The Blog

Are We Sleepwalking Into Progress?

I write this piece in the midst of an increasingly uncertain world in all sense of the word. A world where you could walk into work and be greeted by your pink slip, when only yesterday you were probably told you were a star in the galaxies of the workplace.

I write this piece in the midst of an increasingly uncertain world in all sense of the word. A world where you could walk into work and be greeted by your pink slip, when only yesterday you were probably told you were a star in the galaxies of the workplace. The world of capitalism markets has created more people on Prozac (or similar tranquilizers) in search of their own personal worth and purpose. Even pets are said to be on Prozac now -- a testament of how we treat animals today.

Is this what progress is suppose to look like? Does progress leave one billion people in hunger while another billion are overindulging on food? How can 21st century tolerate illness due to hunger and poverty and that due to overeating of "super scale"-sized food at the same time and on the same planet? Why are people overeating anyway in the first place? Is the food produced for the "life on the rat race" lacking in nutrition that we have to keep eating? Even the basics like milk are no longer pure. We get pasteurised, skimmed, 1%, 99% with many other combinations. Coffee used to just be yes, coffee. Today we have all sizes and designs - it has become an industry unto itself to console the stressed they are living a life of purpose.

And then we see the springing of organic food for the "enlightened". Who are these enlightened? Is it not condescending to see some as enlightened yet others not? Shouldn't all food be organic in the first place for all humanity? How did our food become unhealthy and inorganic that we need to search for health in food?

When we have movements like the 1% versus the 99% on wealth, countries like the USA which makes just under 6 percent of the world's population is said to be one of the world's largest consumers of global resources. Yet under these same skies we have the poorest of the poorest who are probably living on dhal (lentil) and bread, living a more prosperous life than those with multi-gated security having their three course meals, all cooked and served ( flown to wherever they are for some).

This is not a debate on class warfare. It is not about being against the rich and opting for the less privileged. It is about the essence of our humanity and our civilisation. Yes, these are probably questions we are asked and taught in Sunday Schools, in our Islamic classes, and other similar religious settings both in our schools and homes. Yet we tend to cast it aside when we reach a certain age in our adult life. We get so hamstrung into the hamster cycle of competition and the "dog eat dog" world that we forget the simple basics of doing unto others as you like done unto yourself.

There is little to dispute about the state of our planet today, never mind our economies and markets globally. One thing that doesn't require a debate - We are in trouble!

The models of yesterday haven't worked - we only need to reflect on the staggering changes in our weather cycles from East to West and the breakdown of our economies and communities. Whether we are religious in our inclinations or otherwise, we have a moral purpose and responsibility for our time on this planet; if for nothing else for the people who will stay behind to pick up the pieces after we are long gone. Do we let them pick up pieces of destruction - or savour the pieces of our achievements and success? You know we are in trouble when you don't know for sure what is in the food packs that you are buying (this relates to the recent horse meat saga in the UK). We are in trouble when the food that is served in Muslim schools thought to be Halal turned out otherwise (a recent incident in the UK).

Progress cannot possibly bring such episodes. Progress cannot justify loss of dignity for so many in an instance and from a decision made by a reckless someone in one part of the world. Progress cannot consent dire hunger and obesity sharing the same space in time. Progress cannot have us wear clothes made by those who get killed due to unethical work ethics. Are we sleepwalking into progressive destruction?

Across industries and sectors, there is a real crises of conscience on what must we do differently. Abdal Hakim Murad, the Dean of Islamic School at Cambridge wrote in a 2009 article in The Guardian, "Ours is an age that has made idols of the great banks and finance houses, driven to frenzy by competition amongst billionaires who are kept awake at night by the thought that a rival might make a business deal more quickly than them. A banker who can asset strip companies and throw its employees out onto the street is someone who is in the grip of an obsession that has thrown him beyond of the normal frontiers of humanity."

Having worked both in private and public sector over the some 20 years and having been exposed to decision making process, I have searched for answers to questions like - on what virtues are countries and governments run? To what does it pay homage to? Is ROI and ROE equivalent to Ethics? Is meeting stakeholder expectations enough to run an ethical business? Indeed what is ethics in business? Where is our hearts and souls when we leave our homes everyday for work?

So I took time off this year to search for these answers. The purpose of this column is to scour industries and sectors leaders on what the role of ethics in business should entail and how can it be implemented. Through interviews this column will seek to understand their views on ethics in their areas of business.

Aristotle spoke of justice in societies and equitable spreading of wealth. Imam Ghazali, one of the most leading scholars in the Islamic tradition, wrote books on trade justice. Whether you are inclined towards an organic or Halal industry typesetting or the mass market setting, the essence of humanity needs to get back into how we transact with our fellow human beings in business. The Orwellian world view can only truly destroy our souls and of what may be left of the future of this planet.

I hope you will enjoy these interviews - there are some real great people in store.

You can also read this column at

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