- Intro – conscience as a source of ethical guidance.
- Discuss the implications of silent/delayed conscience.
Conscience is the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or intentions. It helps a person in taking the right decision at right time, even if one is being guided otherwise or does not have any obligation to take that decision. It helps an individual to identify his/her moral commitments and creates values like integrity, empathy, compassion, neutrality in a person.
An individual may choose to stay silent or delay action, even if his/her conscience does not prescribe so. A corrupt work culture, lack of incentives for correct actions and various kinds of pressures may force an individual to do so.
However, such silence, denial or delay in action has various negative implications, which can be seen as follows:
- When an individual does something that is morally wrong, he or she goes through the pain of guilt emanating from his/her conscience. E.g. a biker breaking traffic rules when no traffic personnel is watching may later regret his/her behaviour.
- At the familial level, silent/delayed conscience results in differential treatment accrued to family members on account of their gender. E.g. unethical practices like female feticide or honour killing are possible only when there is a silent approval of all family members.
- At the societal level, the silent or delayed conscience can bring disastrous consequences. History is rife with examples of unjust rulers and their wrongdoings. The systematic purging of Jews in Hitler’s Germany that found social support amongst the Nazi’s is remembered as a blot on their past till date.
- At the governance level, an officer/minister may misuse the powers and information available to them by unduly favouring some sections or harming someone for gratification of their political bosses. E.g. misuse of discretionary powers by constitutional functionaries like speakers, governors etc., custodial killings and the like. A silent or delayed conscience in such cases lead to perversion of justice, erode peoples’ faith in administration and may harm the democracy in the long run.
Individual conscience usually works in tandem with the collective conscience of the society. Together they guide moral conduct. Conscience may be suppressed but it is always there. Thus, it should neither be silenced nor delayed for the sake of immediate or short-term gratification. Instead, conscience should guide one’s action at right time, as such actions may take time to yield results, but in the long run are beneficial for society.