Recently in the UK, a man died. He was in his eighties and revered as a celebrity who “gave something back” through his “tireless” work for disadvantaged and sick children. He was often to be seen in his Rolls Royce beaming at the world in his canny way, and latterly celebrating the knighthood he received for his years of charitable endeavours.
Not long after his death, and with him no longer able to protect himself, stories began to circulate and appear in the press. With amazing speed he was exposed as a serial abuser who had molested victims with impunity of a period of more than thirty years.
His victims numbered in the hundreds and yet, during his life, their voices remained unheard . If not unheard, then certainly discounted. In hindsight the whole episode leaves you feeling ill but sadly not surprised. So often it is the case that being right, or telling the truth is not enough. You also have to have the power to make yourself heard. We talk of Karma, as used in its western sense, but I’m not sure how it applies in this case.
Before this sad story came to light I used to think about Stalin and Mao Tse-tung both dying snugly in their beds after a lifetime of inflicting misery on the populations they controlled and my optimism is challenged by these histories. In the world’s operated by these two fine and upstanding individuals, “doing the right thing”, and “standing tall among a tribe of moral pygmies” might not hold the secret to your longevity.
In the corporate world, as we have been reminded so forcibly by the crash of 2008, there is a strong and virulent seam of corrupt and self-serving practices which are often at odds with an individual’s wish to lead a moral and simple life. Given the need to pay the mortgage standing up against these practises is much easier said than done. Sometimes I muse about some decent, largely unnoticed, junior official in the German Home Office at the time of the Third Reich. He suggests in 1937 that the way they are instructed to treat certain sections of the population might not be in the best interests of the Republic. We know he is right, and would be proved to be so in the long-term, but at the time of his statement he was out of kilter with the department.
At best, he would be shuffled off to some side room where his eccentric and unwelcome opinions could do no damage . At worst he might suffer an unrequested adjustment to his health. Such scenarios, less obviously, are played out in buildings across the world, often influenced by spin doctors and short-term strategists who place little weight on the consequences of their master’s opinions and look to profit from them before the error of these opinions has become too apparent. It is not a comfortable area of reflection, for which I apologise.
Given these realities, how do I maintain my joy of life. The answer is in the private glances of couples who cherish each other. In the simple joy of a new birth in the family. The remorseless and inspiring progress of the seasons . In the remnants of wildlife who still move or exist without reference to mankind’s convenience. In the sound of music inspired by these events. In the beauty of a moment made more urgent by its passing, In the dignity and stoicism of those whose only strategy is to cope. In the simple timeless customs of those remaining tribes who survived the ethnic cleansing carried out on several continents by my British ancestors and other European’s in the name Christianity, freedom and any other value which might serve their purpose. In the compassion one man can show another without agenda or thought of personal gain. In the way a man can rebuild his character some time after others give him up for lost. In the tenderness we can show each other which often really does pass all understanding.