Honour stands test of morality s

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 November, 1998, 12:00am

Not long ago, a policeman was having lunch at a cafe he regularly visited.

While eating, he was filling in his entry in the lottery, putting down numbers as he thought of them.

He turned to one of the waitresses he had become friendly with and asked her to call out some numbers at random.

She obliged and he completed the coupon.

As he left the cafe, he told her if he won the lottery, he would give her half.

His luck was in and he won the $6 million first prize.

The next day, he went to the cafe and gave the girl her half of the cash.

Rebuked by the cynical for such wanton generosity, he said a promise was a promise, and friendship was more important than money.

There is probably nothing in the world a policeman cannot buy with $3 million.

Suppose he had won only $100,000. Would he then give away half of his winnings to a friend? There is a difference between the honourable man, who always keeps his promises, and the moral man.

The moral man keeps his promises sometimes, but breaks them at other times.

He defends the breach of promise with talk of higher morality, a great good, the avoidance of a greater evil. And these references are in line with what will benefit the moral man most.

The policeman and his conscience are right. The reason is not high-flown, simply pragmatic.

The moral man's actions can never be free of ambiguity.

His appeal of a higher standard than that of 'a promise made, a promise kept', can't be tested.

Every man has his own ladder of morality, and every man's ladder has adjustable rungs, so they can be moved about as necessary.

Kin-wai is a student of Po Leung Kuk Vicwood K T Chong Sixth Form College (Evening Section)