Words are dead

Character ethic’ refers to trying to be good while ‘personality ethic’ refers to trying to look good

Aftab Ahmed Khanzada

The writer is a senior analyst based in Hyderabad

In the margins of Friedrich Nietzsche’s book, On the Genealogy of Morality, WB Yeats wrote, “but why does Nietzsche think that the night has no stars but bats, owls or the mad moon and has nothing else.” Nietzsche expressed his skepticism about humanity and the future just before the turn of the twentieth century. The events of the following century, including world wars, massacres, genocide, looting, corruption, injustices and other atrocities, make us think that the doubts about the human being of Nietzsche were not completely correct.

Investigating Nietzsche’s concerns at the end of the twentieth century, Jonathan Glover concludes that we need to look hard and clear at some of the giants hidden within us, and ways and means of caging and make them pet need to be considered. If we consider Glover point, we will come to the conclusion that either a person cages the giants hidden inside him or makes them pet. In other case, the giants hidden inside him imprison the person in a cage and make him their pet.

Two centuries ago, there was a noise of ‘character ethic’ around the world. Writers, poets, psychologists and philosophers of the world seemed to agree that the solutions of political, social and economic problems are hidden in moral values and they believed that this is the basis of success. They took ‘character ethic’ to mean honesty, humility, responsibility, moderation, courage, justice and self-knowledge. They said that the teaching of moral values is that there are certain principles of effective living and that people can achieve real success and internal happiness only when they adopt these principles in their basic character.

But immediately after the First World War, the basic concept of success shifted from moral values to ‘personality ethic’. And the concept of success became associated with personality, reputation, attitude, behaviour, art and skill. And these things started to be considered as the reason for success. ‘Personality ethic’ basically adopted two opinions: first mental attitude; like your attitude determines your loftiness and a person’s achievement depends on his thinking and his belief. Other aspects of ‘personality ethic’ were clearly based on deception and cleverness. They used to encourage people to use techniques that they could become likeable to others or take a fake interest in other people’s hobbies in order to gain from them, or could get their advantage in life by threatening others.

If we start to understand the difference between ‘character ethic’ and ‘personality ethic’ in depth, we will realise that the real difference between them is that in one we are trying to be good and in the other we are trying to look good. In the first, we are trying to benefit others and in the second, we are using our good looks to our financial advantage. Our terrible tragedy is that we have become prisoners of such human beings who are caged by the giants hidden within them and theirs too, who are busy acting to look good. The most horrible thing is that they all sit on the important positions in the country and enjoy all authority and power. Hunger of human beings ends at a limit, but the hunger of the giants never ends. There is no limit to their greed and desires. That is why humanity is limping from one house to another in our country. Every house in the country is mourning over its ruin so much so that people have started burying their dead without a shroud. Every kind of hunger has gripped the entire country.

Roman poet Horace said: “The forest changes its leaves at the end of the year and first leaves fall. In the same way, words grow old and die.” Even in our country words have become old and died so everything has become meaningless; robbery, hunger and poverty have all become meaningless and we all have become meaningless too. That’s why it doesn’t matter whether we are alive or dead. Faranz Kafka says, “Am I who I am, or has society made me who I am

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