How Important Is Discipline In Society?

3042 words - 12 pages

Among those who work in difficult or dangerous jobs, for example in coal mines, there is often a discipline that comes not from being subject to the will of any person, however rational and well-intentioned, but from the work itself. If it is to be done successfully and with the minimum danger and discomfort to all those engaged in it, certain procedures must be followed and safeguards observed. Since the workers can see that the nature of the work demands this, there is correspondingly less need for discipline to be imposed on them by some other agency. This is an ideal situation, as far as discipline is concerned: where the discipline is inherent in the work or activity, and where rules and procedures are followed because they are perceived as appropriate if the work is to be done. In the same kind of way it does happen, and fortunately not all that rarely, that a society appears collectively to embrace the idea that behaving within the legal confines is in the public's interest, and that if they are to be law-abiding, then various routines, such as remaining content with earning one's own keep and not committing fraud, have to be kept to.How can "discipline" be defined? Some would reserve the word for the following of rules because the rules are seen appropriate to the task in hand, and would apply the adjective "disciplined" to the abovementioned society but not to another one which has been brought to order by some external force such as the government's threats of punishment. Others take a more holistic view of discipline in which it is perfectly proper to speak of one person or group of persons being "disciplined" by another's imposition of authority. It would be pointless to stipulate that the word should be used in one way or another. However, I wish to stress that whatever words we use, there are clearly differences among the following three cases: one, where we follow rules willingly because we perceive them as right or appropriate; two, where we follow them under manipulative coercion, such as when we are persuaded that there is no alternative to the rules; and three, where we follow them under what may be called punitive coercion, being threatened with punishment or in general some unpleasant consequences if we do not.In a narrow view of things, many of mankind's achievements in education, economics, culture, athletics and science can be attributed to the persistence of disciplined, and often self-motivated, individuals. Sterling examples would include Archimedes, the great mathematician, who before being killed by a Roman soldier was drawing symbols in sand; Marie Curie who dedicated her widowed years in continuing research in radioactivity and eventually died of a radiation-triggered illness; and Siddhartha Gautama who exercised strict discipline over himself to mediate under the pipal tree and eventually achieved enlightenment. Even in Singapore, we see a most disciplined mountaineer in Mr. Khoo Swee Chiow who genuinely believes...

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