Good Can Win Over Evil if…

In RL Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, it is clear that everyone has good and evil within. To remove the evil in order to be 100% pure good, means that the 100% bad part is freed into the wild with dangerous consequences.

Although the total good or evil remains the same, the effect is a strange case indeed. Perhaps it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it? Perhaps we ought to have the internal good v evil battle to “win” and be virtuous or worthy of the afterlife in heaven… or something.

It is a fascinating novella, and a great subject for discussion and thought. However, the most interesting notion to be teased from this work is, for me, the external manifestation of good and of evil.

Let me go further, does the good erase or in some way make up for any bad that someone does. I don’t mean atonement or penance, not exactly (although that is also very interesting), rather, I am taken with the idea of someone inventing or discovering something, but being a thoroughly disagreeable person – perhaps even considered evil.

I know that this is a poor introduction to what I am on about. Sorry about that. It’s just that it seems to come up again and again in recent times.

Take Wagner – a brilliant, innovative and unique composer – but a Nazi sympathiser and Jew-hater. Even today, his music is taboo in Israel. Can it be possible or reasonable to separate the man from his work – to allow yourself to enjoy his music and disagree with his politics?

In recent times in the UK, it has become clear that in some celebrities at least, the evil side of the personality triumphed from time to time. Jimmy Savile became a prominent BBC radio and television personality, gained fans and followers, brought entertainment and enjoyment to millions, and raised over £40 million for charities. However, it seems he might have had a dark side as a sexual predator. All of which has come out after he died.

Do the allegations and accusations overthrow or trump the good works?

Should they?

Rolf Harris was a role model – someone to look up to, a national treasure, but he’s in jail for sexual offenses. How should I feel about that?

Wagner was open and unapologetic, but no-one knew any bad things about Savile until after he died. Harris’s dark side was hidden – but he was found out while alive, and brought to justice.

Some people say that we ought not to speak ill of the dead, and I am inclined that way myself particularly if nothing can be gained by raking up evil.

Take Savile – he did good works and died. His bad side was then discovered. The big question I had at the time this came out in the media was – why did no-one speak up while he was alive to defend, respond or be brought to justice. If he was prolific as is suggested, surely some of the blame has to be borne by those who, by keeping schtum, allowed further abuse to take place. But all-in-all, what overall good would come of posting allegations over the front pages? I do think that the end result of this particular case is to negate the good. So the whole thing is just pure Mr. Hyde.

Wagner is different. He did not hide his antisemitic views. I wonder that – if he had held them as a dark secret – would people stop liking his music upon discovering “the truth”? Another thought – would his personal beliefs make people listen to his music? And so what? Does anything matter? If his beliefs were not known, what difference would it make to his music, and how it is received as music?

Pop Stars align themselves with political movements – should they? Should it matter to us? Should I stop liking or listening to their songs?

Rolf Harris is different again; he was disgraced and will pay his debt to society. By going to jail, by apologising and atoning, he is cleansed. In theory anyway. Harris faced justice, and gets a clean slate – so all his works, his TV, his books, his paintings – even his pop songs, all should be OK to like – shouldn’t they?

My thought is that we should always be inclined to good, to an exemplary life – even if fake. Why? Because fake is normal. We each have good and evil. We do good and bad, we have to try to let good win. Good must outweigh bad in the scales.

That way lies hope.

Savile did good for more people than he did bad. That’s tough to type in this climate; it goes against everything just now. Same with Harris. Unlike Savile, Harris was found guilty – and is paying. Wagner didn’t even DO anything; he merely held a view that is unpopular. Why can’t we just focus on the good stuff as a default rule? Doing so doesn’t condone crime or evil or unpopular extremist views. Really it doesn’t.

Michael Jackson was a long list of accusations of child abuse, and yet it is widely considered acceptable to enjoy his musical legacy without a care about all that – why? Why is Jackson different from Savile? Jackson didn’t do as much for charity as Savile – Jackson was keeping his money for himself. Is this a double standard?

