Many now agree that our common ethic, until recently, had taken a turn over the past three decades, and not necessarily for the better. Whether it was work, business, or social ethics, our general behavior had changed.
And many pundits will be quick to point out that it was the extraordinary oil boom years of the late 1970s and 1980s in Saudi Arabia that propelled us down this path. The economic boost injected so rapidly into this country during this period, they argue, brought about a change in established ethics and mores.
Perhaps that’s too harsh a statement, but certainly, among the generations spawned since, we’ve witnessed firsthand the “me first” crowd, the “I’m better than everyone else” crowd. , the “government owes me” horde, the “silent objectors” factions and a host of others who were once foreign to this desert peninsula.
Today, many of us have stories to tell of real-time experiences with such behaviors. In the workplace, it is not uncommon for work discipline to remain the furthest concern of some staff in many parts of the Kingdom. Whether it’s being late, nosing deeply into their smartphones, or being unable to complete tired tasks due to frolicking around late at night or simply not caring, it all contributes to actions that are not well received.
To change the mentalities
In the past, if they were in the civil and government sectors, it did indeed affect the rest of us who had unresolved issues sitting on their desks, often for months at a time. Adopting a “nobody holds me accountable” behavior, such attitudes have added untold woes to those waiting for their transactions to be processed.
The heads of public sector departments have aggravated the misery caused by their own irresponsible activities. One only had to witness the decaying infrastructure that surrounded them to understand the lack of accomplishments of our civil service heads.
In business, the word that was once used to do business in place of the written contract was not worth the breath it expelled. Even contracts drawn up in triplicate were usually ignored or violated. Promises and oaths in the market were as easy to predict as our dry weather and they were rarely honored.
Unscrupulous employers continued to abuse employees’ rights, while contracts were awarded to companies with very questionable track records. When companies failed, the clawback was often at the expense of workers who were quickly deprived of their livelihoods without recourse to reimbursement.
The practice of graft to get things done was not an uncommon grievance, and while there were high-profile accusations of corruption made by the media at the time, these were only the surface. of something much larger.
On the social level, the family bond has experienced its share of trials. Distance now separates parents, and distance is not mileage. Where once family was bonded on a constant level, today our gatherings are pretty much limited to weddings and funerals. The young have drifted away from the old, the educated from the ignorant, and the rich from the less fortunate. The extended family environment gradually falls into oblivion.
Interaction with others can be based on what’s in it for them, and not necessarily a genuine concern. Social divisions that were once fluid are now frozen. Our actions in public, on our roads and streets, and in the workplace simmer with volumes of selfish behavior.
We are less tolerant of those who disagree with us, and more prone to grouping with like-minded people, increasingly isolating ourselves. Fortunately, much of this breeding has been reduced in recent times by the threat of Covid-19.
Change is in the air
With King Salman and his crown prince at the helm, many of these current issues have been addressed head-on. Bribery and corruption have been forcibly targeted through routine arrests and imprisonments of high profile individuals in all sectors of Saudi society.
Whistleblowers are protected and encouraged to report any action deemed unethical. Today, all public sector employees find themselves accountable not only to government, but also to the people they serve. Fortunately, the automation of most administrative formalities via the Internet has also helped to reduce the suffering of lethargic civil servants.
The King and his government have worked diligently to reverse decades-old trends that have caused great misery for the people, but he cannot go it alone.
Our sense of ethics needs to be rediscovered. In a peninsula that gave birth to Islam, if we were to simply adhere to the basic principles and guidelines set forth by this great religion, such practices would virtually disappear overnight. But we must begin by applying these principles individually.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena