A friend recently sent me a social media post by ‘Thought Restaurant’ which I found very funny but also quite interesting, intriguing and inciteful and which reinforces the message that morals matter. It says, “Right now the financial institution (Bank) affi gimme 2 references and a passport size picture of every staff sign by 6 JP before mi open an account.” At its core it’s a message of mistrust which, while reposing some hope in the integrity of the institution (bank), is less open and trusting of the individuals who work in these institutions. Though it is not as easy to separate individuals from institution, since the one shapes and develops as a result of the other, nonetheless, the comment reinforces the need for trust in matters of morals. Many people view financial institutions as formal scammers.
Morality is concerned with good or bad and right and wrong behaviour and while it is difficult to address these to a person who lacks morals, nonetheless, it is worthy of note that if individuals and institutions are to flourish then behaviours which enhance the good and right and shame the bad and the wrong are bound to succeed. Success, of course, is not a one-way street in that it is not just about increase in popularity, status and wealth but also a concomitant commitment to service, especially towards the most vulnerable. With the rise in popularity of those who wish to take at a greater proportion than which they are prepared to give, and with the proclivity to set aside or ignore issues of morals and values, it is no wonder instances of fraud, nepotism and cronyism seems to be more and more prevalent.
At the same time, there is no denying the reality that there are persons who commit to practices of morals and ethics, sometimes at great personal, financial and social costs, but with a resolve to maintain their integrity. This pursuit of truth or honesty in business and personal life is the reason the social media post points to the important place of JPs in a society in which brutish, bullish and crass behaviours seem to have become commonplace. At the same time, with the majority of persons in society still holding to the importance, relevance and value of morals as a means of producing pro-social values which are behaviours that benefit others, including helping, cooperating, comforting, sharing, and donating for a common cause or a greater good. In this way, even in the pursuit of wealth, fame and success it is vital to focus on giving back to society through service, philanthropy and general acts of compassion and care for others.
I have often wondered how much of this care and compassion exist in some of our financial institutions as we spend an inordinately long time to do transactions, such as simply opening an account in banks and other financial institutions, while it seems so simple to carry out fraudulent transactions. Indeed, it was not so long ago that the police reported that there is suspicion of far more hacking of accounts taking place in financial institutions than are reported. The conclusion drawn is that the institutions refrain from reporting these to the police as they are seeking to protect their public image. How much of this image is being secured when week after week media reports highlight fraudulent transactions and staff are dismissed and some charged? The consequence is that persons lose their well-earned savings, especially the elderly who are unable to seek gainful employment, while the younger generation continues to ignore the importance of ethics and morals, prosocial behaviour and compassion, especially for the most vulnerable in society.
However, all is not lost for morals. They matter simply because in building of a modern democracy and a society which cares for its most vulnerable, prosocial behaviour, through service, must be of the utmost importance. For this reason, financial institutions must mainstream the importance of morals in their institutions with the recognition that some people have not developed their morals since it was not instilled in them as a child. Only persons who recognize the importance of morals and prosocial behaviour and who are willing to put them into practice must be allowed to handle investment funds. Even then, I agree with the social media post, “financial institution affi gimme two references and a passport size picture of every staff sign by six JP.”
Rev. Garth Minott is the Bishop of Kingston.