Many good men

In the midst of the raging cacophony of the Me Too movement when some men are being shamed for their misconduct towards women publicly, and deservedly so, across offices, organisations, industry and media, I have been thinking of the many good men I have been fortunate to know.

I joined a large Public Sector Organisation at a time when there were not many working women. In fact, for a number of years, I worked across departments and offices where I was the lone woman. I was surrounded by men at all levels, including my bosses, and in each one of them I saw a mentor. A helping hand everywhere, a smile of reassurance, a nod of approbation and the readiness to come to my aid at any perceived moment of inconvenience. No boundaries were crossed, no code of conduct was breached and no embarrassment experienced.

I remember instances where people have been empathetic and understanding, taught me work, covered up for my mistakes, walked the long mile to help me out and stood up to union bosses who were always keen to stir up trouble. There was a union president himself who stepped in with a word of authority in my favour when he felt I was right.

Even during outstation visits on official tours, when circuit houses and guest houses were not up to standard, I was thoughtfully put up at homes with families. As I grew in the organisation with the years, some of them who remained where they were, foregoing promotions for personal reasons, remembered me with affection and wished me well.

There were, of course, difficult times when I had to exercise my authority and lay down the rule strongly but it was taken in good spirit. There would be ideological differences, workplace tensions escalating to fierce, raucous arguments sometimes even leading to stoppage of work. Everything was work-related and I did not ever have to encounter an inappropriate gesture or word. The organisation is a broad place and my experience may be limited, but it will be memorable for me, for I got to work with many ‘perfectly’ decent men.

But one thing that bothers me today is that when so many men are accused of misconduct at the workplace with strong evidence pointing to them, men in positions of power and influence whose voices matter have yet to open their mouths fully and come forward in strong condemnation. It is not merely one man’s crime or sin.

As Dmitri says in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov “everyone is guilty for everyone else ” and the collective responsibility and complicity for all moral transgressions rests on all of us.

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Many good men

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