Monthly Archives: February 2014

An unexamined life is one that is not worth living. (Only dead fish float with the current)

“Only dead fish float with the current” I heard this the other day.  A contraction of a quote from WC Fields who said “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream”.Image

I am sure that you have heard the phrase, “go with the flow”.  Now sometimes this is a good thing, it intimates an ability to get on with others, being present and taking every day as it comes.  Unfortunately it has seemingly become an accepted practice that pervades our society and has us gravitating to the lowest common denominator, this is evidenced in a number of issues that have been highlighted in recent weeks, I will discuss this in more length later.

I heard this phrase and was thinking about it and started to write this blog, but it has been a couple of weeks since then.  This thought was reinforced with a couple of conversations I have had.  I noticed a young boy sitting by himself in the midst of a play ground, he looked a little sad and I sat beside him and had a conversation.  This young man perhaps ten years old had some interesting things to say.

He had come to live in the country from living in the city.  The school and community he had come from was solidly middle to upper income territory, gated villas, Remuera taxis  (Shiny four wheel drives ) and homes where they lived a pretty good life, from that they had come to struggle street New Zealand, it doesn’t matter the town they live in now, but you can use your imagination, broken people living in broken suburbs, living broken lives, drugs, gangs, teenage pregnancies, alcohol, and violence are common place.

The insight this young man gave me was “they think differently here” ,  he said nothing is your own here, everybody shares everything, your food, your clothes, your toys, and he said they swear a lot. He said he didn’t want to bring anything to the playground because it would get borrowed.  To him it was like moving to a different country.

Yet here he was not floating with that current.  He said it would be easy to be like them, he said I could swear and be rough and steal but he said it just doesn’t feel right.  He said he knows that he sticks out because of it but he felt happier inside by doing what he thought was right.  His moral compass was firmly set and he was no dead fish floating with the current. He has integrity and a sense of purpose and direction and I admire him.  I suspect that when faced with choices later in life he will do the right thing.

We have too many dead fish drifting in our current, one of these outstanding members of society heard a scream the night Mellory Manning was murdered, “It was a horrible scream … a blood-curdling scream.” It sounded as if a woman was being attacked, he said, he knew the direction where it came from and its likely source and did nothing, a few minutes later a splash was heard as she was tossed in the river. Mellory didn’t matter, they didn’t know she was a sex worker, they didn’t know she was  in trouble, the just didn’t care enough if at al..

What the consequences of those screams being ignored are unknown, perhaps  Mallory Manning would be alive today.  There are many other recorded incidents of people who have ignored screams and even worse walked past people who were being beaten and just turned a blind eye, often with the explanation it looked like a domestic.  Now be very clear here, I am not advocating that everyone needs to do something physical to stop an assault but the least someone can do is to call the Police for help.

I think that everyone knows what the right thing to do is but somehow their moral compass becomes inadequate and they rationalize themselves out of doing the right thing.  There is a story here of a man who ignored screams of “Help me, oh God help me” nearly 40 years ago and this has haunted him ever since.

Floating in the current like a dead fish however has much more meaning than just ignoring things that one should do something about. It extends right through society.  Over the next couple of posts I will explore the topic a little more and hopefully challenge and extend you as readers in your lives to examine yourselves a little more in depth.  As Socrates is quoting as saying “An unexamined life is not worth living”.