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Our decisions should reflect our ethical values

We always make decisions as individuals or as a nation. The question is, do we ever stop to think whether our decisions conform to our ethical or moral values. It is imperative in my view that whatever we do or decide to do must be based on the fact that it is the right thing to do. We should not do things just because we have the right to do or have the power to do it so.

Before we discuss whether it is important to make sure that whatever we decide on should always reflect our ethical values. Let us start by examining what we understand by ethics.

A good friend of mine and a former colleague at Kgolagano College Dr. Vincent Dippenaar once said “ethicists are endangered species”. He was giving a public lecture on current moral issues facing Botswana. According to Dippenaar, ethics is about the truth and many people prefer lies than the truth. What this mean is that sometimes people know the right thing to do and in most cases do the wrong thing.

Ethics from Christian perspective is the study of how human ought to live as informed by the Bible and Christian conviction. However, ethics is a broader concept. The English word ethic comes from the Greek word ethica, which comes from ethos meaning what relates to character.

The ancient Greek ethicist Aristotle suggested that ethica is derived directly from ethos which means custom or habit. In more general sense, ethics is often viewed as one major branch of broader discipline of philosophy. In that case ethics is regularly defined as moral philosophy. The origin of the term moral is the Latin mos (adjective moalis) which is like Greek contemporary meaning custom or usage

There is a thin line between ethics and morality or morals. Ethics is the study of the right and the good and morality is the practice or living out what one believes to be right and good. Morality involves the actual living out of one’s beliefs that such things as lying and murder are wrong, whereas ethics entails the study of why it is that these practices are immoral.

Wayne Meeks describes ethics as a reflective second-order activity and morality is referred as self-conscience. Although ethics and morality may not be completely synonymous, to set up too strict a distinction between the two, is probably arbitrary. The presences of the terms in the English language reflect the ethical Greek and Latin heritage of the English language.

It was the great Greek thinkers like Socrates in the fifth century B.C who perused the question of the good. They sought to determine what constitutes a good person. Since Socrates’ day generation of philosophers have reflected of morality, moral problems and moral arguments. Jack  Glickman for example, describes moral philosophy as consideration of various kinds of questions that arrive in thinking about how one ought to live one’s life.

Glickman then explains, we want to know, for example, which actions are right and which are wrong. Which activities and goals are worthwhile and which are not; and which action and institutions are just and which are unjust. At the same time we especially want to find out how one can justify judgments about what is right, good, just or worthwhile and precisely what such judgment mean. We also want to know how all these various questions are interrelated.

Seen as the moral philosophy as the pursuit of question such as these, ethics is not an exclusively Christian endeavor. One does not need to be a Christian to engage in philosophical reflections on morality nor does this endeavor necessarily draw primarily from scriptures or the Christian tradition. Rather human reasons stand at the centre of philosophical, ethical enterprise.

Ethics as moral philosophy seek to develop a conception of the ethical life in which all humans could participate and to which all humans could have access through the use of human reason. And it is especially concerned to providing a rational justification for morality, perhaps in a somewhat scientific manner.

Ethicists divide ethics into three major dimensions namely empirical, normative and analytical. Empirical ethics or descriptive morals, involves the observation of moral decision making process with a goal of description or explanation of the phenomenal. Empirical ethicists studies how people actually make ethical decisions. Normative ethics, when we hear or use the word ethics, we more likely have the normative ethics in mind.

Normative comes from the word norm, which in this context means standard or principle. So normative ethics is connected with the formulation of standards or principle of living. It involves assertions as to what is or is not worth pursuing and what is or not to be done.

We engage in normative ethics whenever we form opinions or judgments about what is right, good or obligatory and whenever we offer reasons for such judgments we also enter the realm of normative ethics when we describe a person, things or acts or good or evil, admirable or despicable. In ethics such discussions are about theories of values.

Each day we make arguments of various types. Many of them fall under the context of normative ethics, for they reflect what we consider to be the norms or standards of moral obligation for, state what someone is morally obligated to do or be.

These maybe quite particular, referring to a specific in a specific situation. There is a saying that honesty is the best policy meaning that people are morally obligated to tell the truth. Unlike judgments of moral obligation, judgments of moral values do not declare….what someone ought to do or be, rather they express what we value.

The third aspect of the ethical discipline is analytical ethics. Analytical derives from analyze which means to take things apart, to look at the constituent pieces of something. Therefore analytical ethics take ethics apart. It explores the nature of morality itself. It attempts to build a theory as to what value judgment mean and how they can be justified.

