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ColumnistsBy The Way with Bill ChapmanWhat to do when things go wrong?

What to do when things go wrong?

 by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

With some embarrassment I confess that one of my preferred films is "Clear and Present Danger", a Hollywood heroic tale starring Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan (CIA) and Donald Moffatt as US President Bennett. Central to my delectation is the thesis advanced by Jack Ryan that the President, when confronted with the prospect that one of his cronies was mixed up with a Colombian drug cartel, should nonetheless publically stand by his friend and even roundly affirm his undiminished alliance with him. Admittedly this was largely a tactical decision to dilute the expected media frenzy surrounding the kerfuffle, but it still contained a moving element of honour and allegiance. All this is to say, it got me thinking about the subject of one’s own less dramatic enactment of similar circumstances.

Many of us are privileged not to have to suffer indignity by association. When however it transpires the hackles of self-defence are quick to arise, and I suspect the first instinct is to distance oneself from the commotion. The circumstances giving rise to public embarrassment are limitless, everything from sexual impropriety to financial distress, criminal activity, convulsive public behaviour and so on. The incidence of these exoteric failures are sadly not uncommon. What by contrast radiates are the times the family and friends of the disgraced person rally to his or her support.

It is all too easy when one has the upper-hand of decorousness to choose to avoid contamination by someone else’s shortfalls. It requires some grinding thought to determine what alternate course of action one should follow when the need occasions. Initially the competition is purely binary; viz., him or me? Then there is all that business about going down with a sinking ship; or the more creative retooling of the distress to incarnate oneself instead as the victim. There are risks in taking too high a road. In the end anything other than loyalty is wasteful and never relieving, not to mention the very real likelihood of precipitating caustic damage to one’s own elevated character. At times like this it is well to recall one’s own conceivable lapses.

It is naturally important to distinguish between support of another and condonation of the misguided act. Granted it is the nexus of person and conduct which creates the storm, but that doesn’t imply that our fealty to the damned is an uplifting of the human action. I believe there is much more ground to be put between oneself and misfortune by starring it down; otherwise it is more probable that the chain will never be long enough. Further it is odd how adhesion tends to wither the cleft that previously existed.

It is not especially popular in our freewheeling society to discuss the underlying tenets of life. The positive shallowness of so-called social media hardly inspires an examination of the prescriptions which once moved our greatest authors. I am prepared to wager that there will be a revitalization of moral integrity. Mindless self-indulgence is a needless consort.




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