The shocking news of Lamin Jaiteh, the migrant worker allegedly dumped on the roadside by his employer after being injured – instead of being taken to hospital for treatment – is clear proof of what a dismal and amoral state our society is in.
Though the incident has been condemned by the authorities and most of society, the fact remains that such an atrocity should never happen in a democracy like ours, which is supposed to uphold Christian values.
The incident, together with the murder of the migrant Lassana Cisse two years ago and the attack on an asylum seeker in August, show that we are living in a sick society.
Bragging that our economy is sound and unemployment low does not point to a healthy society. Other, more important traits should be considered, such as the rule of law, social integration, the common good and the environment, where we are failing miserably.
In his inspiring book Let Us Dream, Pope Francis states: “By excluding from public policymaking any consideration of the common good, one ends up promoting individual autonomy to the exclusion of all other values and reference points. Without a vision for society rooted in the dignity of all people, the logic of the unfettered market ends up turning life from a gift into a product.”
How often do we come across statements like “the system has failed us” and “the institutions are not working”? The Caruana Galizia inquiry report found the state responsible for the murder of the journalist when it failed to take steps to avoid the atrocity. The culture of impunity had infiltrated our institutions.
Our moral standards are in decline because the environment we live in does not help us adhere to any moral principle. People in authority are morally disengaged and unwilling to take responsibility for the state we are in.
Albert Bandura, in his book Moral Disengagement, says that “when wrongdoing results in achieving a goal and morality is thoroughly disengaged from the means used to get it, individuals are not bothered about what they are doing”.
When society does not put the dignity of the human person and the good of society in the foreground as policies are being formulated, then self-interest takes over.
People in authority are morally disengaged- Ray Azzopardi
Institutions and systems fail us because those who are running them become morally disengaged. So they are not responsible or accountable for their actions.
Bandura asserts: “Culpable individuals can maintain a self-deceptive belief in their innocence as long as they remain uninformed about the adverse outcomes of their activities and have the benefit of social arrangements that obscure any sense of personal responsibility.”
When it comes to the employment of migrant workers, an amoral culture has penetrated society. These manual workers are considered cogs in a wheel, used and abused.
Referring to migrants obliged to leave their country, the pontiff speaks about their disappointment when “they reached the land they thought would give them a better future, only to find themselves despised, exploited, abandoned or enslaved”. This happened to poor Jaiteh.
“Rather than being a source of dignity, work becomes merely a means of production; profit turns into a goal rather than a means to achieving greater goods. From here we can end up subscribing to the tragically mistaken belief that whatever is good for the market is good for society.”
This outlook, of gauging the success and progress of society by the criteria of profit and the economy, is being passed on to the younger generation. Vocational careers, like teachers, nurses and social workers, are on the decline because, besides being underpaid, these people are not considered the backbone of a healthy society.
We need to evaluate and reframe our priorities. As stated in the editorial of The Sunday Times of Malta (October 3), the story of Lamin “merely confirms the ruthlessness of a society which is prepared to exploit anyone and anything at the altar of money”.
The buck rests with us.
We are the prime movers. The election is around the corner. If the majority are not ready to show the parties concerned what we stand for, that we are not ready to live in a society that promotes impunity and corruption and discards moral values, then we are to blame.
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