We have a multitude of passionate daily predictions of our country’s bad relapse into chaos. Many of these contributions are not by petty commentators, but by citizens with years of training and dedicated contributions to society. Their threatening predictions cannot be taken lightly! 

As an old man with a writing and service career dedicated to seeking out conceptual essences in leadership and life skills, I have been battling to grasp the issues that matter most in our evolving society that is in so much deep trouble. The Old Man’s contribution is but another drop in the ocean but it makes crucial sense to me!

What matters most to us

Amid a dozen or more eBooks, hundreds of articles, and thousands of hours in some form of coaching and leadership, the Old Man finds that what matters most in life to us personally is what we think, feel, and believe about Me. In other words, all the wisdom in the world only makes sense to me when it makes sense to me. This makes sense, not so?

This concept of what matters most to ‘me’ provides the foundation for the Old Man’s understanding of the golden thread that is keeping our society from slipping into complete chaos and violence

Despite multiple convincing reasons why our society should be slipping – and believe me we have compelling reasons surfacing every day – we somehow manage to keep some form of stability and order. The golden thread that is keeping us in some kind of order and mutual caring can be found along with the above statement of ‘what matters most is what we think, feel and believe about Me’.

The golden thread is what we may call The Common Decency Factor in our society. It is not so easy to give it a label, and for our purpose the expression The Common Decency Factor will have to do until more clever people can give it a more acceptable title.

What is The Common Decency Factor? 

Please join The Old Man as we consider the vast array of threats to our society. 

Consider the vast array of expert opinions and not-so-expert opinions constantly bombarding you and me. 

Consider the large trust deficit that has developed in our society towards our leadership in general, especially our political leadership. 

Consider the breakdown of trust in society and damage done by the extensive and almost unbelievable scale of corruption occurring in our midst by people we trusted in the past. 

Consider the massive unemployment and damaged expectations of the masses of people in our country.

Yet we still maintain a degree of order and tolerance that is quite amazing, not so?

The Common Decency Factor is the tolerance and tenacity that is in the character of every member of our society. It would appear as if there are members of this society who have ignored, if not killed, the common decency factor in themselves. We will not argue that point! 

But even the committed criminal manifests the common decency factor in his attitude towards those they may care about, like their children? Or his fellow members of a gang as an example.

It is common, although not common.

The common decency factor is common only because it is inherent in all of us to one degree or another. 

The universal significance of ‘the common decency factor’ is crucial to ourselves, saving us from disaster. Often we take this universal instinct of decency for granted because of the differences on almost every issue. The truth is that when the dust of our arguments, opinions, and greed settles, what remains is our reliance on the ‘common decency factor’ in most of us.

The quiet golden thread of society

The common decency factor often manifests in the quiet sub-conscious of us rowdy human beings, yet it exerts almost unbelievable influence for good and for keeping the lid from boiling over from so many negative drivers in our midst. The fact that our common decency drivers often seem to be smothered by other more conscious motivations does not detract from its huge overriding influence for good…

Over the years we interviewed hundreds of people, mostly leaders in their own right at various levels of society, ranging from state presidents to Bolt drivers. We found that very few (if any) did not manifest that common decency factor in their lives. Admittedly the degree manifested differed vastly from person to person, depending on many other contributing motivations and influences. 

The source of the common decency factor

The common decency factor that is keeping our nation from complete chaos cannot be credited to politicians or to any social leadership. It is already in existence in the inner person, a divine heritage in all of us. What we do with it is another question!

Implications of the Common Decency Factor

To this Old Man there are many implications flowing from recognizing the Common Decency Factor in our fellow human beings:

  • It is probably true to claim that no mortal is impervious to negative drivers such as trusting the common decency factor in themselves and others. These negative drivers manifest in countless ways in our society. Examples are racism, hurt feelings, greed, poverty, and deceptive political philosophies. The existence of negative drivers does not eradicate the true self-manifestation of the common decency factor in people around us. 
  • The big Me question is: “Where do I personally stand in my mindset towards the common decency factor? Am I committed to being decent above the pressures of negative drivers? Can I think and feel clear without bowing to negative prejudice?”

The future welfare of our society

  • Without trusting that common decency attributes in ourselves and others, our society will fail. Negative economic and social momentum can take us over the edge, as so many authentic thinkers are predicting. If we do not have trust in the common decency factor in ourselves and others, what do we trust? 
  • Trusting in the Common Decency Factor in All of us, even if some of us seem to be dominated by not-so-decent attributes, changes our mindset toward what is needed most in our national efforts to bring about positive change in our society.
  • We need to focus on efforts to increase and strengthen the common decency factor at all levels of our society. It has to do with awareness of the true self in each person. It is already there. We need to build trust in identifying our true selves with our self-image. Our self-image is the springboard of all our actions. When we succeed in harmonizing our true self with our self-image, we overcome cultural rock walls and emotional barriers.
  • Our leaders need to embrace themselves (true self) before we as a community find them acceptable as the leaders of our youth, schools, private sector, and government. How can we trust any leader who is not driven by the common decency factor across cultural barriers?
  • Big ask?

Old Man’s personal implications

The Old Man is aware of his need to eradicate obstacles that stand in the way of his true self and his decency factor: This mindset is as important at the age of 81 as it is at any other age. 

  • For example, the Old Man believes that blaming just the ANC for the disastrous consequences of its own economic policies are not being true to himself.
  • The spirit of the common decency factor motivates the Old Man to rather identify with the Common Decency Factor in the ANC leadership. This means that he needs to bypass the apparent evidence of justified racism in the ANC‘s leadership approach and actively support the many pieces of evidence that exist of their desires to serve the country. This is particularly true of our state president.
  • Our country’s politicians are mostly driven by a competitive fault-finding mindset that has seriously drifted away from the common decency factor that is manifested by millions of South Africans in spite of political leadership failures. Even those politicians that desire to be true to their own common decency drivers are seriously hampered by a political system that encourages and even rewards contention. 

I am reminded of the illustration of a basket of crabs without a lid because the crabs keep on pulling each other down in their efforts to get out of the basket. This happens if we deny our common decency factor heritage

The Old Man is keenly aware that his mission is to continuously get his mindset in order and then dedicate his efforts to helping others embrace their true self as manifested by the common decency factor in each of us

A quote from Google: (Charles) Dickens names an entire book (Book 2) in A Tale of Two Cities using the thread symbol: “The Golden Thread.”. That golden thread is Lucie, who connects all of the people in the English storyline of that book. Her thread is golden because she is a good-hearted and loving person who would never do anyone any harm

We are all Lucie to some extent or other, not so? Being a Lucie does not take away our privilege and obligation to fight those influences that refuse to acknowledge the imperative of caring for ourselves and others. 

It is the instinct to do good in so many of our citizens that is the golden thread keeping our country from chaos. It is our individual obligation and privilege to discern all motivations around and in us, whether they incline us to be decent, or not…

A much cheaper solution

We tend to spend billions to generate a multitude of programs and strategies to grow our economy, improve education, care for the poor, etc., but what matters most is how we inspire people to be true to whom they are and to honour their common decency factor.  

It is ironic that this approach to our social and leadership development is ultimately far less expensive than our present systems. The major reason for this is the focus on the universal principle that people only change behaviour when it impacts what they think, feel and believe about themselves. 

The golden thread common decency factor is our society’s most valuable attribute that can help us embrace our divine true-self heritage, which in turn opens the door to the universe for us. 

Louis Groenewald (‘The Old Man’)
Co-founder at Leadership Platform