Can we right past wrongs?

By Ezinwa Awogu

Following recent sexual assault allegations, Brendan cox has stepped down from positions of influence in the two charities he created in memory of his late wife. The late Mrs Jo Cox was fatally shot and stabbed by a right wing extremist during the EU referendum campaign, in June 2016. Determined to honour his wife’s legacy he set up the ‘More In Common’, (a community group) and the Jo Cox Foundation. However, in light of recent events, he has quit these charities in order to take responsibility for his actions.

Whilst refusing to admit to the sexual assault allegations placed against him regarding an incident with a woman at Harvard University, Brendon acknowledges ‘inappropriate behaviour’ whilst working for Save the Children. The inappropriate sexual behaviour is said to have happened while his wife was still alive, leading some to question whether his intentions were pure when he set up the charities.

The charity confirmed that the allegations of said ‘inappropriate’ behaviours was being investigated and Brendan Cox had been suspended whilst investigations were under way. However, he resigned before the disciplinary process could have been continued. The father of two stated that he has ‘made mistakes’ in the past, and publicly apologised for any upset or offence caused by his behaviour, but later added that the current depictions of his actions were a ‘massive exaggeration’. His family continues to stand behind him as a devoted father and loving family member.

One thing that remained unclear is the nature and exact details of Brendan Cox’s ‘mistakes’. There has been no clarity or specificity in any of his public addresses and apologies which leads one to wonder what exactly the ‘inappropriate behaviour’ is and whether leaving the charities is a warranted response or and overreaction. A more pressing issue is the question of whether one right balances out a wrong. We can all understand that the feeling of guilt and remorse after a wrong doing could motivate a desire to do good and to ‘make up’ for what had been done. However, can a good action really subtract from a bad one?

The truth is that morality is not merely a transactional process. It does not work by mathematical equations where by one bad action can be cancelled out by one good action. If we were view morality in this way, then it would be okay for one to continuously commit heinous crimes as long as the next day the same person was to save many starving orphans and build prosthetic legs for disabled puppies. Because of the nature of morality and the nature of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ it is certainly possible to make up for wrong doings but in order to do this effectively, much more than just isolated action is needed.

In an attempt for self-improvement and growth a person can aim to change their ways and through their actions genuinely improve, but the key factor must be the intention behind the actions. If quitting positions of public influence in his charities was genuinely a move motivated by the intention to take time to claim responsibility for any alleged wrongdoing, then it was a brave and reflective decision. If the move was motivated by a desire to ‘appease the public’ and shift discussion then although the action in itself was good, it does nothing to make him a more moral person. As to whether or not Brendan Cox’s actions are sincere, only time and a lack of repetition of his ‘mistakes’ will tell.