For all of my adult life, I have tried to ‘do the right thing’. To treat people as I would like to be treated, and care for my family as best as I can. To look out for them as they get older, and need more help. To encourage the younger ones in their studies, and be good friends with them as they grow.
At work, I tried to always do the job I had signed up for, and keep any absences or irregular working methods to a minimum. Although I was never religious, I sought to always respect the beliefs of others, and to try to understand their culture, if it was different to my own. And in marriages and relationships, I stood up for my partner, and did my best to contribute at all times, both financially, and emotionally.
Dealing with strangers, neighbours, even a bus driver or someone selling newspapers, I showed respect. and politeness. And I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they would be good people, unless they showed me otherwise. Even when it came to pets, I cared for my dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and rabbits as if they were really part of the family. I made sure they got the best food, fresh water, and regular trips to the vet. No animal I was ever responsible for ever wanted for anything.
When I became involved with politics and trades unions, it was in an effort to do the right thing. To fight for others; to battle for decent working conditions, and respectable salaries. And now that I am retired, I continue to show people respect, no matter how young or old they are. I like to think that people think of me as a decent person. Someone who does the right thing. That still matters to me a great deal.
But so many people never try to do the right thing. They treat women and men badly, disrespect their friends, lie, cheat, steal, and betray. We all know them, and see them all around us. When I was younger, it was the ‘bad boys’. They were the ones the popular girls always wanted to be seen with, no matter how shabbily they were treated by them. At work, it was the shirkers, the excuse-makers, the people who seemed to be getting away with doing less than half as much as everyone else, but still remaining popular.
In politics, it is the liars and most corrupt who seem to get the most respect. They are virtually fireproof it appears, and they continue with their lucrative careers and dodgy sidelines, oblivious to exposure from the press, or the complaints of those around them. They are those ‘bad boys’ from school, now grown up.
Many people mistreat and abuse animals. They buy dogs just so they can hit them, or make them fight for profit. They tie them up in all weathers, in filthy conditions, and fail to give them adequate food and water. Society is outraged, and they even make TV shows about this ongoing problem. But little happens to the perpetrators. They get tiny fines, that they usually fail to pay, and short bans from owning pets, which they ignore. They carry on regardless, getting more animals to abuse. And the cycle continues.
Others (male and female) mistreat their partners, even their children. They have affairs, leave babies unfed and unchanged, and rage against any criticism of their behaviour. Punishment for such actions is also puny, and dependent on terrified witnesses, or children too young and helpless to speak up for themselves. Some show violence to both partners and children too, occasionally with horrific consequences. But someone speaks up for them, with stories about their own past neglect, and how society isn’t supporting them adequately. We are blackmailed into feeling sorry for such people, and trying to overlook the severity of their actions. Even when they are jailed, light sentences rarely provide sufficient deterrent.
So after more than fifty years of doing that right thing, there are times when I wonder what it was all for. It seems that those who have never done so much as one thing right are the ones enjoying life much more. And is it any wonder that year on year, it just continues to get worse? No examples are being set by those who should be setting them. And when all around you you can see the worst people in society flourishing, then what is the incentive to do good?
But don’t worry. I will continue to do the right thing. I am too old to change now. But never think it is easy.