The Personality and Character Ethics

Recently I’m reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey. Yeah, it’s quite late to read that phenomenal book. It’s never too late, though. As I read one of the book sections about “The Personality and Character Ethic”, I stopped. It’s kind of short yet startling section.

In Covey’s book, it’s explained that many of the success literatures of the past 50 years (If I’m not mistaken, the book was written in 2004) were superficial. It was filled with social image consciousness, techniques and quick fixes with social Band-Aids and aspirin that addressed acute problems and sometimes even appeared to solve them temporarily, but left the underlying chronic problems untouched to fester and resurface time and again.

In stark contrast, almost all the success literatures of the past 200 years were so focused on what could be called “Character Ethic” as the foundation of success. Character ethic is things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, simplicity, modesty, and so on.

But shortly after World War I the basic view of success shifted from the Character Ethic to what we might call the Personality Ethic. Success became more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, which lubricate the process of human interaction. This Personality Ethic essentially took two paths: one was human and public relations techniques and the other was positive mental attitude.

Other parts of the personality approach were clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted, or to use the “power look” or to intimidate their way through life.

Reading this, I began to realize something. I’ve read (but mostly I just skimmed it) several books about personal development such as The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and some others. Those books mostly explain about public image, attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, which are the basic view of Personality Ethic. It might works for several people and even some of the philosophy is expressed in inspiring quotes or maxims. Somehow, as Covey mentioned in his book, it’s manipulative and even deceptive. And I agree with that.

Well, currently in my Facebook feed, many of my Facebook friends share an article about education system in Japan. It’s about how they treat students, how they manage the system, and how the education system yields a high educated person yet strong in character. The article originally was written by Mr. Junanto Herdiawan in Kompasiana. For further reading, you can click here. This post actually kind of reminds me of about 20 years ago when I was in kindergarten and elementary school in Germany. By the way, every morning when I’m going to the office, I always see the elementary kids are walking to school in a group just exactly the same as I experienced a long time ago. However, I don’t really know the detail about the education system is because I was only in Germany until 1st grade at elementary school and even I’m now living in Japan but I have no child to compare with. Generally, what I’ve undergone in elementary school is almost the same as the post I read. I’ve posted my experience here.

As I’m living in Japan and was living in Germany as well, I can really feel the difference particularly in social living and mentality between Japanese and Indonesian. In Japan, they are educated by the view of Character Ethic while in Indonesia the Personality Ethic is way too much dominant in our education system. I don’t need to explain how Personality Ethic is dominating our education system; everyone has undergone it or is undergoing it.

Well, as the product of Indonesian education system, we definitely have been educated by the dominant of Personal Ethic. But, we still have a chance to improve our character, to be better in Character Ethic for the better Indonesia!


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