It was better before… a fine sweeping statement which rather neglects to take into account all the great tragedies that have punctuated each of the past decades. No, nothing was really better before in terms of social progress and comfort… Today’s world is relatively safer than the one that went before, as long as we repress our primal desires to invade our neighbours through the therapy of Olympic encounters and football matches. However, one thing we can be sure of is that you always reap what you sow: “in the old days” we could still shake a stranger’s hand without appearing to be a “thoughtless so-and-so”.
It’s clear that the “laid-back attitude” that served to encourage conviviality and prompted us to indulge in quite a few unplanned activities is disappearing, and has already, in some extremely sterile places, completely vanished. The over-promotion of individual comfort and “safety first” today suggest, in many areas, that we should no longer “take any risks”, that we should consider any action or relationship, whatever it might be, as though it were a satnav journey, worked out in advance on the basis of the strongest, best optimized, most “machine language” algorithm.
Should it be possible for an act of generosity to have led to a “possible” offence being committed? If so, in terms as decorous as those used by people in the habit of writing dismissal letters that make it sound as though the addressee is being invited to indulge in a lie-in in front of Netflix, it should be explained to some parents that their son, in the middle of lockdown, while emptying other people’s dustbins, committed the irredeemable sin of accepting a gesture of thanks from a stranger… perhaps even of allowing a tiny bit of joy into his daily grind.
We can speculate as much as we like about the deadly motivations of a suicide, such intellectual posturing has never brought anyone back from the dead. We might, even so, dare to think, for argument’s sake, that being taken by his superiors for a hopeless, irresponsible drunk unworthy of continuing to empty bins and doing himself in just after, leaving the motives for his decision at his feet, gives a mathematical value to the dignity and honour of a human being that even the most powerful of supercomputers capable of calculating the orbit of stars in a billion galaxies could not assess.
People may well judge that “having a tipple” and then taking the wheel of a bin lorry is a very bad thing and that the “thing” should be officially punished, yet it is abundantly clear that they don’t have the same sensitive and safety conscious mentality when it comes to our planet…