Big Problems Have Small Beginnings

By Obiora Ike, Executive Director

Dear Friends of,

As the season of Easter starts across many countries, we at extend season's best wishes of peace, renewal and hope to all our readers and network participants.

We are all aware of the growing turmoil various people and nations face in the twenty first century and are shocked that what we thought we had achieved in previous centuries—freedom, democracy, justice, equality, tolerance, peace and economic welfare for all—are gradually eroding in these times to our dismay.

Permit me to share a wise tale known and told in many African traditions, which recently featured in The New York Times*. The title of the story is ‘Find My Stolen Turkey'.

'Many years ago, a Bedouin chief discovered one day that his favourite turkey had been stolen. He called his sons together and told them: "Boys, we are in great danger now. My turkey has been stolen—find my turkey." His boys just laughed and said, "Father, what do you need that turkey for?" And they ignored him.

'A few weeks later the Bedouin chief's camel was stolen. His sons went to him and said: "Father, our camel has been stolen. What should we do?" And the chief answered: "Find me my turkey".

'A few weeks later the chief's horse was stolen, and again his sons asked what they should do. "Find my turkey" the chief said.

'Finally, a few weeks later his daughter was abducted, at which point he gathered his sons and told them: "It's all because of the turkey! When they saw that they could take my turkey, we lost everything."'

This story bears repetition in this context because it clearly demonstrates the current situation humankind faces everywhere. We wonder about how we arrived at the present global crisis in terms of the various horrendous gaps which harm people in public and private conduct. Experts say that the quality of global democracy is in rapid decline, that fraud and economic related crimes grow unabated and that the rise in abuse of humans by fellow humans despite all the laws, conventions, treaties and constitutions continue in this time and age.

‘Find My Stolen Turkey' is a wise invitation to start early in our ethics teaching and practice. This is why the focus of on ethics in higher education needs the support of all—policy makers, administrators and teachers, businesses, students and all stakeholders in higher education.

We owe the youth the truth about life and the experiences of virtue as a basis for a world founded on peace and mutual coexistence.

The implied thesis is correct, namely that ethics is critical for our world and provides the answers to many of our problems.

Teachers need to teach the young that there is truth and ethically accepted codes of conduct, not just subjective opinions. For when truth and ethical conduct are denied, what do we make of the human reason that has ability to think and process the notion that one 'ought' to do something—knowing the right thing and doing it?

'Find My Stolen Turkey' is an invitation to turn the tide of unethical practices spreading like a cancer in virtually all countries, systems and cultures. When we allow the first and smaller vices to proceed, the larger ones follow. And sometimes, it might be too late to stop it all.

Today humanity is ashamed of its inability to respect and defend human life, protect human dignity and promote the welfare of all. The lack of responsibility and values-driven leadership in local, national and international contexts bear the clear evidence of failure.

It is not however the systems that failed first. What failed first were character and ethical principles in human agents. Managing and teaching ethics at all levels assumes therefore the dimensions of the search for the turkey that first got lost. 'Find My Stolen Turkey' is a metaphor for our common challenge and opportunity. It is the search for Ethics. We invite you to join this great service to humanity.

Obiora Ike, Executive Director

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