Mandeep Kaur was born is the Punjab and is the first Sikh Chaplain in the MOD. In her role, she has responsibility of "providing moral, pastoral and spiritual support to Sikhs serving in the armed forces and their families." She met me off the train at Birmingham station and we sat in a cafe and talked long beyond the sixty minutes I had promised her. She is a warm, thoughtful person who was immensely generous with both her time and her thoughts and feelings.
Mandeep believes it is virtuous to develop oneself and to strive to be a good person where "good" is defines as taking righteous actions and conducting oneself honourably. Love is the essence of virtue as love pushes the ego away and enables selfless service, tolerance, and humility all of which are the very opposite of sinful behaviour. Behaving virtuously is beneficial to her in many ways: it makes her feel good and when she feels good she sees that goodness comes back to her; it results in her receiving respect from others; and it delivers financial and material success in that when she leaves greed and envy behind her, she automatically feels satisfied with what she has and sees herself as successful.
She does not think that people, and she would include herself in this, think actively about virtue and definitely believes that this needs to change and we need to start the debate about the virtue of virtue. In general, she sees that a lack of dialogue about virtue has caused us to take it for granted when there is clearly a large and growing lack of virtue in our society. As humans, we need to be taught to be human and to live in humanity. Accepting this statement is a necessary first step to developing humanity.
In order to embed virtue Mandeep stated very simply "change yourself and the world will change". If you want your world to be better, you have to be better. If you are bad, your world will be bad. To that end, we all have a responsibility to bring out the best in others, to thank, praise and acknowledge them for positive contributions they make. We also have a responsibility to bring out the best in ourselves by reflecting on our behaviour and taking actions like forgiving someone or endeavouring not to tell fibs the next day. We do not live in a world where we can do whatever we want. We need to live together humanely for the sake of humanity or we are little better than beasts in the wilderness. Virtue is the enabler.
For more on the virtue project and links to other interview summaries, please see an earlier post: Behavioural Change: The Way out of this Mess? (for the virtue project)