I have just come out with the third of a series of books I have authored on values and virtues. The last one, published in 1998, was the second edition of a book written just two years before. Both editions were entitled Book of Values, a title inspired by William J. Bennett’s best-selling volume called Book of Virtues, in which the author intended “to show parents, teachers, students and children what the virtues look like, what they are in practice, how to recognize them, and how they work.” In the Preface to the first edition of Book of Values, I gave my definition of the terms “virtues” and “values.”
I defined “virtue” as a habit that endows a person with the strength of will to carry out, despite difficulties or obstacles, his obligation to do what is good and right according to absolute moral principles. Throughout all the articles in both editions, I made it clear that there are countless human and supernatural virtues, the most of important of which is charity, the love for God and for one’s neighbor, especially the underprivileged. I also made a distinction between “values” understood as absolute moral principles which are ethically and socially binding to all human beings, at all times and all places, because they stem from their very human nature; and “values” understood as personal or corporate beliefs as enshrined in habitual or traditional ways of behavior. In the second sense, values can be “good” or “bad” depending on whether or not they conform to the absolute principles of morality. For example, values that constitute a culture of integrity in a nation or corporation are good while values that lead to a culture of death (e.g. abortion, euthanasia) are bad.
To sharpen the distinction between virtues and values, I have decided to introduce a new title, “The Book of Virtues and Values.” I wanted to make it clearer that good values can only come from the hard and persevering work of individuals who are struggling to live both human and supernatural virtues. In the terminology of Christians, these are individuals who are striving to be saints. Bad values or structures of sin will result if the virtuous people allow the vicious or evil ones to dictate the culture, fashion and legislation that prevail in any given society. Some years after 1998, I had the opportunity to observe very closely the lifestyles in many European cities, by residing in one of them and traveling often to the surrounding areas. I did not like what I saw. To quote Blessed John Paul II in his well-known Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, I witnessed the darker side of an anti-family culture: “A mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality.” As a social scientist, I have seen at close range the debilitating results of a “demographic winter” slowly draining the vitality of European economies, some of whom are already being traumatized by prospects of “Islamization,” as they are forced to accept millions of immigrants to supplement their dwindling labor forces resulting from very low fertility rates. More recently, the whole world was witness to the social unrest in the United Kingdom emanating not from the poorest of the poor but from social misfits who are hapless victims of fatherless families.
Strictly speaking, my new book is not a third edition since practically all the articles are new, except for two of the longer ones, “Building a Civilization of Love” and “The Superiority Complex of Filipino Women.” The first appears exactly as it was in the original version. Even more than ever, after the experiences of the last thirteen years since the 1998 edition, all of us have to commit ourselves to the highest and noblest task of building a civilization of love. The ideas contained in that article have been updated and enriched by the encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI entitled Charity in Truth, in which the Supreme Pontiff used as a synonym to the Greek word “agape” (the love of benevolence) the very suggestive word “gratuitousness,” which means seeking the good of others, including strangers and even enemies, without expecting anything in return. I have used this demanding concept of gratuitous love extensively in redefining the very mission of business, which must go beyond the maximization of profit for the benefit of the stockholders to embrace a selfless love for other stakeholders. which include the common good of society.
A distinguishing feature of this book is the much greater space devoted to building a civilization of love in the business and economic sectors of society. There is a difference between the economic environment prevailing when I wrote the second edition in 1998 and what the world is now experiencing in the ongoing Great Recession. The East Asian financial crisis, which erupted first in Thailand and spread to other East Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea and even as far away as Brazil and Russia, was a result of the mismanagement of huge capital flows into East Asia and other emerging markets. Today’s crisis has much deeper roots. It is the result of decades of the belief among many economists, policy makers and business people that the running of business and the economy can be divorced from personal morality and can make human and supernatural virtues irrelevant. Just let the invisible hand of the market operate as freely as possible and the world will live happily ever after! As the sad experiences of the last four years have shown, and graphically illustrated by such documentaries as “Inside Job” and “Love Story” (a critique of rugged capitalism by Michael Moore), a just and stable economy cannot be sustained without a critical mass of government officials, businessmen, workers and consumers living the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance and, most of all, charity or gratuitousness. The articles under the section “The Value of Doing Good in Business” drive home this point almost ad nauseam. The presumptuousness of making morality irrelevant to business and the economy, under the guise of free market principles, only inevitably leads to a culture of greed and a culture of corruption. There is no way a tribe of “Gordon Gekkos” can be made compatible with a stable and prosperous economy.
I have decided to retain the article on Filipino women because of my strong belief that virtuous women, especially mothers of families, are the foundation of the foundation of society. It cannot be denied that a society gets destroyed if the institution of the family disintegrates through rampant divorce, unwed mothers and fatherless children, abortion, same sex marriages and marital infidelity. It is also obvious that the fastest way to destroy the family is to corrupt the women in a society. That is why I wanted to continue highlighting the still exceptional role of women in Philippine society as the anchor of every family while at the same time having the strength and talent to multitask in every possible profession or occupation in the economy. Other than this article on Filipino women, there is no separate section on the Family, as in the two previous editions, because the importance of the family as the ultimate foundation of society permeates every single topic throughout the whole book.
Those interested in getting the book will find it in National Book Store, Fully Booked and Totus, among others. They may also call CRC at 637-0912, local 350. For comments, my e-mail address is email@example.com.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.