Morals, Manners, Dignity and Honour

  • Khin Maung Myint

From day one of my schooling, which started right after the Second World War, we were taught the Morals and Manners lessons as an extra-cirriculum subject. Since then I knew how to behave and act properly and understood the values of dignity and honour, and observed them until today. The dignity and honour are the two most important attributes that an individual should possess. Without dignity there wouldn’t be honour and without honour, wealths, ranks and positions mean nothing. Though they may be feared, people without dignity and honour wouldn’t get the respect of others.
Today, not only in our country, but all over the world, we are witnessing the deteriorations in morals, manners, dignity and honour at all levels right from the top down to the lowest levels in every society. To be more blunt, even some heads of states do not observe the norms of dignity and honour expected of them. Their bad mannerisms and low moral values reflect their dignity and honour. However, I will not be going into detail about their bad mannerisms and low moral values as they do not directly concerned us.
As for our country, in the past, most people irrespective of their wealths or positions were very conscious of their morals and manners and went to great lengths to observe them and maintained their dignities and honours. They would rather die than let their dignity or honour being degraded. Thus they maintained their dignity and honour at all costs. During the colonization period, many people won’t stoop down to the imperialists. Their dogma was “It’s better to die than to be enslaved” and had risen up against foreign aggressions though they knew they were outnumbered and outgunned and were no match to the enemies. They upheld their dignity and honour by sacrificing their lives.
Over the years, the characters of most of our people have deteriorated. Many people do not seem to know that dignity and honour are the extensions of their morals and manners. The morals and manners of an individual reflect that individual’s character. This character is the foundation of one’s dignity that defines one’s honour. No one will have respect for a person who lacks dignity or honour.
There used to be many dishonourable persons in every field—be it in the government administration, judiciary, education, medical, business, or many endless number of professional fields. Such persons would do anything for their gains without any regards to their honour and respectability. People in high positions should be more careful how they behave, speak and act. Though many may not know, these bad manners portray their moral values and are indicators of their low level of dignity and hence affect adversely on their honourability and respectability. If they want to be respected they should behave, speak and act properly.
I consider any form of misconduct that is not inline with work ethics is detrimental to a person’s dignity and honour and would tarnish the image and diminish one’s respectability. While in the service, I abide by the maxim that “leaders must set good examples for the subordinates”. However, such behaviourism as mentioned above would give wrong signals to the subordinates that such things are legitimate and acceptable. In fact they are not by any means. I sincerely hope these people would sooner come to realize their misbehaviours and repent. Only then such undesirable conducts would rapidly vanish from our civil services, various professional fields and business sectors.
Allow me to repeat myself again. Disregards for morals and manners would lead to misbehaviour, which in turn leads to misconduct that would diminish a person’s dignity and hence lessens the honourability and respectability. My opinion is, one doesn’t need to pull rank and demand respect, but if one nurtures dignity and honour by behaving properly, respect would come automatically. By pulling ranks they would earn only fear and disdain, but not respect, from the subordinates and the public. Respect must be earned, not demanded.
To sum up, personal character, conduct, dignity, honour and respect are the extensions of the morals and manners or in other words the moral values and the mannerism of an individual. All these attributes are co-related to one another. Thus people, especially those who are in high positions, should have the decency to strictly maintain their dignity and honour by observing the morals and manners that would shape their characters and guide their conducts, if they want to be successful and respected. Also intimidating and bullying the subordinates and the public will not bring respect but would be counter-productive.

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