How to be a strong nation: Moral values, dynamic institutions

Source: Inquirer / / By Julius D. Turgano /

Each time I travel to Japan and see its beautiful cities and high-rise buildings, I can’t help but ask: “What makes this country strong?”
I must admit this question takes away the delight of each trip, because it makes me reflect on why our country cannot seem to move up as a nation. Nevertheless, I believe that Japan’s strength lies in the Japanese people’s faithful adherence to moral (social) values. Confucianism, the religion that shaped the Japanese culture, emphasizes the importance of correct behavior and the cultivation of virtue in a morally organized world. Moral values are at the crux of the Japanese character, in effect allowing Japan to face its challenges and rise as a nation.

Vaclav Havel, former Czech leader, said: “Without commonly shared and widely entrenched moral values and obligations, neither the law nor democratic government nor even the market economy will function properly.” Our country is inundated with corruption, poverty, and strife; let us do our part and make our country strong — let us make moral values the guiding force of our lives and use them to conquer our adversities.

But what are moral values? Moral values are the standards of what is right and wrong. They direct us how to behave toward each other, as well as how to understand and meet our obligations to society. Some examples of moral values are honesty, trustworthiness, being respectful of others, loyalty, and integrity. Meanwhile, an immoral person is one who does wrong despite knowing the distinction between good from evil. And an amoral being is illustrated by an animal who is completely ignorant of what is right and wrong.

Our country’s problems exist not because of bad luck or a “faulty alignment of the stars,” so to speak. Our problems lie in ourselves, the people of this country. For a predominantly Christian nation, where virtue or morality is emphasized, it does not make sense that many people steal, disrespect their neighbors, lie to and deceive each other in record numbers. Unless we take on moral values diligently, we may never attain the best that we deserve as a people, much less become a strong nation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that it is the people of a nation and not jewelry, gold, wealth, and resources that make a nation strong and rich, for in all their actions they do not do anything that dampen the image of their nation.

The task for us is to teach and instill among ourselves the importance of moral values. We need our institutions — the government, church, schools, and media — to be involved in a concerted effort to curtail bad behavior in our country. One way to achieve this is for the government to create programs and enact more laws that discourage erring/immoral behavior, and reward good conduct. Another is to add more courses in schools to inculcate courtesy, integrity, and honesty in students. Large amounts of public money are squandered in our country by individuals; I am sure we can find ways to put such money to good use to fund programs to instill correct conduct in our people. This will bear a lasting and rewarding effect — making our nation strong, and elevating us to greater heights as a people, becoming “relevant” citizens of the modern world.