“Adjust”; “Learn to move with the times”; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”; “Everyone does it”; “Do it for your own survival”; “If you have to grow, this is the only way” and many many other similar variations would have been heard by all of us on a routine basis. These would even form the basis of our thoughts as we go about our day-to-day life. These very thoughts would form the justification in our own minds as we bend the rules, and ignore the morality and the legality of our actions… The beauty of the situation is that the large majority of the people do not even stop, or even pause, for a moment – and analyse; is this really needed? Is there any other way to do it? Do I really need to break the laws of morality, legality and common business sense in order to achieve my ends? These are the questions that I intend to address in this post: Is it possible to be straight, decent and good in this modern world, especially considering the practical requirements of raising a family and meeting their legitimate desires?
HOME AND FAMILY LIFE
Let us take a look at the home first, and then move on to the professional sphere, and examine the various choices that confront us in our day-to-day lives. Take the example of a driving licence. A large majority of us willingly pay up a bribe in the form of “agent fees” of around 1500 rupees, when the actual fees is in the region of a few rupees only. I dont have a driving licence- have had 2 or 3 learners licences, which expired when I did not pay the bribe – and did not find the time to go all the way to RTO office for renewal due to daily pressures. There is no need to pay a bribe here; one can afford to be good – the only cost is some inconvenience to us. Is this inconvenience so hard, that one has to pay a bribe? No! And yet. we pay up without a second thought! Similar is the case for most examples in the home: proper planning and time devotion will obviate the need for a bribe, or short-cut methods. And yet, how many of us take the easier path? Is it really needed? Yes, being good and straight here has a cost: it is that of your time. Only that, nothing more.
The big question is, why dont we find the time? Why do we find it necessary to take a short-cut route? And, what do we lose if we take a little more time, and the attendant inconvenience? Do we really lose anything of practical significance by shouldering this inconvenience? The fact of the matter is that we dont. All it requires is take some time off. That is it. And yet, we take the easier path – for which, frankly, there is no justification whatsoever. It is your own home; if you wont find time for it, who will? Be it a DL, or a Gas connection – or anything else – the situation is the same.
OFFICE AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE
This is where things get really interesting, as the price of being good escalates exponentially, and the choices become more tangled, and the risk and loss increases to uncomfortable- and at times- threatening levels. Unfortunately, in this sphere of our lives, the hard truth is that the loss incurred by being straight is normally a heavy cost; and it is for each of us to ask ourselves – is this cost so great that we abandon the right path, the straight and narrow – be become practical. And, given that families and children’s welfare depends on us, there is no right answer to this. Sad, but true. This is where the world is at; there is no escape from this reality, and no getting around this ugly fact.
In your professional life, if you choose to play absolutely straight, and ignore the norms and practices of the trade you are in, you are liable to be labelled “satyavaadi harishchandra” or “saadhu” by the soft-spoken gentry, and plain and simple “chutiyaa” by the rest. Hard fact. For example, as a sales guy, if you choose to ignore the illegal or rough trade practices, you will not achieve as many numbers as those who do- not over the short term. The consequences of this can range from harassment from seniors, to low increments and no promotions – all the way to sacking. And this is no laughing matter; I myself have heard one of my bosses telling a vendor to beat me up if I didnt do something. I was lucky that the vendor wasnt as crooked…and let me listen in on loudspeaker on the mobile. This matter was raised with HR- who did precisely nothing! That, my dear friends, is the ugly reality. And let me tell you this was not an isolated incident; another comes to mind, when a complaint by 2 ladies was ignored, as the company closed ranks. Such incidences are not uncommon, as I am sure most of you have yourself encountered in some form or the other.
All you have to do is look up what has happened to whistleblowers, and how they are targeted, of which we have seen examples aplenty. Now this is admittedly at the extreme end of the spectrum; but the rest of the spectrum also does not make for easy reading either. Neither is this restricted to any one vocation, but is in fact widespread. We can see this in the recent drug scandals, in the recent scams, as well as in the cobrapost expose. Examples abound; what matters to us is the question, did the concerned professionals have a choice? Yes, they did: they could have played it straight. But would it have cost them? Yes – missed deadlines, missed targets, missed promotions, lower increments, loss of a job etc. And, in this hyper-competitive world, this is a big deal indeed. The systems is geared towards recognising those who achieve deadlines, results, targets – and, in this process, the ones who play by the book tend to get looked over – or victimised.
Being good, thus has a well-defined price: be it the home, or be it the office. If you play straight, you will find it impossible to register a property, for example; or find it exceedingly stressful at the office. This justification is unfortunately a reality. And, given that each person is responsible to his or her family, the above justification becomes a powerful one; the survival instinct is after all paramount. Are we then to conclude that being good is now passe, out of fashion, and impractical? The data and facts tend to support such a position. The logic is seemingly flawless; we did it for survival, we didnt have a choice. But, then answer a question for yourselves, in your own mind: where do we draw a line? Where does practicality stop, and morality, legality, decency and professionalism take over? And, as we shall see in a later post, what about the systemic inefficiencies and deficiencies that are being promoted and anchored into our systems, organisations and psychologies?