Do the right thing…

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By Kabelo Mollo

Doing the right thing is difficult. Doing it when no one is looking, is even harder. There are guys I used to play rugby with who would go out on a bender, drinking till the wee hours and dancing like mad men, but be in the weights room the following morning with as much gusto as they had they mustered the previous night, for no other reason than it being the right thing to do. I could never understand it.

There were others who would be out the previous night, and then skip the weights in the morning. That was much easier to do from my vantage point, but it left a sour taste in the mouth for those who’d been in the weight room and sullied the team dynamic. It built unnecessary hostility. I learned from that experience that I couldn’t do both. I had to choose weights, or dancing. In order to do the right thing, I opted to put a pause on the late nights when weights were going to be involved. It taught me to do the right thing.

I’m ashamed to say that at my big age junk food is a major vice of mine. I find myself enjoying it more often than I should. It’s easy to do, and really quite convenient. It’s wholly incorrect though for someone with hypertension.

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I always tell myself, “oh, it’s fine just this one time”. Just that one time becomes a habit unfortunately, and before you know it, you’re taking a tablet daily to help keep your blood pressure near normal. The result of not doing the right thing all too real in such a scenario.

Integrity is doing the right when no one is looking according to the infamous C.S Lewis quote. It is choosing to acknowledge when an idea isn’t yours. It is choosing not to plagiarise copy, it is choosing not to inflate prices when dealing with the state, it is choosing not to have a hand in corruption and malfeasance, it is as basic in fact as choosing to drive at the speed limit.

The easy thing to do when you’re in a position of power is to harness that power to your own benefit. To exploit that power as far as possible. We see it all the time, in fact, I dare say, we’ve seen it so much that we’ve become numb to it. All around the world, leaders choosing the path of least resistance by not resisting the temptations before them. On our continent this lack of integrity has stymied the growth of many economies and in too many cases led to untold economic hardship, and poverty.

In a world where instant gratification has become the norm, too many people placed in positions of leadership are choosing to gratify themselves rather than the collective. Too many are doing what’s easy at the expense of what’s right.

There is no test for integrity that can be done before somebody takes office. We have to do an analysis on their background and their lifestyle. There is much detail that will be missed in these kinds of checks so we have to hope that their moral compass will guide them through their years of public service or leadership.

Most parliaments in the world have ethics committees that assist in the checks and balances for the members of parliament. That can help. The ruling party in South Africa has established an “Integrity Committee” and while perhaps their proverbial hearts were in the right places, they may be missed the mark a bit in terms of bedding it down, and giving it some teeth.

The point is though, they recognised that they needed to be more accountable as a party running government. They needed their cadres to be more resolute in their quest to do the right thing. They recognised that they needed to be more conscientious in carrying out their mandate. That revelation ought to be lauded.

People by their nature are fallible. None of us are perfect, and so there are societal conventions that help us and guide in terms of what is acceptable and what is not. These conventions are based on what’s best for the broader society as opposed to any one individual. When we enter in to society we make an unwritten pact that we will subject ourselves to those conventions.

We undersign that we will do the right thing more often than not, whether people are watching or not. We agree that raping and pillaging are bad and we will not engage in that barbarism no matter the circumstances.

In the main, we live by these values. However, there are some things we choose to gloss over for our own benefit. Driving a little over the speed limit. Having one more drink than one should. Copying text without acknowledgment for a school paper. We do this thinking they are small white lies in a sense. That they are victimless crimes, when in fact they are not. There is always a victim. We really should remind ourselves of this as often as we can.

It is never the wrong time to do the right thing. Do, the right thing!