Analytical ethicists pursue the question of definition. What is good and ought to mean? What are we asserting when we say a person is free or responsible? What does it mean to say something is good? On what basis can one say judgment is good or true? But they also seek to determine how such ethical judgment can be established or justified. They raise the question, what form the foundation for making value judgments? For example on what basis can one say that the relocation of Basarwa from CKGR was morally wrong?

One person who did not merely talk about boundary situation, but actually focused on ethical quandary was Socrates. According to Plato, Socrates’ student Crito and friend advised him while Socrates was on death row that there was plan to rescue him from prison. Socrates refused to escape from prison neither did he allow his enemy to kill him; instead he decided to take his own life.

Decision making is not a simple process; it needs among other things intelligence, determination and bravery. You don’t wake up in the morning and decide about your future or the future of the organization or the people you lead. Human beings are social animals, whatever you think is personal and making decision for yourself will somehow somewhere affect others in one way or another.

Those we elect to represent us in different institutions and organizations should know that the decisions they make should always reflect the ethical values of the organization or institution they lead. But some of them, the moment they have been elected into those positions they forget completely about those who voted them into power.

Sometimes when you listen to some members of parliament and councilors tabling motions, or debating issues, you are forced to ask yourself the central question, are these people in the council chambers or parliament by mistake. Some will oppose something even if it is going to benefit his or her….constituency just because it is from the opposition or vice versa. If an idiot says, let’s run the rain is coming and you just stay because it is the idiot, who says the rain coming first, then it is you who is an idiot and the idiot becomes a clever person. If the BDP come up with some programs which are helping people encourage people to use those programs to better their lives.

And if the opposition comes up with motions which might help the people, my expectation is that BDP MPs should support those motions. When MPs are in parliament they should work as a team to serve Batswana. This does not mean opposition MPs should always support BDP otherwise there will be no opposition.

The same can be said about the BDP MPs. They cannot be expected to support everything from the opposition, but there are times when what is proposed either side is in the interest of the nation. Those who are elected to represent their constituencies in parliament and they miss the parliament sessions and at the end of the month they get their salaries, ethically speaking they are thieves.

They have stolen from the nation because they were given money which they did not deserve. They are worse than those who accepted housing allowances by mistakes while staying in government houses. When we take ethics to its logical conclusion, we can see that while we make noise everyday about moral crisis facing the youth, the real moral crisis is the one faced by the elders. When 95% of the wealth of the country is owned by 2% of the population of this country, then we have a serious moral crisis.

Immorality is more than just who is sleeping with whom, where and how or (matanyola). Some of the so called ills of the society are in fact they are symptoms of the real diseases of the society. In ethics we say social ethics produce individual ethics, not the other way round. How do you expect a young poor boy to refuse matanyola when matonyola can bring food on the table.

That is why Thomas Sankara used to say there are different kinds of prostitutions and prostitutes. The difference according to Thomas Sankara is on time and amount involved. There are those who stand in the streets and get $10 for thirty minutes and some for $20 for an hour. Some $50 for a night and others $100 for a week or month. Some marry for a year or two and then they divorce after getting what they wanted. In Sankara’s view, they are all prostitutes.

The difference is time and amount. My former German Pastor, Peter Ohligschlager, used to say almost the same about thieves. According to Pastor Peter Ohligschlager, there are those small thieves who pick pocket, those who break into houses, and those who make laws in their favor in order to enrich themselves from public wealth. Ethically according to Ohligschlager they have taken what they don’t deserve.

What I am stating here are ethical issues. And according to Socrates, ethical questions must be settled by reason alone. And secondly ethical questions are answered according to the standards of the person involved, not in consideration of what others think.

And third according Socrates, the outcome of an act is irrelevant the only consideration is whether it is intrinsically right or wrong. In this declaration Socrates delineated what has become a fundamental watershed in ethics, the differentiation between the deontological and theological (or consequentialist) approaches to ethical decision making.

He set forth he divide between those who declare that the right should be done for its own sake and those who base moral duty on some goal to be thereby attained. It is imperative in my view that when we make decision we ask ourselves whether it is intrinsically right or wrong. And more importantly, when we say so and so, it’s immoral, we ought to look at the standard of the person we are talking about.

As I said, above most of the time we blame the youth of immorality. If we compare the standard of the youth to that of some elders who are engaged in immoral activities under the cover of law or legality, ethically speaking what is intrinsically wrong is wrong regardless of what the law says. Remember Socrates was sentenced to death by court of law but he did nothing wrong. His “crime” was to teach the youth about the truth and their right. Let us make decision which one is comparable to our standards as leaders and also which are intrinsically right.

Dr. Cosmos Kebinang Moenga

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Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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