I remember when Rock Hudson died and it came out that he was actually homosexual. He clearly did not want this to be known while he was alive. He did not want to represent homosexuality. that’s just who he was and what he wanted to do. To out him after his death is not really fair to my mind.

Now I am not for one minute suggesting that homosexuality is evil or that Hudson’s dark side contained his gay secret. I am suggesting that he was careful about his public image and probably would have wanted to maintain that as his legacy. What good did outing him bring? People today look at him playing the very heterosexual male roles in pictures, and know what he really was – and that was likely to be exactly what Rock Hudson did not want to happen. People may even boycott his films because of that. I have heard of Christian fundamentalists taking that view.

There seems to be a popular trend for seeing the bad in people, in revealing things that ought to be hidden, and I don’t go along with that.

If someone was struggling with a personal issue, a dark side, a kink, an addiction – whatever, what business is it of mine? What good does it do society at large to display the flaws sufficient to overshadow any goodness?

I would suggest that the sooner we as a society drop this trend in favour of role models of positivity and good, then we can return to aspiration, looking forward, making good, advancement, and betterment.

How to Get an Instant Divorce

I was once witness to the terrible consequences of loose talk, and have been very careful ever since.

This happened years ago. John and I were in the pub trying to chat up two girls who had already told us they were married.

I had seen this all before – girls who were married didn’t go out on the town by themselves. If they weren’t lying, then they were unhappily married. That was John’s theory, so we continued undeterred – and they seemed to like it (and us) – however, as the drinks flowed, talk got looser.

It turned out that Julie was indeed unhappy in her marriage, her husband was a useless unemployed drunk. She was fed up earning all the money and working long hours just so that he could lie on the couch all day drinking.

John had had a few by now. He knew he was too drunk now to make good any amorous advances, but his mind still worked, albeit without the usual constraints of caution, propriety and inhibition. This was one of those turning points. A game-changer.

He leaned forward and spoke so softly that we all had to lean in to glean what he was saying.

“I say you dump this guy and move on; you can do better for yourself and you’re not getting any younger.”

“But I can’t – he needs me, he depends on me…”

“No, no, not at all; you’re actually keeping him down. Cut him loose; it would be the best thing for him. Believe me.”

“But where would I go?”

“Go? No, you go nowhere – he goes.”

“But I can’t just throw him out without a reason.”

“Is he bad to you?”

“No, not really, he’s bad FOR me. As I said, he just does nothing. He’s always just lying there zonked out on the couch in front of the TV, a waste of space…”

“If I could tell you how to get rid of him in the quickest, easiest and most painless way possible, would you be interested to hear it?”

“I’m telling you he won’t go just like that, it won’t be easy …”

“But it could be; I know a way – and you’d be the hero too, you’d be the good guy and he’d be the bastard. Would you be interested in hearing the plan now?”

“Yes, I flippin’ would, because that’s nigh on impossible, John, seriously!”

“OK, here’s what you do: you go home, you find him zonked out on the couch as usual, dead to the world, right?”

“Right.”

“Right, so you carefully place the lamp on it’s side on the carpet, and do the same with ornaments, pictures, and whatever else you have. Make it look like there’s been a struggle and things have been knocked over. You can even extend the idea to another room, pour something on the carpet, whatever.”

“And all this while he’s drunk asleep on the couch?”

“Exactly. Now you need to rip your blouse, get your hair pulled this way and that, ruin your make-up. Girls can do wonderful things with make-up. All that matters is that you have to look like you’ve been beaten up in a big struggle. Then pick up the phone in the other room and cry and sob and wail down it that he’s gonna kill you and plead for help to the police.”

We all stopped and looked at John. Julie’s eyes were as big as her surprise could make them.

“But the police will arrive and wake him up – he’ll just say he didn’t do it…”

“Ah, but,” John said, “They won’t believe him – they’ll see you, they’ll see the state of the place, and they’ll drag him out of there in two seconds flat.”

