The quote I chose to go with the photo in my high school yearbook was: Black and white yearbook photo of 16 year old girl

“With joy shall you go out and in peace shall you be led.

Mountains and hills shall bow down before you

and all the trees of the world shall clap their hands!”

I was 16 years old and that’s exactly how I felt: about life, about people, about the world. Things were good. Everyone had everyone else’s best interests at heart. People could be depended upon to do the right thing.

Much is forgiven a girl of 16.

But I am now a woman of 56. And to have retained that sort of unrealistic, naive, wishful-thinking stance – in the face of so much evidence to the contrary – is, well: Sweet? Sad? Stupid?

Whatever. It no longer matters. It’s gone. It took me, perhaps, longer than anyone else on the planet but I am now convinced: people are not good at heart. It’s hard work to be good. It takes daily practice, it’s built on a foundation of integrity and principle and it doesn’t happen until everything else in your life is lined up consistently with those same values.

So if you are a great guy at work and you donate generously to charity but you go home at night and beat your wife or abuse your servants – then forget it. You aren’t a good person. And if you work hard at your job and you show up on time every day but you also take bribes as a routine part of your life, then please take a bow: you are corrupt. You are a jerk.

You cannot have it both ways. You are either honest or you are not. You are either a person of principle and integrity or you’re not.

I don’t mean this in pure black or white. I don’t mean that you are never allowed to make a mistake. We all make mistakes. The thing is you can’t make a living out of it. You can’t say one thing and do another (over and over and over) and make a profit in the process.

I’m speaking here – let’s just come out and say it – about so-called public servants who have positions of power (as District Magistrates or Chief Medical Officers or Ministry Secretaries) and who misuse that power for their own gains. These are people who get in the way of people who actually want to work; who stall payments because they are hoping for a bribe; who spread rumors because they don’t like being shown up by people who are doing the things that urgently need to be done. These are people who try to sabotage dreams; to destroy visions; these are the people who want organizers and do-ers to give up their ideals and embrace reality.

But it won’t work. Because losing innocence doesn’t mean defeat. It means power. It means that now we work with our eyes wide open and no false illusions that every person we meet wants to help us. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. Many do (I still believe that). But now we will recognize those who don’t a long way off.

A star - all lit up for ChristmasLearning the hard way that everyone isn’t good means that now real goodness has meaning. It pops out at you, in sharp relief. These days, working in this dreary landscape of corruption and greed, the truly good shine like stars. We know them and they know us. It may take them a while to win the day for us again, but so far, they have. Every time.

I’m confident they’ll win our latest skirmish too. Watch this space. When the money goes into our account, you’ll see the balloons being sent aloft. Because you can’t keep a Good Gubbara down.


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