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Opinion: Stay true to your moral character

Given the current phenomenon of people walking away from their employment, many seem to be saying that earning a paycheque is not worth the price of their integrity.
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As we move into a new year, we see many problems in the world and much that needs to change. We often forget, however, that the most significant force for good looks back at us each time we gaze into the mirror.

We live in a capitalist society and capitalism has brought us many good things. Private businesses, big and small, give employment to many of us, and we all enjoy the goods and services they provide.

The problem is that capitalists seem unclear in their purpose. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tells us that leaders in business and life will look for win-win scenarios, where all parties are better off.

That being the case, does it make sense to produce vaccines and only share them with those who can pay our asking price while allowing billions of people to go unvaccinated? Is it good to produce weapons and propagate wars that will result in the deaths of children? Is it OK to lie about a product to make a sale? It seems that many among the capitalist class do not agree with Covey.

What does this mean for those of us who are ordinary workers? Are we simply supposed to go along to get along? Are we supposed to simply put our heads down and do our jobs?

Given the current phenomenon of people walking away from their employment, many seem to be saying that earning a paycheque is not worth the price of their integrity. Even when the job market is less forgiving for workers, there are things we can do to maintain a sense of peace and balance.

Psychologist Jordan Peterson advises that we be mindful of how we feel in our jobs. “If you’re being required to do things that make you weak and ashamed, then stop.  Don’t do them.” He further advises that we prepare ourselves to make a lateral move in our employment. In other words, seek constant personal improvement. Develop the skills and the character that will make you more valuable in your field.

This is not surprising. Unhealthy workplaces, especially those that do not value employee input, tend to have high rates of turnover. This is true in the public and the private sectors. If employers want to attract and hold onto the best people, they need to treat them well. 

What is interesting about what Peterson’s statement, however, is that it empowers the common person. Unethical employers cannot do anything if no one will work for them. They are limited if they cannot attract and hold onto the best people in the field. 

This is an incredibly empowering message for the ordinary citizen. We are the 99% and the unscrupulous portion of the 1% is powerless without our cooperation. Even as consumers, we have the power to hold large corporations accountable.

The key for each of us is to be mindful of our own character. Do we truly value human life, even among the poor and our neighbours who live on the other side of the world? Do we respect others and ourselves? Do we understand the life-giving power of integrity? Do we embrace truth, even when it makes us uncomfortable? Do we have the courage to do the right thing, or even to admit that we may have been wrong?

We are going on two years of a global pandemic and 2022 will be a year full of challenges. We are all in this together, yet each of us must choose how they will respond. 

I recently came across a quote from an unknown source. It draws to mind the importance of the decisions each of us must make as we move into the new year and beyond: “You come to Earth to get to know your soul, not to sell it.”

Gerry Chidiac is a Prince George teacher.