A few days ago (July 16th), Stephen Covey died. I was introduced to his bestseller book, "The 7 Habits of highly effective people" by my friend and roommate. I got it from Amazon, read it and didn't get much from it for two main reasons; first, it was a commercial product and naturally, like most other people, I have grown cynical about advertised products (Although, I read it by a friend's recommendation but the sensitivity was there) due to daily bombardments of commercial ads, and secondly; I came from a background, where "characters" were built around firm cultural and family values and there was little, if any awareness or focus on the "personality development". Therefore, by my own assessment, Stephen Covey's book was not suggesting something new to me. Having said that, I see a slow shift from the very basic cultural and family values that I was familiar and grew up with to adaptations of the "personality ethics" via media. The Pakistani private channels booms, cable and now internet are providing commercial cultural trends as an alternative to traditional cultural values and as most of the commercial products revolve around "image building" and "personality developments" so the "character ethics" are slowly eroding away.
Hearing the death of Stephen Covey, I dusted off his book once again, just to reread it and see, if there is a change in my mind after two years. The first thing, that I noticed was the observation of Covey. At the very beginning of his book, ("Inside Out") he talks about his research into last 200 years of success literature in US and discovers a shift from "Character Ethics" to "Personality Ethics" and it is what, we can observe happening in our community. In short, my understanding is that, the legacy of Covey is on stressing to build a personality around a character rather building it around the promotional trends. Please don't take me wrong; I am not against the social trends, as I know, the force of commercialization and aggressive advertisements (even political ones), however, I also believe in the power of conscience, rationality and the desire for making right choices. When it comes to "image", my observations tell me that, the most vulnerable part of the society are "intellectuals". Because of their high level of "self awareness", really few dare to face their "prejudices" and talk and write according to their conscience and unfortunately, the most hardest hit segments among intellectuals are "liberals" (Religious fundamentalists are out of discussion as they can't see out of their belief-paradigms). Sufis say, "Self is the only curtain between the creator and creature", likewise, the "prejudices" are curtain between liberal ideals and humanism (That is a character problem, Right?)