Self Discipline: Backbone of a civilized society | Sunday Observer

Self Discipline: Backbone of a civilized society

Theodore Roosevelt, the 63rd President of the United States of America, one of the most popular and highly respected, once said “With self-discipline, most anything is possible.” In any society, individual discipline is a form of civilly responsible behaviour which helps maintain social order and contributes to the preservation and advancement of collective interests of a society at large. In human life, discipline is the pivotal edifice that upholds society. Invariably, a well disciplined society is in essence law abiding, peaceful and proactive.

Highlighting his visionary aspiration, President Rajapaksa, in his manifesto, has pledged to create a righteous, disciplined and law abiding society. To reach his goal, the President has put forth his foresight taking all relevant aspects into consideration to inculcate a sense of discipline in the society at large. However, in the present context, this seems a daunting task and requires far-reaching commitment of all citizens in the country.

The reason for acts of indiscipline cannot be attributed solely to the individual but also to the prevailing environment and the society the individual belongs to. Although from a tender age one is influenced by society and the surroundings, parental and educational responsibility play a major role, given the fact that parents primarily, and the teachers who often serve as second parents, bear the obligation of nurturing the child. Parents’ and teachers’ responsibility of cherishing the child would provide a better opportunity for a disciplined adult.

Having in mind the discipline and good behaviour of future generations, it is important to scrutinize the prevailing dangerously high level of anti social behaviour and conduct of adults and slow down the widespread gross indiscipline. Acts of indiscipline seem to have become a normal phenomenon in the everyday lives of the present society, in urban and suburban areas, in particular. Every passing day, mostly through the media, the country witnesses acts of unruliness by way of cruelty, negligence and blatant disrespect of the law.

The escalation of criminal activities probably is the major obstacle to create a law abiding citizenry. A decline of moral value is now clearly visible in the present society. Criminal acts of murder, sexual abuse, theft, fraud, corruption, embezzlement and many more tremendously hamper the country’s progress. The absence of discipline and social responsibility is mainly attributed to this critical state, even though many other reasons such as poverty, ignorance of the law and drug usage also contribute to it.

As of today, the mostly discussed topic in the electronic, print and social media is about judicial ethics and the law enforcement authority’s misconduct in Sri Lanka. Many an accusation has been hurled at the Judiciary and the Police by the public. Whether proven or not, the adverse public opinion is exceedingly damaging to the country, as both these institutions are equally important to the common citizen. Even a minor breakdown of discipline in the revered judiciary and the law enforcement force could create distrust in the public eye thereby resulting in the collapse of social discipline. The widespread belief that these incidents are politically influenced is the most disturbing criterion of this trend. The general public then tends to lose faith in the country’s judicial system which can be critically damaging in the future.

Traffic law violations are another menacing public misconduct today. Many drivers knowingly violate traffic laws and regulations with unashamed disregard for fellow road users and their rights. These offenders infringe commonly discussed simple laws such as white lines, pedestrian crossings, bylaws relating to lanes, overtaking and so forth.

The biggest culprits, the motor cyclists and three wheeler drivers create chaos, making the situation worse. Both segments, mainly three wheeler drivers have formed a sort of mafia on the roads constantly offending fellow drivers and other commuters. These wrongdoers are frightened of the police uniform, not out of respect to the law, but due to the fear of punishment by way of fines. The increasing number of accidents and fatalities reported in the media daily illustrate the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile, grave issues concerning environmental pollution in areas such as air, water, soil, coastal, forestry, waste collection and management are also primarily related to the misconduct and indiscipline of the society at large. Many studies and research papers prepared and submitted by environmental experts, scholars and intellectuals have pinpointed that human activities play a crucial role in this ominous national disaster. The authorities must therefore take prompt action to educate the public on environmental discipline and ethics, in order to counter possible environmental threats.

Indiscipline in politicians and political parties is antithetic to democracy and good governance in any country. It is a common factor that political corruption and malpractices are all time high today. Numerous media reports appear on the undisciplined exploits by politicians and their cronies, on a daily basis. However, a culprit is punished only on rare occasions for disruptive acts. President Rajapaksa seems to be making an attempt to eradicate, or at least trim down, political corruption and disorderliness by inculcating some amount of discipline in serving politicians.

The strength of a nation lies in its discipline. It is based on mutual respect and trust. Discipline and self control are commodities that money cannot buy nor can they be developed overnight. Punitive action can control a society by using force, but nevertheless, improving positive thinking from a tender age to instill discipline and moral obligation is more appealing and more successful to build a progressive proactive community. 

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