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A Good Person?

I’m often very critical of certain people, especially those in positions of power. And sometimes it might seem that I am suggesting they are inherently immoral, or greedy, or corrupt, or dishonest as individuals. But that isn’t necessarily the case, although in some cases it might be true!

It isn’t always obvious but I criticise people for the way they act, not because of any inherent qualities (or lack of) they might have. This includes managers, executives, and politicians. Many of the people I think act badly in their professional roles might be perfectly nice and decent people in their private lives. But on the other hand there are probably many who aren’t!

I started thinking about this because of a comment made in a recent interview on Radio New Zealand. The interview related to the school closures the Minister of Education is pushing through in Christchurch. The interviewee, who was opposed to the closures, said he thought the minister was a good person even though he obviously disapproved of her actions.

So the question is: can someone be good but still do bad things? It’s likely the minister has been forced to implement the closures as a money saving exercise which was masterminded by people more senior than her, probably from Treasury. She may not fully agree with them but has been forced to carry them out anyway. Can she still be good?

Before I go any further I should say that there is a case to close some schools in Christchurch because of the falling roles in some areas after the earthquakes. But this isn’t just about that. It has gone far beyond that and has clearly become a general cost-cutting exercise, no doubt arising from the right-wing government’s political ideology.

Also I need to say that the minister claims the process is still in a consultation phase and nothing is definite. However anyone who believes this should probably be labelled as rather naive. There is no doubt about what the big plan is and there is little doubt that, unless there is a huge publicity campaign to discredit it, the ministry is likely to go ahead with the plan essentially unchanged no matter what the facts are.

So can the minister still be good even when she is doing things which are clearly evil? (forgive me using that rather emotive term, it was merely in a rhetorical sense) I think it depends on the degree of good and bad involved. So in the end it will depend a lot on subjective opinion.

Clearly there is a lot of incompetence and dishonesty involved in the whole process. The information which the ministry is using has been shown on multiple occasions to be grossly inaccurate and flawed. There is little doubt amongst most people that there is an agenda beyond that which is officially admitted to. And the claims of consultation are almost certainly exaggerated because in the past similar processes have never been significantly changed after consultation.

But on the other hand there are some extenuating factors. First, the school age population has dropped in some areas so school closures and reorganisations to some degree are justified. Also there is pressure on the government to spend less and education is a significant cost to the taxpayer. And finally the right-wing government we have did gain a clear majority in the last election and might claim to have an endorsement from the public for this type of action.

So is she a good person or not? I guess we won’t really know until we see the eventual outcome of this process.

Maybe she has just fooled people by appearing likeable and receptive on the surface while underneath having no real intention of taking other opinions into account. If that’s the case then she is evil, not good.

Maybe she is genuinely listening and will insist on the current plans being moderated when they are finally implemented and some common sense will reign. If that happens then I would have to say she is good.

But most likely she will see the problems with the current plan but won’t have the courage to stand up to the ominous figures in the background who are making the real decisions. If that is the case then she’s a coward but not necessarily bad.

We all have to compromise our principles to survive in the environment we live and work in. Compromise isn’t necessarily a bad thing but anyone who compromises enough to do what they know is the wrong thing I think cannot be described as good. At least not in their professional capacity.

I’m sure the minister is a perfectly fine human being when she is removed from the odious political environment she works in. But like almost everyone else, when it comes to politics, she’s evil!

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