Article on ‘Raising a voice for community ethics’ by Dr. Asha Fernando

Community ethics is where that examines the communal morality and the social morality while giving special attention towards the community development, and providing positive service structure within the state. Community development can be regarded as the process that the members of the community gather together in order to take a collective effort and to generate solutions to common problems, which can lead the community towards well-being. It is true, at the very beginning of this process, it has to be a smaller group that is first stepping onto this process, and then it will involve the broader community.

Community development is the process that is making the communities to become more responsible upon organising, planning their work, and together to develop a healthy life style to empower the each individual within the community to reduce poverty and suffering, to create employment and economy of the state, and to achieve common social, economic, environmental and cultural goals.

Community development obviously is about improving the life style of the citizens. The effectiveness of the community development will lead to such consequences, in mutual and shared benefits and responsibility among the community members as a whole. This kind of a development is all about the social, economic, cultural, environmental aspects and more than that it focus on the diversity among the community while approaching them in a manner of building positive relationships within the community level. Subsequently, community development is considering the resource management and the effective utilization of the resources, while balancing the competing interests and the demands of the community.

At this point, I can say that this community development as a crucial point, which would focus the well-being of the people while having the development goals in front of the line, but still the problem remaining here is, in developing countries like Sri Lanka, the application of core values and principles of community development have not been able to influence the development goals. This is where the utilization of ethics comes into play.

Since the traditional view of ethics is the study of moral duty and obligation, ethic of community or community ethics can be defined as the moral responsibility to engage in communal processes as the service providers pursue the moral purposes of their work and address the ongoing challenges of daily life.

Sustainable development

Community ethics is all about the way people work, the way individuals provide their services to others, the way people deal with others, the tendency of people to provide positive solutions in others problems, how far does the people can work collaboratively in the community, and how does the individuals of the community would be able to achieve the sustainable development at the end, while preserving the resources and utilizing them to the fullest, and it also concerns the responsibility of the individual towards the future generation as well towards the present life situation, more over it is all about government providing services to every single person without bias, and confirming no person would suffer or confront with problems, and should be treated in a moral manner.

To sustain community engagement we will have to assess and evaluate the existing ethical principle within community. In western, ethicists used to identify community ethics as something important to develop community life. As a backbone to the society, ethics play an incredible important role to the society because; it arises from the conscience or sense to determine right and wrong. In other words, it is an inquiry of rightness and wrongness of human behaviour. But if such moral principles are erosion of ethics will lead to device mal-practices such as: acting unethically without concern for others, committing such as cheating, fraud and breaking of rules etc.

“Community” is a main factor in the social developmental process, which means the social development focus the community mainly. And on the other hand the social development should be gained through the community development.

Community development is where the people attend with their initiating energy to attain a positive life style as the ultimate goal. If not, the people should be dragged towards the development through their commitment, inspiration and performance. Therefore the social development is where understanding the problems of the community and solving them through the effective utilization of the resources that they have (government and non-government institutes). Therefore in short, the community development is determining the needs and wants of a community, recognizing the resources of the particular community and using those resources to the fullest potential in order to solve the problems of the society. If the resources are not enough to overcome the problems of the community, then the services of the government and non-governmental institutions should be implemented.

The objectives of the implementation of community ethics are varying from area to area or from a village to village etc. As a developing country, in Sri Lanka the main focus of the community ethics must be to overcome the problems occur as a county in the developmental process. To be honest, there are many areas that the community of Sri Lanka must focus on. The social life of the people in the country should be improved. The first and the last attempt of the community should be for their own betterment of the community and finally the betterment of the individual.

At least every individual should be provided with shelter and food, which means the development first, should address the basic needs of the community. More than that the community should focus on reducing the poverty and the economic inequity, development of the infrastructure, helping the people to stand still with the self-reliance while assuring the freedom and power of the people through developing self-confidence within them, provide positive motivation for the search of knowledge, and finally the community should focus on providing the well-being, peace and happiness to all.

These objectives should be addressed through the community ethics, and mainly, with the utilization of ethical policies of the community. As mentioned, all these problems comprise the social, economic, psychological, political, religious, and cultural aspects within the country, and have been linked directly to the human needs and the well-being.

Righteous livelihood

These barriers can be answered through an ethical system built upon the responsibilities and rights of the community. It should focus on how our society has recognized the ethics that is founded upon our community culture, social states and rights. And also we should understand how the government and the non-governmental institutions have been served in order to protect those ethics? The major concerns would be these.

Since Sri Lanka has a deep history of traditions and culture, there we can see the usage of ethics within the community levels. The ancient villagers have been practicing the community ethics at the earlier periods of Sri Lankan history. It can say most of the time, their traditional believes and practices were based on their own religious views. Still in our cultural and traditional contexts, these practices have been utilized up to a certain level. But how much of these value systems can be implemented in the development of the community? Or there is a doubt whether country can adapt these traditional value systems in the process of development. It is essential to recognize the modern social assents scientifically, which made the traditional qualities, social relationships, practices and values to be ignored.

Besides, within Sri Lankan community there are significant and unbelievable indigenous knowledge and practices have been revealed. The concept of gamaipansalai-wewaidagebai was the vision of our ancient community practice. Our ancestors, to maintain their health, happiness and well-being, they had their own systems and methods. For an instance, ancient societies accepted that every person has a right of earning money, but the proper way to earn money was through Dhamma.

Even in Buddhist teachings there has been implemented the importance of a righteous livelihood to a more successful and sustainable life. And moreover, the main consideration was not given to the material gain, but their focus was upon the mental well-being of each person. The people were more linked with the religious practices and the concept of Dhamma which includes the justice; righteousness and the truth were was the fundamental ethical principle in their lives. Since the main attainment and the purpose of the life of Asian people was to attain Nirvana, Moksha, liberation or the inner peace, their lives were simple and occupied a very little amount of needs to survive. But, after introducing urbanization, industrialization to our community, those basic values day by day disappeared from our community practice.

To achieve social development we will have to enhance the quality of community life and community needs (socio-economic, cultural, psychological, political, etc.). Sri Lanka has a practice of planning and implementation of several kinds of community development programmes and projects.

Most projects are addressing the physical needs as well the social needs. But to attend a total social development we will have to identify and eradicate certain structural barriers such as inequality, exploitation, violence, injustice, distress, etc. within Sri Lankan context, our political system, social welfare policy and law enforcement offices are in attempt to address such structural barriers. But still those are threat to our community and social development. Sri Lankan society consists of multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic groups, multi-languages, etc. Therefore to achieve community development we will have to create harmony within those diverse groups and interests. Otherwise, the achievement of the social development would be a mirage.

Dr. Asha Faernando 

This was an Article on ‘Raising a voice for community ethics’ written by Dr. Asha Nimali Fernando, Senior Lecturer Department of Philosophy and Psychology University of Sri Jayewardenepura, published on Daily News Paper on 26th March 2019.

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