"You can take the boy out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the boy"
LIVING in a country where lawyers disrupt proceedings in a court of law with boos and catcalls, unionized medical practitioners resort to strike action to the peril of the patients, service providers as a rule give no satisfaction and the businessmen are mostly flashily dressed conmen we often forget that a few hours of flying can take us to lands where they do things quite differently.
It is obvious that in the countries where most of our professions took their present form and substance there are values and standards, which are very different to what exists here.
It is sometimes said that the Third World is a state of mind. Having grown up in somewhat straitened circumstances and learning to accommodate the various deprivations and degradations of their existence, absorbing ethical standards, which are both obscure and mutable, most in these countries have a pact with life, which is bare and brutish.
You make an appointment to consult a doctor at 2 p.m. but get to see him only at 5 p.m. and that too only for a few minutes. But you must be grateful that he attended you at all.
A merchant sells his wares not because of the superior quality of his goods or its price competitiveness but by giving a commission to the purchasing officer. But be thankful that he at least supplied some goods.
A businessman goes to an accountant not to audit his accounts but to find ways of defrauding the taxman. Drivers on our roads are as a rule selfish and rude but have convinced themselves that it is the only way to drive in such a road culture.
Nobody wants to follow a line because it will achieve no result or think it is infra-dig to do it. At most places you drop by there is a need to establish your legitimacy by a show of identity cards or personal contact.
There is filth and chaos everywhere. Almost every endeavor has incompetence and amateurism written conspicuously on it. But to the Third World state of mind this is all perfectly acceptable or maybe even the way the world should be.
The professions that we encounter in our daily life of course developed and took their present form and impetus in very different circumstances.
Maturing mainly in European cultures, inspired by the spirit of free inquiry and empirical investigation these professions were built on certain ideals and rationality, which are evidently quite removed from our collective consciousness. The colonial experience brought them here.
The colonialist took promising young coloured men, put a tie around their necks, a stethoscope in their hand, a file in front of them or a cheque book in their pocket and expected a replication of Europe. The failure of this colonial dream is now apparent to us every day of our lives.
The law is said to be in essence distilled common sense. Since only one person can speak at any given time in a courthouse all we need to represent a cause is one lawyer. But here when a local worthy has a matter before court it is common for a large number of lawyers to mark their appearance as a sign of solidarity.
It goes without saying that such a matter ought to be determined according to the law and the evidence. The number of lawyers on one side should not have any bearing on the outcome of a hearing.
The kind of herd instinct that the local habit represents seems to be at variance with the fundamental principle of the law that it turns a blind eye to all extraneous issues and will only judge on the evidence. But somehow, the impression that the multitude is behind a cause seems to sanctify it here.
In the cultures where our present professional systems originated, personal autonomy and individual responsibility are fundamental to an individual's sense of freedom. Numbers do not matter. Nor do the clan or the family affiliations.
The unthinking group instinct of some of our professionals stand in stark contrast to the self confident individuality of the cultures that nursed our professions.
There, a person stands against the rest and by that act defines himself. Like it or not, their methods have delivered. They have prospered and advanced. And, freedom has real meaning.
The professions that serve us are living things constantly adapting to the changing times to improve its usefulness. When you examine their evolution it becomes apparent that all developments and changes that have taken place in the professions have originated in other places.
The idea of painless surgery, rights of minorities/minors to more functional uniforms have occurred mainly in cultures, which developed the profession in the first place.
We have become mere imitators and mostly incompetent ones at that. When we want painless surgery our thoughts naturally turn to prayer. If it is human rights we are talking about we seem to think that they are all in old forgotten parchments. As for uniforms, the less functional but more pompous would do.
It goes without saying that the businessman, the doctor, the lawyer, customs officer, policeman, etc., play an essential role in a modern society. But to be really an asset they have to play their role according to an acceptable code of ethics.
Take away ethical standards and these professions become a farce, feeding on the innocent and the helpless. Any profession needs rules and discipline. But if these are considered things to be subverted or casually ignored that profession will soon loose its pith and substance.
There is no easy explanation as to why the same profession operates under such varying ethical standards in different countries. It is a question as intriguing as the reasons why some countries prosper while others perform poorly or stagnate.
There could be cultural blind spots, which blind us to aspects, which are childishly obvious to others. Or it maybe due to our ignorance of the philosophy behind the professions or even simple pigheadedness of an island nation determined to remain where they are.
But whatever the reason, we cannot pretend that we are receiving a good service from our professionals. At best it is only barely passable.
Most times it is disappointing and at times even degrading. Everybody knows that there is something rotten in the State of Denmark, and that we must change the situation. For this we may need a fundamental reorientation of ourselves.
It is easy to change inanimate reality. But as many spiritual teachers have pointed out it is very difficult to change human habit and thought. Can we take the country out of the boy?