I chipped in: “Just say he passed out waiting for you to come out from hiding or something.”

“But – and I’m only asking for the sake of argument – what would happen next? Wouldn’t he just get let off a warning or something” Julie asked.

“Well, the police will warn him not to visit you because you would have seen a lawyer.”

“A lawyer?”

“Yes, a lawyer – to stop this violence once and for all…”

“What violence?”

“All the months and years of suffering that he’s put you through, and that you so skillfully hid from the world. The physical and mental torture you kept behind closed doors, you poor thing!”

“Jeez. He’d deny everything…”

“Yeah, and who’s gonna believe an unemployed drunkard who beats his caring wife and then blacks out?”

And that is how the evening went. Drinks were drunk, thoughts were thought, drunks were ejected onto the street, into cabs, and home to sleep it all off. It was just chat, it was pub banter. We knew she wouldn’t have the gumption to carry out such a nefarious plan – who could?

Look, she must have loved the guy to get married in the first place. She must still love him if she’s been putting up with him as he is. And like most women, she probably thinks she can change him. And like most wives, she’ll be long-suffering.  If they don’t survive, or prevail, after a fashion, they’ll eventually split up somewhere down the line – because that is what happens.

That is what is supposed to happen.

But Julie did listen, and what she heard resonated within her. She had the power now, and she liked that. She could be proactive, she could pull the plug any time that she wanted, and that was excitingly empowering.

When she got home to find her once-beloved lying on the couch pissed, and beside him was a half-finished takeaway curry and a splash of vomit drying into her good carpet,  she realised that she was no longer in the mood for all this.

.oOo.

It was six months before I was back in that particular bar. I was early to meet up with a couple of pals I hadn’t seen since uni, and there she was in a booth. I caught her eye and nodded in polite recognition – the usual cursory acknowledgement before turning to the barman. She was suddenly beside me.

“I did it!” She pulled on my elbow.

“Eh? What? You did it?”

“Yeah – I did it. I got rid of Charlie!”

“Charlie?”

“Aw, don’t you remember? We were all here a few months back and your pal John came up with a scheme to help me get rid of Charlie…”

“Nah! No way! Are you saying you did one of John’s madcap schemes? You took all that seriously?”

“I am – and I did!” She beamed.

“Jeez. You seem happy on it…”

“I am indeed. Never been happier – I have a new man too.” She indicated a chap over in the booth. “He’s great. We’re great. Together. It’s night and day. John turned my life around – when’s he coming in?”

“Oh, he’s not – I am not meeting up with him tonight, just other pals as it happens.”

“Ah, well, I wish he was coming because I would just like to than him for being a genius!”

“Did it all go to plan then?”

“To the letter. Charlie didn’t know what hit him! You know what’s most funny about all this? Charlie believes he’s been blacking out and battering me. He believes it himself!”

“You’re joking!”

“No – it’s been the best thing for him too; he’s dried out, sorted himself out, turned his life around. He’s even about to start a wee job! I just cannot thank you two enough! If Charlie knew, he’d probably thank you too!”

And that was that. From a careless, half drunken rant, a dream schemed up on a lager’d evening to pass the time – an amusing diversion… to wham! And lives have changed forever! Cause and effect. Consequences.

And before you think that it all worked out for the best – just as Julie told me – it didn’t.

Julie’s was only one side of the story.

Charlie’s version was rather different as we found out later… but that’ll keep for another time.

 

Bereavement and The Work’s Phone

I heard that James had died. It was sudden and unexpected. Everyone in the office was astonished – and then felt sad for his family. His daughter’s wedding day was near.

It had nothing to do with us, but someone at Head Office would have to sort out everything. The company car, mobile phone, clear his desk, do something with his e-mail and hard drive and who-knows-what-else – all would need to be dealt with as soon as possible to allow his family and friends to get on.

It’s not too callous, I hope, but the workload increased, and we were all too busy to dwell on such things.

