I am supposed to write and post something each week. Didn’t know? That’s understandable. All too often I don’t do either.
This is a serious sorta topic, but it’s not half as boring as it’s titled. You’ll see. I hope.
A country’s laws are ideally placed above everybody and everything else. They are to be absolutely obeyed. Failing that, offenders should be punished. That’s how laws are designed to be. You hear people go on and on about the ‘rule of law’ and it’s wonderful when law prevails in real life, but I mean to say that for safe and prosperous society, laws are woefully insufficient.
It’s not about Nigeria’s laws or any other country’s in particular. It’s all of them. Very useful but inadequate for each single situation.
Why do ‘ethics’ exist? Think about it. If laws were enough, why is this question meaningful :”‘Is this practice ethical or is not? ” Why do companies find it necessary to state that they ‘hold themselves to the highest levels of professional behavior’ and at times, go on to codify detailed standards to be adhered to?
It is because laws by intent only specify the minimum acceptable level of behavior.
And to be respected, or reckoned with in society, you have to do better than ‘just okay’, better than barely legal actions.
Between these two, laws and ethics , a person should have good guidance no? You should be guaranteed on to behave responsibly if you are both ethical and law abiding? Not necessarily.
A key flaw of laws is that they are readily subject to manipulation by powerful people. While many average citizens have trouble influencing a law to go or come the way they want, sometimes a select elite is not bogged by such helplessness.
Are laws absolute? Should laws be absolute?
What happens if a dictator or autocratic group seizes power -as they have and do-becomes in essence ‘the law’ and issues genocidal and xenophobic orders? Will ethics stand up and show correct behavior then?
I wonder if ethics are little more than ‘current public sentiments’ and looking into the barrels of guns is a very efficient way to shape personal and public sentiment.
Should laws go horribly wrong, and society, eerily silent, supporting even, to what does a would-be upstanding individual turn to? Religion, can be the answer.
A creed that transcends imminent pain or risk or temporal suffering and definitively rebukes certain categories of behavior would be invaluable in such situations. Of course, religions can be so interpreted as to be the root causes of wasteful conflict but a belief in a benign faith and powers beyond the seen, and assailable can form a the bedrock of an enduring moral compass.
One must simply have an innate, accurate sense of good and wrong. Many will find that in religion, some will choose not to.
Point is, beyond what the constitution says, and people support, there should be a third personal level of guidelines.
Obey the laws, but don’t stop there. Hold yourself to an even higher standard and you will not lose your humanity.