Do good. It’s all people talk about when you die
Shimon Peres died recently. He was a former President of Israel, and the predecessor to current President, Benjamin Netanyahu. His death sparked a few days of global media picking at his past, and publications hailing him as The Peacemaker, whose work defined a generation in the Arab/Israeli conflict and achieved the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.
In the UK, the news was met with a positive outpouring, particularly on media outlets such as the BBC- they love a historic man of stoicism. It seemed many in the media daren’t say a cross word about the dead.
Peres did work for peace but he was also a fierce war monger. He is famous for purchasing the weapons which armed Israel in 1948 against Palestine, creating a refugee crisis no less severe than the one we see unfolding today. His work within the peace process has been criticised as mere tinkering by some, who say he failed to take the difficult decisions necessary to ensure peace was secured.
And there’s the lesson for life really. If you do enough good, or at least it appears you did, or at least your friends say you did, then you’re a good person. In the Book of Life, a gold star will appear against your name, and and an emoji exclaiming “Good job!”
That’s it. That’s all it takes.
Memory is a complex thing and death is emotional. Both prefer things to be simple, so they can process Life’s fast pace. So you get an obituary full of half-truths in a newspaper? Big deal.
Everybody wants a hero. Or wants to be one. Death is a ripe platform for hero building. Some feel uneasy at criticising a person with no way of responding. Others see it as a golden opportunity to fill in the gaps the cautionary media don’t or won’t fill. It’s complicated.
Legacies are living things. They live on in the memories of people who are connected with a person, one way or the other. We build monuments, statues, and public holidays, after people whose legacies we fondly recall. Legacies are a gift to ourselves in a way.
Doing good is great. Good positively impacts people, species and the environment. But it’s never all we do. Nobody does all good. No one. A squeaky clean record for human beings doesn’t exist. We’re inherently flawed.
Good stands out and is great for legacies because there’s so much bad in the world. It’s a celebration of what humanity should be. So hurray for the good that people do I guess.
When a figure like Peres dies, it can seem as though the media, commentators and public alike, get into a bun fight about whether the deceased was wholly good, wholly bad, or the sum of their good and bad deeds.
Actually, all parties involved are just fighting for the right to record the legacy of the person concerned. How someone is remembered, is often more powerful than the truth.