What ever became of all the good in the world?

I am always astonished at the limitless capacity humanity has for intellectualising itself away from care and kindness.

Quick - burn the intruding historian! Avenge ourselves!
School. If you’re accused, you’re guilty!

Many years ago, when I was at school, there was a coat cupboard at the back of the classroom. Next to the cupboard was a trestle table on which had been set a class construction project. The bell went. The class joyously leaped from their chairs and surged to the cupboard, shoving and ramming each other as they fought to get their coats and escape.

I’d hung back to wait for the scrum to clear and saw the cupboard door being forced back by the desperate mob, into the trestle table. I rushed to try and rescue it – too late. The whole lot collapsed to the floor as I got there. Needless to say I was blamed. Everybody had seen me standing over the ruin and it (again) proved what a stupid and worthless child I was, and how dare I claim I was trying to save it, I totally deserved what was coming to me.

So much for trying to be a Good Samaritan.

But – but you say – surely I had rights? No. I had absolutely none. Back then, teachers given power by the system used it to smash those the system had defined as powerless, the kids, and so validate their own sense of worth. If I was seen near a broken table and the teacher decided I had done it – well, then obviously I’d done it, and how dare I protest my innocence.

The main ethical problem with this sort of behaviour is that guilt-on-accusation and summary justice stand not just against the principles of our justice system, but also of the values of care on which western society prides itself. But that is how society seems to work, certainly these days. We have trial-and-conviction by media even before someone alleged of a crime has been charged, just as one instance.

All of it is a symptom of one side of human nature. A symptom of the way humans intellectualise themselves into unkindness. It stands against what we SHOULD be doing – stands against the values of care, compassion, kindness and tolerance that, surely, must form a cornerstone any society.

There is only one answer. We have to bring kindness back into the world – together. Who’s with me?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

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20 thoughts on “What ever became of all the good in the world?

  1. I am Matthew. Kindness, respect and understanding would go a long way to solving the ills in this ‘me’ focussed society we live in. I’ve been ashamed of some of the comments I’ve read in the papers lately by purportedly good people with self-centred views.

  2. I definitely prefer kindness and understanding over aggression and hysteria. Just look at some of the rabble-rousing emails that are circulating these days inciting fear and hatred against – ooh, any sector of society you care to name, but especially Muslims. Yes, of course there’s a place for fighting and defending, but there would be a lot less need for it if the world wasn’t so ready to jump to conclusions of guilt.

    I sympathise with your childhood trauma Matthew, the same thing happened to me at school and it still rankles!

    Let’s spread random acts of kindness and make the world a better place. 🙂

    1. My school days were generally traumatic. My fault, apparently, for choosing to write with the wrong hand, deciding to mix up words and choosing to keep doing it despite every punishment, etc etc…

  3. Great post. Being smart, intellectual, or powerful has nothing to do with being kind. Pure selfless kindness is divine and should be cherished, and I believe no intellectual or scientist will ever be able to explain it.

    1. Thanks. I think kindness has a lot to do with abstraction – with being able to step back from the entanglements with self-worth that so often lead people to be unkind.

      1. Totally. I think I’ve used and heard the word Ego so many times, Its become an over used word. It’s refreshing the way you’ve used “entanglements with self-worth” to have a similar effect.

        If only it were easy to step back. I’m guessing from spiritualist such as Eckhart Tolle, and many before him, that it takes practice, and that is why I cherish it when I encounter it in me or others. It brings out the best in people. Kindness is one and really listening to others is another.

  4. Excellent post Matthew! It would make such a difference if people could just be nice to one another. Smile, be polite, open the door for strangers – it’s all so easy really, and there’s no reason or excuse not to do it.

  5. Oh, dear, now, that guilt-because-we-just-know-you-gotta-be-guilty is the worst, and probably underlies more problems than anything else. Core to society has to be the trust that it is run by fundamentally just people following fundamentally just procedures, and those are shattered by that sort of thing. I suppose it’s useful to know that people and procedures are going to fail sometimes, since there are always errors, but they shouldn’t be failing so often and so easily.

    1. The New Zealand school system lent itself to this sort of circus when I was a kid. I believe it’s changed since (I hope). Possibly. Been kind of reluctant to go back and find out.

  6. I’m with you, Matthew. I also had a smattering of those terrible teachers who declared themselves to be judge, jury and executioner.

    I do believe that if we openly exercise a bit of kindness in our daily lives it will rub off on those around us. Spread the love!

  7. So with you!! My heart goes out to little Matthew. I hope your home was more of a sanctuary, or that, at the very least, you were able to story your way to a more manageable world. I, for one, am still hard at it 🙂

    Kindness and compassion all the way! For each other, for the world, for ourselves… and for our weak yet determined words.

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