Society lost without moral compass

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 4:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 4:30am

Your correspondent K. Bharwani's opinion that moral education was underappreciated in Hong Kong ("Education in human values is important", November 21) was a timely reminder of a perennial social issue.

The decline of moral values, especially among young people, gives cause for common concern. Due to advanced hi-tech inventions, youngsters these days change their iPhones whenever a new model appears in the market. A young office worker purchased six versions of the same handbag in different colours just to show off her status.

Young people interpret "success in life" to be earning a fast buck. University students have gone over their credit card limit to buy what they want, or to engage in the popular fad of taking drugs. They have become slaves of materialism, which often ends in tragic loss and ruin. Many young people are addicted to computers, impervious to other people's needs, and do not make concessions on public transport by giving up their seats to the elderly.

Sigmund Freud detested the pleasure principles (pursuit of pleasure, power and prosperity), which he thought should be subject to realistic principles (seeking eternal joy and spiritual gain). However, education in human values requires long- term cultivation through family and societal influences. Hong Kong parents today are so busy making a living that they tend to compensate for the lack of time given to their children with material rewards. Schools, too, are spoon-feeding students with curriculums that neglect moral teachings.

The panacea, as Mr Bharwani rightly pointed out, is all stakeholders should work together. Parents should set good examples of morally correct behaviour for their offspring, placing less emphasis on academic success. The mass media should present more positive messages of care for the community. Schools and non-governmental organisations should work harder on character building for the young.

However, to help young people follow acceptable moral conduct is easier said than done, due to conflicting social and ethical norms that tend to misguide young people. Extra- marital affairs are common among families; white-collar workers pursue cutthroat office politics to get to the top, and; legislators make rowdy public scenes to achieve their political aims. What messages are being passed on to the younger generation?

It sounds pedantic to talk about moral education these days. But without it, our future is doomed.

Patsy Leung, Mid-Levels