OPINION: Fr. Roy Cimagala on the quest for ethics

IT is said that today’s young generation is grammatically challenged. I suppose that has something to do with our texting culture that hardly gives attention to spelling, subject-verb agreement, etc.

This lax attitude is even affecting the schools where teachers also teach in a telegraphic way instead of in complete and correct sentences. This is also shown in our newspapers where the English language is murdered ad nauseam.

The phenomenon actually baffles me, because given our new technologies, it should not be difficult to learn the language well.I remember when I was in grade school and high school, textbooks were hard to find. To know the meaning of a word, for example, I had to make a long trip to the public library just to get hold of a dictionary which had many torn and missing pages. Now, you just have to click a button, and libraries of the world come in display.

I think it is not so much a problem of grammar as it is a deeper problem of a dysfunctional study and work ethic. Many young people are not studying as they should. They are lost in a confused sense of priorities.

I think people nowadays are more ethically challenged than grammatically challenged. And I’m afraid that condition is reinforced systematically in our society today.

Here we have to be most careful in pointing out the problem areas, since all of us are involved, one way or another. Whether one works in sacred or mundane environments, this ethics problem would be always around in varying forms and degrees.

But we need to point some problem areas, especially those with public character, since they leave behind a big bad effect on many people.

At the moment, we cannot deny the fact that with our current state and pace of development, we are confronted with many new situations whose moral and ethical standing we are not clear about.

The world of politics is, of course, a given. It is like a free-for-all arena where the players can always come up with innovative ideas and moves that often strain the moral requirements. We just have to be patient with it, handling it with as calmly as we can.

The world of economics and the markets is now getting more dynamic and more confusing. Competition is getting stiffer and is producing new, puzzling and complicated issues. Here also, the concern for their ethical assessment should try to cope with the rapid pace.

But the sector with more immediate impact on the people would be the media. This, I think, is where the quest for ethics should be most intense and most prompt. But I wonder if this concern is given due attention.

What I can see is the attitude that since they are just bearers of news, they are excused from worrying too much about the ethical aspect of their work. But I don’t think that line still holds.

Everyone knows that the media exert tremendous influence, both open and hidden, on how people think and react to issues and problems. What they choose to report, how they report it, what slant or spin they take, obviously affect the way people think.

What I often see in the local papers, especially in the sections of the editorial and opinion page, feedback, cartoons, entertainment, to cite a few, are samples of very biased, ill-thought-out views, and all sorts of ad hominems done with impunity.

We will always have differences and even conflicts of opinions, but it’s another story when things are done with blatant lack of charity, tact and delicacy in the presentation and exchanges of ideas.

We just cannot say, for example, that just because a public official is accused of a crime as claimed by an opponent or based on a leaked document, we now have the right to put that news in the paper, making it even as the headline.

A lot of examining ought to be done, a lot of restraint has to be made. These ought to be done first, rather than putting people in a bad light, no matter how guilty these people may be.

And when those accused would be found later to be innocent or that the charges did not have basis, apologies and clarifications are seldom made.

Thus, the environment gets increasingly fouled up. We should pursue the quest for ethics more seriously. And we have to understand that this is a matter of questing for holiness, for God. Without this, we would be on a freefall to unethical practices.

(Fr. Roy Cimagala is chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE) Talamban, Cebu City. You may email him for comments at roycimagala@gmail.com.)

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