“Have you no morals, man?”
“Can't afford them, Guvnor.”
- George Bernard Shaw - Pygmalion
One of the commentators on the thread about religion on Indonesian Matters
quotes Julian of Norwich, a woman who in England in the 14th century, after falling ill, was subject to visions about God and eventually became an anchorite in the monastery of St Julian of Norwich. She was a very compassionate woman, and found it hard to reconcile a revelation she had in which God asserts that unbelievers and the like will be cast into hell. In her consternation she demands an explanation from God, but all he will say is "All will be well, All will be well, All manner of things will be well"."And I wondered greatly at this revelation, and considered our faith, wondering as follows: our faith is grounded in God's word, and it is part of our faith that we should believe that God's word will be kept in all things; and one point of our faith is that many shall be damned. And given all this, I thought it impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord revealed at this time."
This sounds like a ready made excuse for all kinds of malfeasance, evils and the like. Let me flout the laws of Man because God's laws ordain it?
I'm not sure that Max Hastings would agree. Writing in The Guardian
, he argues that western countries, in particular the UK, must be transparent in its financial dealings with countries "with which we must trade for our livelihood.
"Transparency is essential if we want to ensure that Britain does not go the way of corrupted societies around the world.
(and Asian) nations will never be deflected from the path of chronic corruption until foreign companies - supposedly from societies with higher political standards - cease to pay them bribes. Our muddled morality causes us to seek to impose standards of probity in Britain that we are willing to abandon when a British company or institution is playing abroad. We say that we are perforce accepting the standards prevailing in societies with which we must trade for our livelihood. But we thus contribute to perpetuating those same base standards.
As much as I admire his assumption that "higher political standards" are synonymous with moral probity, I sense a whiff of colonialism in what he says. But then the imposition of cultural values is yet another form of proselytising. However, given the culture of corruption that is all-pervasive here, one which the UK was certainly party to with the connivance of the Cendana Clan
, then the abandonment by anyone of the acceptance of what some term 'Asian Values' is to be applauded.
The forces of capitalism have determined and dictated the path of 'globalisation'. Yet far from spreading wealth globally, it has lead to exclusion.
In Indonesia, according to Unicef
, from 1995-2004 the lowest 40% shared 20% of the overall household income whereas the highest 20% took home 43%. (GNI per capita in 2006: US$1420)
The BBC recently reported
on a Unicef/SCF report on children giving up their children.It found that about 500,000 Indonesian children are in care institutions, but only about 6% are orphans. Economic concerns, including rising food prices
(blamed on rising oil prices and the worldwide demand for biofuels), are partly to blame,
One fact is clear: globalisation is not a moral force. Certain religions have bought into this particular credo
and, as has been argued elsewhere this past week, religions with their sects are also exclusive.
Corruption, such as rust, is a weakening of an otherwise sound system. Moral corruption is the decay, or erosion, of accepted behavioural norms. The FPI
, for example, follow a set of corrupt Islamic precepts.
In this morass of muddled morality, where the state has abrogated its responsibility to create and protect social cohesion, and businesses practice 'corporate social responsibility' as a boost to their bottom lines, Indonesia's major religious groupings, the Muhammadiyah
and Nahdlatul Ulama
, are not doing enough to create harmony, a precondition for a fair society, or, in the matter of the FPI, are reinforcing societal divisions through not condemning the havoc they are creating.
But this is nothing new. In his book The Asiatics
, published in 1935, Frederic Prokosch caught, the ironies of a world in which a Muslim will chastise an American for coming from a country with “no god” and in the next breath will ask to be taken to America (growing angry when refused) …
...................................Update - a day later
Muhammadiyah chairman, Din Syamsuddin, yesterday admitted that criticisms of mainstream organisations such as Muhammadiyah and NU for their failure to speak out against extremist and conservative elements were partly justified, but the attacks should not be linked to religion.
"Ä violent attack is a purely criminal act, and the state should take action against it. Violence has no root in Islam. It's a misuse or abuse of religion," he said.
"The reason we seem to be doing nothing is because we don't want to be provoked."
Rather than standing up for your beliefs, this is crouching behind the parapets.