism isn’t through force as it happened in the 1800s but rather through psychic games and justification of western superiority. And this comes in various ways and through various institutions and will be justified in terms of universal concepts when they naturally have a sense of identity in a particular region of the world.

The question then is, how do we define morality in the midst of globalization. My greatest concern is preservation of customs, values and traditions that help define community and to challenge certain emerging values that are being super-imposed onto communities especially in the global south in the name of science, religion, human rights and universal understanding. It’s always perfect to remember that common sense isn’t so common.

Morality needs a contextual relevance and application, which then means that it has to be defined in local contexts and that it should speak to the general beliefs of the people. It shouldn’t be something foreign but indigenous to the people so that it makes sense and they feel a sense of obligation to uphold it and live up to the expectation. The moment that morality becomes redefined by other people who believe in their ultimate responsibility to spread their beliefs or values, then there is a problem. A problem that people believe in a sense of divine responsibility and obligation, therefore denying an equal status and consideration of other partners.

Knowledge is never monopolized and the transfer of values and beliefs that are packed around morality bring a lot of problems that sometimes we offer a blind eye to but which will surely explode sometime in the future when the recipients recognize such indoctrination. Morality isn’t ever to be indoctrinated, it should be challenge as per evolving circumstances and understanding of its origins and meaning. When we challenge certain moral codes, there is need to appreciate it’s history, and the meaning that it has been attached to. I am also at times guilty of wanting to justify my beliefs by naming it moral codes or common sense of scientific evolution or development, but to better understand this i have come to an understanding that there is someone greater than myself and that i have no exclusive knowledge of any particular aspect of life and that i am still a learner. Only that acceptance can help us to appreciate the fact that we are incomplete humans that have no understanding of issues beyond our realms.

I always share it with my friends that let us not be guilty of generalizing our views and beliefs and wanting to impose it on certain groups simply because we are passionate about it or we claim to know exclusive knowledge of it, but rather offer an opportunity for people to develop their own sense of morality that speaks to their culture, tradition, experience and values. It’s hard to take this but i believe this is the only way we can be successful in positively impacting people’s lives without having the blame of being teachers when there is no vacancy for such in the communities that we live in.


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