Do not speak ill of the dead or the living

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My Old Boys’ Magazine for my school, which is now also an Old Girls’ magazine, recently asked for memories of a former teacher who spent his entire working life there. Apparently his daughter had asked for some reminiscences as she did not know much about what her father had done at work. Recently the magazine has published various stories and anecdotes which are generally pretty favourable.

I have nothing but bad memories of my interactions with this man, who died a long time ago. He was very unkind to me and quite a few others, and had a sharp tongue. He also beat me a couple of times for absolutely no reason other than not performing well in his class; it was not for misbehaviour.

I could have sent in my rather chilling memories but what good would it have served? I would have been seen as mean-spirited by the family and probably anyone who did not know the man personally. Even those who were never treated badly by him would have seen his cruel streak exhibited, but they must already have remembered those occasions and kept quiet as I did. The point is that anyone telling all the truth would have damaged his own reputation (I don’t think the teacher or master would have ever taught girls) much more than the departed. I am sure the guy had many good points even if I never saw them.

It doesn’t much help to criticise the living either, especially in print or on-line. I guess we all have a duty to warn our friends about a bad or disastrous customer experience, such as ours a few years ago when we had a new bathroom fitted.

Generally in business, unless we are dealing with our immediate network and can have a quiet word, we should not advise as to whether someone should do business with someone else. I believe we should mind our own business in view of libel laws and our own reputation unless we have knowledge or strong suspicion of dishonesty. In the latter case it is then our duty to go to the appropriate authorities. Otherwise we should keep quiet, hope that the “caveat emptor” rule is being applied, and mind our own business and reputation.

Do you agree? Should we speak up or keep quiet?

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