Garth Minott | Prosocial behaviour
A friend sent me a social media post by ‘Thought Restaurant’ recently which I found very funny, but also quite interesting, intriguing and insightful, as it reinforces the message that morals matter. The post read, “Right now the financial institution (bank) affi gimme two references and a passport size picture of every staff sign by six JP before mi open an account.” At its core is 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. 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.
Morality is concerned with good or bad, and right and wrong behaviour, and while it is difficult to address these in a person who lacks morals, 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 an increase in popularity, status and wealth, but also a commitment to service, especially towards the most vulnerable. With the rise in popularity of those who wish to take a greater proportion than that 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 seem 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.
With the majority of persons in society still holding to the value of morals as a means of producing prosocial values – that is, behaviours that benefit others – there is no doubt that this way of living, even in the pursuit of wealth, fame and success, is vital.
These prosocial values include helping, cooperating, comforting, sharing, and donating for a common cause or a greater good. If nothing else, prosocial behaviour focuses 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, like simply opening an account, while it seems so commonplace to carry out fraudulent transactions. Indeed, it was not so long ago when 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 institutions refrain from reporting to the police as they seek to protect their public image. But how much of this image is being secured when, week after week, media reports highlight fraudulent transactions, staff are dismissed, and some charged? The consequence is that people lose their well-earned savings, especially the elderly who are unable to seek gainful employment. Meanwhile, the younger generation continues to ignore the importance of ethics and morals, prosocial behaviour and compassion, especially for the most vulnerable in society.
Nonetheless, all is not lost for morals. They matter simply because in building 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 operations, with the understanding that some people have not developed good morals since it was not instilled in them as children. Only people who recognise the importance of morals and prosocial behaviour and are willing to put them into practice must be allowed to handle investment funds. It is, for this reason, I concur with the social media post, “financial institution (bank) affi gimme two references and a passport size picture of every staff sign by six JP... .”
Garth Minott is the Anglican Suffragan Bishop of Kingston. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.