Value System For Societal Development

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Text of a Lecture Delivered at the 2012 Umalokun Memorial Lecture, Organised by National Association of Seadogs, at Olori Motel, Ughelli, Delta State on Saturday, 15th December, 2012.

By Prof. Temi Akporhonor, JP Dean, Students’ Affairs, Delta State University, Abraka.

Preamble

I must thank the organisers of the lecture for this opportunity to share my thoughts on such a topical issue, especially now that the Federal Government is brandishing its so-called transformation agenda – the problem with Nigeria being that of implementation not that of policy formulation.

I had thought that a subject that bothers on value-system would have been better handled as a group discussion rather than this student-lecturer approach. This is predicated on the fact that value-system could be personal, communal or corporate. At the individual level we all have our different experiences and even at the communal level.

Another reason why I have a passion for anything that has to do with the Umaloku massacre is my initiation into the education pathway. I am sure that until today very few of you are aware that I started my educational career in Local Authority (L.A.) Primary School now Oharisi Primary School, Ughelli, incidentally, the site of the unfortunate murder incident.

It happened around Christmas period, while I was in Manchester for my Ph.D. programme. The news was a rude shock from the Oyailo family, that Victor had been killed. I was devastated on getting the details because some of them were my boys at the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, as I was a Lecturer at the present Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma then. On my return from Manchester, I became the Capoon of old Zone C which has now been split to about nine Zones under two Areas that include Umalokun Deck, the organisers of the memorial lecture. This is a special home coming from me.

Value System

A value system is a set of consistent ethic values – more specifically the personal and cultural values, and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well defined value system is a moral code. It is a coherent set of values adopted and/or evolved by a person, organisation or society as a standard to guide its behaviour in preferences in all situations.

Your value system is the set of beliefs by which you have chosen to live your life, your morality, integrity, ethics, cultural attitudes etc. As individuals we all have our ‘dos’ and our ‘don’ts’ and we do have reasons for them, for example stealing. Some individuals see stealing as justifiable in certain situations. For example these individuals will not see anything wrong in taking stationery from office but for others there is never a justification for that.

The dilemma a lot of people face is when they are confronted by a circumstance that challenges them to make a decision that could place them outside their value system because it is an easier choice. For example, the taking of drugs; sometimes it is an easier social choice to go along with the group because one could be ridiculed if they said ‘no’, though it goes against what one believed in.

There is therefore always the need to work out what code you have chosen to live your life by and how you continue to live that way, even when you find yourself in a situation that may compromise these values. This is what I call “will power”. The will power to resist any challenge to your moral code.  A personal value system is held by and applied to only one individual.

A communal or cultural value system is held by and applied to a community or group or society. Some communal value systems are reflected in the form of legal codes or law.

As an individual member of a society, group or community, you can hold both a personal value system and a communal value system at the same time. In this instance, the two value systems (one personal and the other communal) are said to be externally consistent, with the proviso that they bear no contradictions or situational exceptions between them. A value system in its own right is internally consistent when its values do not contradict each other and when its exceptions are consistently applied. There is also an idealised value system which is a listing of values that lack exceptions. It is therefore, absolute and can be codified as a strict set of proscriptions on behaviour. Those who hold to their idealised value system and claim no exceptions (other than default) are called absolutists. A realised value system contains exceptions to resolve contradictions between values in practical circumstances. This type is what people tend to use in daily life.

The difference between these two types of value systems – idealised and realised, can be seen when people state that they hold one system yet in practice they deviate from it, thus holding a different value system. For example, a religion lists an absolute set of values while the practice of that religion includes exceptions.

There are implicit exceptions which gives room to a third type of value system termed formal value system. Whether idealised or realised, this type contains implicit exception associated with each value: “as long as no higher-priority value is violated”. For example, a person may feel that lying is wrong. However, since preserving life is probably more highly valued than adhering to the principle that lying is wrong, lying to save someone’s life is acceptable.

Conflict between Personal and Collective Value System

Two parties might disagree as to whether certain actions are right or wrong, both in theory and in practice, and find themselves in an ideological or physical conflict.

In such a situation, a value system based on individualism will be pitted against a value system based on collectivism. A rational value system organised to resolve the conflict between two such value systems may be as follows:

  1. Individuals may act freely unless their actions harm  others or interfere with others’
  2. freedom or with functions of society that individuals need, provided those functions do not themselves interfere with these proscribed individual rights and were agreed to by a majority of the individuals.
  3. A society (or more specifically the system of order that enables the workings of a society) exists for the purpose of benefiting the lives of the individuals who are members of that society. The functions of a society in providing such benefits would be those agreed to by the majority of individuals in the society.
  4. A society may require contributions from its members in order for them to benefit from the services provided by the society. The failure of individuals to make such required contributions could be considered a reason to deny those benefits to them, although society could elect to consider hardship situations in determining how much should be contributed.

A society may restrict behaviour of individuals who are members of the society only for the purpose of performing its designated functions agreed to by the majority of individuals in the society, only insofar as they violate the aforementioned values. This means that a society may abrogate the rights of any of its members who fails to uphold the aforementioned values.


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