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.

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Sexism and Politics

The Trump sexism thing has really blown up.

Recently, the Washington Post found and shared a secretly recorded conversation (from 11 years ago) between Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush and Donald Trump. They were both lewd and Trump boasted that he can do anything he wants to women because he’s a television star – including “grabbing them by the pussy.”

Since then Trump has become the US Republican Presidential Nominee, so it’s a big deal – right? Sexism loses votes – doesn’t it?

I am not sure because of what happened in Australia with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, and the famous “Misogyny Speech” given by Julia Gillard on 9th October 2012.

At that time Julia Gillard was Australia’s first female Prime Minister (from 2010-2013), and she suffered a lot of lewd comments every single day as leader of the Labor Party and as PM. She was very often openly called a bitch and a witch, and widely mocked in the media. Her hair and clothes were always being commented upon, and all of it was about her gender – not her results, leadership, effective governance, debating style, intellect or politics. And she put up with it every day until she snapped and made the speech that went viral on the internet.

In this famous speech in parliament, she directly faced Tony Abbott – the Leader of the Opposition sitting across the forum – and let loose. She did not miss. She listed all the things he had said and done to her right to his face. It was a roast.

“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man; I will not.”
– PM Julia Gillard about Tony Abbott

Gillard described comments by François Hollande and Helle Thorning-Schmidt: “The president of France congratulated me on the speech, as did the Prime Minister of Denmark, and some other leaders, just casually as I’ve moved around, have also mentioned it to me.” US President Barack Obama reportedly complimented Gillard on the speech in a private conversation following his re-election, and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, praised the speech as “very striking” with Gillard going “chapter and verse.”

Some dictionaries updated their definition of “misogyny”  from “hatred of women” to the broader “entrenched prejudices of women.”

This was a Big Deal – Global leaders’ support, viral video, dictionary redefinitions, massive support and encouragement… so what happened next?

Well, Tony Abbott got over his roast, everyone forgave him for the sexist comments he made and his world-famous misogyny… and he became Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 -2015.

So, hey, it’s just the way men talk, it’s Locker Room Banter; all bravado and silliness. Boys will be boys, eh?

And clearly perfectly natural, totally forgivable and totally forgettable.

 

 

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.

 

Painful Admissions

“It’s Health and Safety gone mad”.

I hear that phrase a lot on telly and radio. But I really do get a lot of Health and Safety stuff at work. Most companies are pretty good these days – there are CSCS cards and other site safety measures, including risk assessments and toolbox talks. It’s all common sense and routine for the large part.

I admit that it mostly doesn’t apply to us suit-wearers in a remote office situation, but we still have to try to follow the same rules. We have monthly meetings in the big boardroom on Health and Safety that are, frankly, quite bizarre.

At one of these, the only female raised a major safety issue with an Incident Report because she went into the small office kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and slipped on what-she-described-in-the-documentation-as a “Branston Pickle” that some other kitchen user had dropped on the floor and failed to clean up in the course of making a sandwich at lunchtime.

I was telling this one to a chap just last week. This chap was returning to work for the company after a three-year spell of self-employment that didn’t work out. He laughed, but then recalled other tales of years gone by.

Apparently one of our co-workers had raised his hand at one of these Health and Safety meetings to draw attention to the fact that company car boot lids could be dangerous; he reported that he had accidentally shut the lid on his own head earlier that morning.  In fact he had completed the incident form and wanted to send it in as an incident.

Yes; he was grassing himself up for being dangerous to… himself!

OK. I laughed. But wait, I was told, there is more to this – at the following month’s Health and Safety meeting, the co-worker raised his hand and wanted to draw attention to the dangers of hitting one’s head on the company car boot lid.

Everyone remembered this from before, and as they muttered dismissively, the foreman showed us his bandaged head. That’s right; he had done it again.

And once again he had completed the forms reporting the incident officially.

One more strike, and he would be in danger of losing his job.

 

Who Do You Think You Are?

This relates an important life event, it’s an odd situation, so let me set the scene.

David L. was a client of mine. He asked me for help; a big client of his was demanding a big meeting regarding a climate control system he’d designed and installed for them. They reckoned it wasn’t up to scratch, and David was worried as he wasn’t a suit-wearing corporate type, and didn’t ‘do meetings’. David wore overalls everyday, even though he was the boss.

I was a tad put out that I was, to him, a suit-wearing corporate type, but I said I would come along and “hold his hand”.

“So what do I do?” He asked in worried tones as we drove to their place that sunny morning.

“The main thing,” I said, “Is to admit to nothing, agree to nothing, and offer up nothing.”

“Really? So we don’t have to come to a conclusion or anything?”

“No; we’re there to listen – to their fears, complaints, grievances, suggestions, demands – whatever they’ve got on their collective mind.” I continued.

“So we are not defending or attacking or…”

“Oh no – and the shorter the meeting, the better.”

“Right-o, keep it short and sweet.”

“David, the less we say, the better. Saying things drags things out; it refreshes the discussion and leads to other things, remember that we just want to gather information and get out – so we can figure out what to do about it all in private.”

“OK, you do all the talking,” he nervously said, and we parked up and went in to the lions’ den.

After the round of handshakes, we were presented with coats, shower-caps, and shoe covers. I regretted wearing my ‘power suit’. I hadn’t known that we were attending a meeting in an atmosphere controlled and graded-air facility. It added a sense of surreality to the proceedings. I wondered if this was to put us on the back foot; they would be used to this, and this was their domain. Hmmm.