Time passes quickly, and the company recruited a few new people who had never known James. I thought Alan was one of them, but it turned out that he did know James – and that he had worked at this company with James for years, many years ago.

Alan went through the usual forms and inductions, and was given a company phone, car and a desk with a laptop. Nothing unusual in all of this until last week.

Last week he started receiving weird phone calls from a sobbing woman. After a while he discovered that it was James’s daughter.

The company had given Alan James’s old phone and phone number, and James’s daughter had been regularly calling to hear her dad’s voicemail message – to hear his voice. This was a comfort to her. She’d been talking to him, leaving long and emotional messages about her wedding and then about her pregnancy.

When Alan answered, she got such a fright. She then realised that Alan could hear back her very personal messages – and that she would never again hear her daddy’s voice because Alan had erased the outgoing message with his own.

Of course, Alan, immediately erased all her recordings, and apologised as best he could.

Surely there ought to be some kind of procedure for this sort of thing? Something better than what happened here.

Is it better that Alan knew her, that he knew and worked with James? Or would it have been better had he been a complete new start to the firm?

A modern world brings modern ails.

 

Summer Better Than Others

There is a heatwave in Glasgow presently. It’s Not Good. It’s uncomfortable in too many ways. It is certainly not a feast for the eyes. A holiday this is not.

Days of relentless sunshine have taken their toll on Weegies and their usual activities. The bums who drink cheap wine and superlagers in the public parks year round now have to contend with families and pets, and vice versa.

Everyone is sunburned or tanned to a burnished mahogany.

As a man, the thing that gets me is that females whittle clothing down to a risqué minimum and then, as they mince around or lounge about on bits of grass, frown at you for having the audacity to glance at them during a scan survey of possible places to set up camp with the family.

I am genuinely not interested in lusting after their bodies, and would prefer it if they either stopped dressing like that, or stopped trying to make me feel guilty. Their frowns and eye rolling compete with my eye rolling, sad head shake, and exasperated tutting.

The truth is that my eyesight is not what it was. But they won’t know that. In addition, I am happily married and perfectly satisfied, so I would like to be left in peace and equilibrium.

Then there are those women who wear veils and black gowns. Why are they going to sunny parklands or beaches – I don’t get that. I have no problem with them doing so, it’s up to them, but I have to say it doesn’t look comfortable, and they ain’t getting a tan that is for sure. They also seem to be attracted to me; they always set up camp very close-by. Unlike the scantily-clad girls, these women see me as an elderly unthreatening safe haven.

The main annoyance with a large group of these women and their children is that if you feel that they are too noisy, and decide to relocate, it looks like you are a racist or something.  If they drop litter everywhere, you feel you can’t say anything, so you sit in silence, and avert your eyes.

You decide to make the best of it – get out a sandwich or a wee sausage and a soft drink from the cool bag. This brings over the dogs.

The dogs walk onto the blanket, knocking things over, and stick their noses into things – while their owners shout and come over to pull their away by the collar. You feel like saying that the sign clearly states that all dogs are to be on a lead, but you don’t. You just throw away the contaminated picnic into a bag for the litter bin later.

Time for a kickabout with the lad. In consideration of everyone else, you play one-touch – passing the ball back and forth as quickly as possible using alternate feet, but your son treads in a big runny dog poo. The wipes are produced and everything is disinfected.

You settle down for a read, but the breeze has changed and the smoke from the portable barbecue fired up by a hipster and his moll catches your breath.

A man in a red Adidas track suit, accompanied by his sister or daughter (possible both) – also in an Adidas track suit, settle down and decide to play their favourite Now That’s What I Call Very Ethnic Music 25. It’s lively and has complex beats and traces of melody, and it is just loud enough to gain your full attention despite their crap smartphone speakers.

You think about relocating, but there are groups of people drinking wine over there, and screaming babies and prams over here. It’s getting busier every minute, and you realise that there will be a traffic jam to get out of the park unless you make a move right away.

