Knowing Right from Wrong

Most of us learn the unspoken moral code of what is right and wrong in society growing up, but recently I have noticed that people are bending those rules and the generation that is emerging is ignoring them altogether. They may know it’s wrong and still chance it, for example the American tourists (with a guide) who got caught carving their initials into the Colosseum in Rome and got arrested. Of course they knew it was wrong, but didn’t think they would get caught.

Another example are the arrogant folk that tell you are wrong when there is no evidence to prove that except in their ego. I often encounter such people and while I love a good debate, I choose not to waste my breath (or time typing) on narrow-minded egos. Even when someone is wrong, unless it is dangerous, I realize people need to find out certain things alone and it’s not my place to tell them, unless they ask for an opinion. That means sometimes watching them fall; harsh you may say, but if you try to protect a child from falling, how will they know what to do when you are not there when they do fall?

There is never a blanket solution for everyone, what is right for one maybe wrong for another. Perhaps someone isn’t ready to listen to a certain point of view or is able to understand it yet? I take the approach to keep an open mind about why people think as they do and respect where those beliefs come from.

I sometimes look at forums with philosophical debates, only to find people telling each other (and me) that I am wrong or right. I don’t need anyone to tell me either, because it’s individual. What’s right for me won’t be right for another, but sharing thoughts and theories is what philosophy and spiritualism is supposed to be about. Instead, it becomes a competition to see who thinks someone is right or wrong followed by a lecture from several egos. If someone has a questionable theory, I ask how they came about it rather than tell them they are wrong, because to them that might be the only truth they are able to see.

The only person who you should listen to is you, because you know yourself and what is best for you and what isn’t.

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Dead Poets Society: A film about life and integrity

I first saw this film when it came out in 1989, when I was about the same age of the main protagonist, Neil Perry. It was responsible for the reemergence of the quote, ‘Carpe Diem’, but for me it’s more about seizing the day—the film showed me that standing up for what is right is important for your soul and your integrity. These are traits that define you as you grow older and allow you to respect yourself, even when others cannot see things from your view.

John Keating, the liberal English teacher at a boarding school, portrayed by the late great Robin Williams epitomizes the journey of life, where one discovers creativity and defies the traditional school of thought. Like all good teachers and philosophers he teaches his students to think and not only the facts; something many teachers fail to do today as their own teachers did not take the time to teach them to think. Keating’s unique teaching methods encourages the students to think and see outside the box and also to break some school rules; it challenges loyalties among peers and betrayals from the weak. Trust is earned and gained and some pupils such as Dalton never betrays his friends or his teacher despite the consequences, unlike Meeks who doesn’t hesitate to protect himself.

The pivotal moment is when Perry, played brilliantly by Robert Sean Leonard, decides to follow his passion for acting, but knows he must hide it from his family who would disapprove. His plight, atypical of many ambitious families who decide the lives of their child, that do not listen to what the child wants, recognize their abilities or their individual personality. Despite trying to reason with his father, he feels he can only turn to Keating with whom he has a bond with and is someone who understands him, is willing to listen and also respects him. Teachers such as Keating are rare these days, but it is often the parent who barely knows their own child still to this day.

The recurring themes of loyalty, family values and society expectations are viewed through each character and how they react and develop. The result is that Perry’s parents failed to understand their son and his needs and the loss of his life inspires his former roommate, Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke to stand up for himself, for his own self-esteem and to do the right thing. Failing to stand up to his parents and signing a a false statement, he eventually finds the courage to lead his classmates in standing on his desk and declaring, “O Captain! My Captain!to Keating as he leaves. By standing on a desk, you can see life from a different perspective, which many of us fail to do and the mantra, “make your lives extraordinary” rings loud, because you are entitled to live your life how you wish, not one to make others happy. This is a poignant moment in the film where a teacher can touch a life and change it by sowing the seeds of strength and made a difference.

The film provokes many deep thoughts about how you choose to react; that some rules are there to be broken, because they need to change for society to develop. Are you brave enough to challenge the unspoken rules? Sometimes we have to; I challenged my college’s policy on writing references and told my Vice-Principal (in a very direct manner) that their policy was ineffective and unfair. I wasn’t suspended, but I did write a letter of apology and they did agree the policy did not serve the best interests of the students and it was changed, for me at least. Living your life with the courage of your convictions can lead to change and sometimes there will be consequences, but that is the challenge, called life.

Respect and Manners

The days of sending a letter to The Editor are a distant memory as each online story or site has a comments section or a forum to discuss and express your opinions.

At times I find it interesting to see the local view on a news story, then horrified at some of the racist, narrow mined or abusive comments people make. I believe in free speech, but also if you can’t say it to someone’s face then hiding behind a computer screen is simply cowardly.

I find Yahoo the worst and they never seem to moderate their comments, it would cost too much, but the site has a reputation for inaccurate stories and the fact people know the comments aren’t always monitored opens it up for abuse. Newspaper sites tend to be monitored and inappropriate posts removed. Then there are trolls, on forums and in chat rooms. I wonder why people do it? Have they nothing better to do with their time and I am a firm believer of what you put out there you will get back. So writing abusive comments will come back on you at some point.

I contribute to some forums and comments when I feel the need, but many get lost in a sea of rantings and spam. One thing it does allow is for people to open up and to express themselves, however, I am thinking a private journal may be more apt for some of the things I read.

People should respect each others opinions and I do like to see what others think; some are experiences that make me think and others allow me to realize there maybe more ignorant people out there with no manners or respect for humanity. The internet has created a platform for all to voice their opinions, though I think there are some that are harmful and should be kept under wraps. The problem is people do not take responsibility for their actions or behavior, online or in person. Each person has a responsibility not to harm others, physically, mentally or verbally. These are the unspoken laws of nature and humanity, ones that people ignore or forget.