Sunday, 28 June 2015


Decency, a down-to-earth, yet vague concept; a dimension of human morality, a backbone of civilised society. So understandable, yet enough intricate to give you a hard time in coming up with a comprehensive (decent) definition of it. Oddly enough, on the blog before today I posted seven other posts tagged decency; their content could help bring us closer to what the concept of decency may revolve around:
- watching one’s tongue,
- not shunning responsibility for one’s missteps,
- not duping fellow men,
- paying somebody for work they do for you,
- laying off staff “gently”,
­- workings of rotten financial sector,
- giving back money you have been lent.
The list above contains some odd criteria scattered and picked out from the universe of standards of decency.

So what makes you a decent man?
- They way you treat other people?
- Whether you follow ethical principles, either those universal, or those set by the religious beliefs, e.g. ten commandments?
- Whether you obey the law?
- Whether you sympathise with other people and ask yourself how would you feel, if you were in that skin?
- Whether you simply can look yourself in the eyes in the mirror and admit you have not hurt anyone?

What instils decency in you?
- Parents and immediate relatives over the course of upbringing? Definitely in the formative years a human can be shaped, the older one grows, the harder to eradicate bad habits and seed good ones.
- Or maybe it runs in the genes? Examples of children of evil people adopted by decent families and whose new parents’ effort to bring them up failed bear this out?
- Is it inculcated by other institutions that shape humans, with primary credit here to schooling and the Church?
- Or maybe the so-called “moral spine”, for some less, for some more supple, has some other origins?

Decency is indispensably linked and interlaced with other concepts, such as…
- Conscience, something I would define has a black box which stores a memory of all misdeeds of a human. The misdeeds are to be a burden for a human, one is meant to feel bad after a wrong-doing; conscience’s role is to ensure it?
- Embarrassment, a state of feeling uncomfortably with a situation or one’s own or someone else’s behaviour. Embarrassment reminds us falling out of generally accepted norms in several cases should cause us discomfort and would not help us win respect from other people. Fear of embarrassment might preclude humans from doing things they would be ashamed of.
- So also the shame, a strong feeling, causing not just discomfort, but a strong desire to curl up and die, to erase a situation from one’s own and other people’s memory. Shame works after the fact, is an unpleasant feeling, yet it proves if after with hindsight a human realises they had done something bad, shame might work as a stabiliser of a human psyche.
- Remorse, having it means feeling guilty for one’s misdeeds, wanting to make up for the wrong, atone for it, apologise to those hurt by one’s behaviour.

Virtually all humans are familiar with the concepts attempted to be described above, even if they would struggle to verbalise them. Yet not all humans are equally bestowed with decency, sensitivity of human consciences varies from person to person, different situations evoke feelings of embarrassment or shame, some people don’t even have remorse, no matter what evil they do. The most extreme examples are psychopathic murderers who can be involved in manslaughter without being conscience-stricken, nor feeling remorse and a straightforward child who sincerely shows their emotions. All of us are somewhere in between and as long as we fit into “norm”, whenever we behave indecently, we should feel shame and have remorse, yet intensity of those feelings varies. For some people the burden might be quite heave, for some easily bearable…

Incidentally, a quite peculiar distinctive way of dealing with murky affairs by indecent people is pretending nothing has happened, in situations when in my opinion they should react to a situation which has taken place (e.g. apologise for their misbehaviour, etc.)

End justifies the means. This memorable adage raises the question how far a human can go, how many rules and limits can break to achieve what they want.

A penny drops. While I write a (decent) definition comes to my mind. A decent man never pursues their goals at the expense of other people. Nail hit in the head?

Now I have forgotten what I had intended to cover in the previous paragraph, yet I carry on!

I somehow envy people who don’t care, who see fewer problems, who are more bold, have no inhibitions. But is it true indecent people, on account of not being held back by conscience, etc., have easier lives? Aren’t the indecent disposed to be privileged, i.e. if they do not have to overcome inhibitions and deal with potential remorse, their pursuit of goals is less uphill? If they don’t care whether they hurt (in any facet) other people, if they don’t feel guilty of living off other people’s back, does it make such persons more likely to climb ladders of career faster? If it a coincidence most executives in the corporate world are ruthless beasts?

Finally, is it possible to switch between levels of decency when you switch between social roles you perform. I have asked myself this questions repeatedly when I looked at and listed to my workmates. I suppose they are caring and loving husbands and fathers, so why the hell at the doorstep of the office they turn into callous sons of the bitches? I fully appreciate the principle of separating family and professional lives but does it mean behind the gates to the corporate shitty world different ethical principles apply and you have green light to turn into a swine? Do your colleagues deserve less decency than your family? Your family should be given love and care, while the people you work with should be given decency, a bare minimum that in the workplace is much enough! From birth until death we are humans, all social roles only come and go.

I stare at my face in the mirror. After twenty seven years in this lousy planet I cannot pledge not regret any of my deeds, I cannot pledge I have not hurt anyone, I cannot pledge no one has ever suffered on account of my behaviour, yet as long as my offences are not serious, I hope as long as I recognise my wrongdoing, regret it, strive to make up for it and have remorse, people can tell I’m a decent man.

1 comment:

Michael Dembinski said...

Decency and determination. A combination that makes for great, real, leaders. I am patient; I know that Student SGH will go far indeed.