are you a good person?

I think I can hear you. “Not again one of these attention-seeking headlines…” you might be thinking. Don’t worry I actually mean it, because I have been asking myself this question slightly more often than usual over the last 4ish months. Only 2 days ago this question popped up again.

Just after a week of news from the US and the BLM movement, Sydney planned a peaceful protest in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. I had not, absolutely no intention of going. The thought didn’t even cross my mind. Well, once it did, which led to this blog post.

Forget about the challenges of finding someone to look after the kids or the fact that I think that, just as we (in Australia) managed to keep new corona infections to a minimum, hanging out with 50000 other people in a public place while funerals are still kept to 12 people and a 4sqm rule is imposed on any eatery environment, doesn’t strike me as a particularly clever idea.

“You are a bad person, you don’t care about the BLM movement, if you are quiet you are part of the problem, white people need to speak up…”is what I could read across all social media outlets and there the question popped up again…am I a good person? If so, I should attend the protests and speak up. But I didn’t.

If you have read some of my blog posts you will now that I do believe that climate change is man-made but I have never attended a climate change protest. Not one.

I won’t go into a defence mode here on my views re black people or any other race for that matter. To my conscious mind, I don’t have a single thought in my head that would discriminate against race, religion, colours, age, sex, culture and all other possible ways of treating another human being differently.

I know that doesn’t change the fact that many humans around the world face discrimination in many ways and that it should not be like this. I have lived the majority of my life in countries where I was a foreigner but that’s different from the BLM issue.

You will have noticed I said “conscious” mind in the previous paragraph. That’s because we all do have a subconscious mind – the part of the mind of which one is not fully aware. And that little bugger is very much influenced by the way we grew up, our background, the environment we grew up / live in, etc.

Harvard University has been running Project Implicit since 1998 and as part of their research, they developed the IAT – the Implicit Association Test. The Implicit Association Test makes it possible to penetrate your subconscious mind and measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report. Give it a go you will be surprised by the results. You can do this test on your computer or iPad across all sorts of areas such as race, skin tone, weight, sexuality, gender, age etc.

Once you are done, read the explanations so you don’t feel like a bad person and have a deeper understanding of your subconscious prejudices. If you feel intrigued by this rather interesting topic I recommend you read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” – the power of thinking without thinking.

Coming back to – are you a good person? I leave you with some words from Alain de Botton, my favourite philosopher. There is really only one question you ever need to direct at someone to work out whether or not they are a good person – and that is, with deliberate simplicity:

Do you think you are a good person?

And to this, there is only one acceptable answer. People who are genuinely good, people who know about kindness, patience, forgiveness, compromise, apology and gentleness always, always answer NO.

The price of being genuinely good has to be a constant suspicion that one might be a monster – combined with a fundamental hesitation about labelling anyone else monstrous.

A guilty conscience is the bedrock of virtue. You can find Alain’s recent blog post and more details on this here.

Love to hear your thoughts and I urge you to watch this.