So. There we all were, sitting around a big boardroom table. Not a single suit and tie was visible, not a distinguished greying temple, not a shined brogue.

But boy, they had brought in their Big Guns – chaps had flown up from head office – it was a lynch mob of TEN to us two. A Multi-National against an SME. David & Goliath? This. Was. Not. Looking. Good.

During the pre-meeting chattering, I leaned over to David, and whispered through clenched teeth, “This is Not Good – say absolutely nothing, no matter what happens.” I knew he was a hot-head, and I knew he was (like me) feeling like a cornered animal.

The meeting got under-way by a chap who was comfortable, relaxed and confident in public speaking and chairing meetings.

We gave them nothing in the pauses, I scribbled in my pad.

The next speaker was more direct, more of an attacker. Still we held sway.

I saw from the corner of my eye that David wanted to butt in and fix some ‘wrong’, but I managed to kick him under the table, and he broke off and shot me a look of suddenly remembering the Game Plan.

We were giving them nothing, so they interrupted themselves, soon everyone had got their knife in.

At times, we both dearly wanted to take the bait and engage them, it was hard, but we kept ourselves in check. I badly wanted to do some body language display, but having to be near David for a kick or hand on the wrist, meant that I was sitting too attentively.

Not just that, but I needed to change to a more comfortable position, so I decided to heck with it, and sat back, crossed my leg, and jotted on the pad propped on my knee.

This move coincided with the first time I had to speak; we’d been asked a direct question. My answer was monosyllabic. And so it went on – minimalist answers, long pauses, the dissipation of the curve.

We could see that they had used up their ammo, and I had politely acknowledged everything they had said, taking care to repeat it back to assure them that we had a full grasp of their point. I had agreed to look into it quickly, thoroughly, and professionally, and I smiled as I promised that we would work with them to find a satisfactory solution to all their problems. I think it helped that I had no idea about this project, and so I did not have all the ins and outs at my fingertips to distract me.

When enough was enough, I used the body language codes of shutting my book, standing up, and offering a handshake, as a sign that this meeting was over.

David was beside himself all the way back to the office! He was excited and thrilled! It went exactly as we’d planned, and he admitted that he was nearly ‘sucked in’ a few times. He called his wife, his people, everyone. I think it was relief and nervous exhaustion more than anything else – he’d lost a lot of sleep in the days before this meeting. A lot was at stake for him.

Now, I did nothing very special, to my mind. I followed the simplest rules regarding politeness, fairness, and the customer has to be happy at the end of the day.

For me it’s not about winning, losing, bullying, dog-eat-dog, personalities, career moves, postulating, aggression, ladder-climbing, or whatever – it’s not an arena, a bullring, a gladiatorial contest. But I know that some think it is, or should be. Stuff them; we won’t play that game – small businesses just can’t afford to.

To this day, David says I saved his company. I’m flattered, of course, but it’s an exaggeration.

I have never had a ‘proper job’, as I have always worked for myself in one capacity or another; I like it that way. I cannot imagine being on a career path or corporate ladder, living in fear of my job, or of not-getting promoted, or of the younger man. I usually speak just for myself; I usually have only myself to worry about. This was different in that I was with someone else, I was representing someone, but then, I’ve been at business meetings of all kinds and levels pretty much all my adult life.  What was really different about this one was that I learned something profound.

Yes, it was not a simple case of following the rules and doing the job (‘the usual’), this was the one time in my life that I’ve received performance feedback.

Because, for weeks and months after this meeting, David provided me with a stream of feedback about myself, and I was astounded. When you work on your own, you cannot get this. Because we were double-handed at the meeting, I got a new perspective, a new angle on what happened.

It must have been just as unusual for David too. Bosses are alone and lonely creatures. There’re no friends with which you can share – he was loving this!

He gleefully reported that one chap he’d spoken with on the telephone shortly after the meeting, found me ‘slick’, and he congratulated David on bringing in a high powered consultant – Huh?

Another report was that I was ‘too laid back’ – and that I did him no favours. I was also reported as being ‘too aggressive’, ‘too legalistic’, ‘nippy, sniping and picky’, ‘obviously dumb and mentally slow’, ‘a lightweight’, ‘not aggressive enough’, and everything in-between.

I was described as ‘a bit young’, ‘seasoned’, and even  ‘that old lawyer David brought along’!

What went on here? How can I be all those things? Remember – I said as little as possible, we did not chat before or after either. We were wearing shower-caps and coats. They had few clues, so perhaps it was just the body language – but that seems to have been interpreted in many ways.

So I have to say that this short meeting has taught me that I am not in control of what ‘I am’ – and what ‘I am’ is filtered through the imaginations of others.

I am not what I think I am. I am not what I want to be. What I want to be changes every five minutes anyway. I am not what I was. What I was changes when I see an old photograph, read an old diary entry or hear about myself from someone else.

Robert Burns’s famous “To see yourself as others see you” is not even half the story.

Descartes famously said (in translation), “I think therefore I am”. This ought to be “I think therefore I am – whatever that is.”

TL;DR – In summary, I went to a meeting and found out that the impression I made was ridiculously varied. As a result of which, I suddenly understood that I have no idea who I am, that who I am is not a fixed concept, and that who I am is not really in my control.

But you have the right to your opinion of you as much as other people have the right to their opinion of you.

What to do about this knowledge? This realisation? – well, I would suggest that you stop worrying about it; it’s not something you can control, so let it go.