As you pack up, you are hit on the head by a tennis ball. “Sorry!” you hear, as you toss it back to a tattooed man in shorts and slip-ons. His son is (despite the heat) wearing a Spiderman onesie.

You try to put your litter in the bin, but it is overflowing, and covered in flies and wasps – and large seabirds have pulled a lot of stuff out and everything is strewn about the area of the bin. You try to stop your daughter seeing a man peeing into the nettles by suddenly coming to life as super Dad the child lifter-upper.

As you pack the car, the midgies come out and nip you to the edge of reason. The drive out of the park is fraught because cars have been abandoned in passing places – which have been grabbed as parking spots by the SUV drivers. The air con hasn’t kicked in yet, but you can’t open the windows because the air con is switched on. It’s hot and the traffic lights only let one car through at a time.

Every petrol station has a queue for the car wash.

There are road restrictions because there is a Women’s 10K run on, as well as roadworks, diversions, and a funeral procession. The supermarkets have run out of ice cream, water and sun lotions. There are rows of empty shelves in the beer aisles.

You park and take the family for a stroll after the hot car trip home. But all the pubs and restaurants that can, have the windows open and for once the smokers are at one with the rest of the drinkers and eaters. Dogs and ciggy smoke everywhere.

There are a lot of bad tan lines, uncomfortable looking people trying to get through this infernal heat and unnatural blue skies. The holiday clothes have been dug out of the suitcase and pressed into service early.  Men are wearing long shorts, which, with socks, reveals only 25 mm of actual leg to the elements.

Adult men in shorts is, was, always has been, and always will be an abomination. I do not need a tan on my legs because I am the only one who sees my legs, so what’s the point? Also wearing long shorts looks really bad, and it is not in the slightest bit cooler.

It is weird having holiday weather at home because it is not holiday. You don’t have a pool or the sea to cool off. It’s got all the downside and none of the upside.

I’m praying for rain, and looking forward to my real holidays!

 

The Dark Side of Supermarkets

Supermarkets can sometimes be quite dramatic.

For example, I was once next to be served at a check-out till in a small local supermarket when a strange thing happened. The cashier was scanning items, and passing them onto a sloping conveyor to be bagged by the customer, when a scanned watermelon rolled down the slope. It gathered speed and struck the lip at the end of the check-out, where it was launched into the air.

We all watched in slow motion, mouths open, as the customer flailed about trying to catch the flying fruit, but instead of a save, she actually managed to strike the large watermelon in such a way that it accelerated toward the open supermarket door like a cannon ball.

Everyone gasped as it slammed into a chihuahua, killing the small dog outright. The customer was beside herself, screaming and wailing as the distressed and distraught dog owned arrived.

It was quite a scene, I can tell you. A crowd gathered, management were called, statements were made, and eye-witness reports were rehearsed and dramatised. At one point, the fruit was recovered and bagged (perhaps as “exhibit A”). I was surprised that the dog was also scooped up and put in a Safeway carrier bag, but then, I supposed there was no “proper” etiquette for this sort of thing, and there had to be a clean-up so that we could all get on.

Small dog threatened

*****

Some years ago, in the run up to St Valentine’s Day, I procrastinated to the point where it was the eve of the Big day, and I had no card and no gift. So I waited till my loved one was fast asleep in bed, to slip out to the 24 hour hypermarket.

I arrived at about 3.15am, and dashed along to the greeting cards aisle – upon arrival, I was surprised to find seven other men browsing the cards!

I am far from unique in my errors.

*****

I did once see a woman fall to the floor in a supermarket, and suffer an epileptic fit. It was quite odd, and no-one knew what to do – it’s awkward for a man in such situations, so I ran to a shelf-packer for help.

“Hello” I said to gain her attention.

“Yes? How can I help?” she responded.

“There’s a woman having a fit in the drinks aisle” I explained. Just at that point, an elderly lady who was passing by, said:

“I’m not surprised with the prices they’re charging here; it’s a disgrace, it really is!”