Emerging trend of immorality | Sunday Observer

Emerging trend of immorality

26 September, 2021

Today we are quite familiar with the term “New normal” in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic. However, most of us are unaware of the “New immorality” as we tend to think that everything we do is morally good.

Cheating at public examinations is quite common with every passing year. Students find new ways to cheat the examiners. Some of them bring mobile phones hidden in their pockets or use various other electronic devices in the examination hall. Sometimes the candidate’s brother answers the question paper. Such an instance of impersonating was detected recently. On some occasions the question paper is leaked before the examination. Such malpractices are not confined to Sri Lanka or other third world countries. They take place even in developed countries.

A well-known university in the West sent out a questionnaire to its undergraduates and 40 percent refused to acknowledge that cheating in examinations is reprehensible. A reporter for a New York newspaper stopped six people on the street and asked them whether they would consent to take part in a rigged television quiz for money. Five of them agreed to do so.

Yet these five people and the university students who answered the questionnaire would probably profess a strong social consciousness. Although students cheat in examinations, when they become adults they will demand equality and fair play from others.


The examples cited above exhibit a paradox of our times. It is often said our seemingly great growth in social morality has oddly enough taken place in a world where private or personal morality seems to be on the decline. We talk about the supreme importance of personal honour, honesty and integrity, but fail to practise what we preach.

Social institutions whose sole duty is to help the poor, sometimes misuse the funds for their own benefit. According to a recent media report, an accountant and his wife had fled the country with a large sum of money allocated to put up houses for the poor.

If you read any newspaper you will come across classified advertisements announcing that highly qualified academics are willing to write theses for doctorates. It is an open secret that many postgraduate students seek the services of these people. If candidates for a Ph.D hires ghost writers to prepare their theses, nobody will be encouraged to do any research. Such instances of personal dishonesty are more prevalent today than in the past. As a result, universities fail to produce genuine scholars.

Cheating in examinations, hiring ghostwriters and accepting bribes have become so entrenched in society that we no longer think that they are instances of personal dishonesty. Those who take part in such malpractices might say, “Everybody does it, and besides I can’t see that it really hurts anybody.”

Wicked men

Jonathan Swift once said, “I have never been surprised to find men wicked, but I have often been surprised to find them not ashamed.” Though men may be not so wicked than they had been, they seem less likely to be ashamed. We may note that we are living in a wicked world because morality means mores or manners – something we should aim at.

The defence that “It does not hurt anybody” is equally revealing. When you offer or accept a bribe, it is purely personal and it does not directly affect social decency. This remains another paradox in sociology. Sociologists lay stress on social morality without taking personal morality into consideration. However, social morality leaves out the significant concept of honour. If a man thinks that accepting a bribe or hiring a ghostwriter will affect his honour, he will not stoop to such deeds. When you do not think of honour as part of your morality, you can do anything and get away.

The time has come to believe that the so-called social conscience unsupported by the concept of personal honour will create a corrupt society. People in many countries are reaping the ill-effects of corrupt societies. Perhaps we have not reached the stage to consider what is not socially acceptable. It is impossible to visualize a good society composed of men without honour.


In the modern world we are concerned with personal, social and financial security. We fix CCTV cameras everywhere for personal security. We take out an insurance policy for social security. We save money in banks for financial security. However, we do not pay any attention to moral security.

Nobody who is dependent on anything outside himself such as money, power or fame will be secure. If you want to be actually secure, you have to possess yourself. Most of us are guided by herd instinct or mentality. It is easy to follow the crowd and get lost. If you refuse to go with the crowd, you will not commit a sin. You can do so only if you have a sense of humanity.

Eastern philosophies were less concerned with the nature of the universe than with how best to organize a just society and provide moral guidelines for the individuals within it; in the process examining what constitutes a “good” life. Confucianism and Daoism continued to dominate Chinese philosophy until the 20th century.

An equally influential philosophy appeared in India. Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha, spread his philosophy across the subcontinent and over most of Southern Asia where it is still widely practised.

Personal morality took a new turn with Machiavelli’s “The Prince” which was witty and cynical. It showed a great understanding of Italy in general and Florence in particular. In it, he sets out his arguments that the goals of a ruler justify the means used to obtain them. The book offered a different kind of moral philosophy.


Machiavelli’s approach centres on the notion of virtue, but this is not the modern notion of moral virtue. He pointed out that a ruler cannot be bound by morality, but must do what it takes to secure his own glory and the success of the state over which he rules. However, he adds a proviso that a wise prince should avoid what would make the people hate their ruler. There is a semblance of opinion that personal morality cannot be overruled.

“The Prince” at times reads satirically, as though the audience is expected to conclude: “If that is how a good prince should behave, we should at all costs avoid being ruled by one!” Ultimately, we come back to the point that nobody has overruled personal morality in favour of social morality. Therefore, be aware of the emerging new immorality which may be worse than the pandemic.

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