'A man's a man for a' that' - David Martindale
'Rehabilitation' is an interesting concept. We can accept its existence at face value and move on, nodding along or decrying its merit at whatever depth we fancy. However, there is an alternative, yet one that we may (sub/un)consciously avoid due to the feelings of general smallness and inadequacy that it can convey.
You see, in pausing to acknowledge rehabilitation's existence, do we, in fact, do more than that?
Do we refer to the uncomfortable truth that we, as human beings, share a common law of decency upon our hearts? A common conscience binding us together despite our seemingly increasing polarisations?
When we measure whether or not a man or woman is, indeed, a 'proper person', it jars with us not only because of the archaic language used but because it causes friction with something another Ayrshireman said much better than I;
A man's a man, for a' that.
- Rabbie Burns
It's murky, this business of morality and judgment. Rabbie knew it, you know it, I know it.
If you're like me, you'll find it very hard to criticise people, aware perhaps that whenever you point a finger there's three pointing back at you. When we talk about morality at whatever level, be that complex or simplistic, we eventually find that we fall upon laws that are based upon, well, an objective view of good and bad, right and wrong. We live by and appeal to this standard every day, in whatever we do. It's the reason I'm writing this at lunchtime rather than during my working day. It shapes us.
Whatever complexities human evolution may or may not have provided, we've never quite managed to move past this great profundity.
Sure, sometimes we shift the goalposts, and 'one person's meat is another's poison' - never more clearly portrayed by recent events in Washington. Generally, however, and I accept this is a huge generalisation, we have agreed on a few things to be true as a species, for a long, long time.
Life, for one, is a good thing. It was not okay that people died in the protests at the Capitol. It was awful. Liberty is another. Some time ago, we began to call these truths 'rights' and we legislated around them with words and courts. Yet, these laws are based upon something intrinsic that we take as 'self-evident', to quote a certain parchment from across the Atlantic, and that's uncomfortable. Why? Because it's very hard to measure something that is 'self-evident' other than to say that the vast majority of human beings deem it so. This is why democracy and voting are so important and worth fighting for, especially in the face of those who would use violence to subvert it.
The overwhelmingly common subjective human experience has been made into objective human rights via law. This means that, wonderfully, both yours and my life and liberty are acknowledged, valued, and protected by law, and that's a special thing. That's worth celebrating.
Staying on safe ground by accepting these two rights, it follows then that infringing them is therefore wrong, and conversely, upholding them is right. Of course, you don't need me to tell you this. After all... this is self-evident.
I feel a 90's ad jingle coming on...
Lots of philosophical questions for a football article you might think. However, deep down, we know that footballers, and football managers, are also just human beings - no more... but also, no less.
We forget this frequently in the days of football-based social media. Coasting through whatever thumb-slinging is riding that wave we call 'trending', the observer can usually spot a few things surfing the squall from a distance. Firstly, the trend is almost always lauding/deriding someone who has a had a perceived good/bad game or made a perceived good/bad call. Secondly, this is almost always forgetful of that person's humanity, casting them as either superhero or villain. This lastly, in turn, gives rise to another intrinsically self-evident point; we hope to God (or not), that we're never the one trending.
Something else that is self-evident is this: David Martindale is doing a superb job as a football manager.
The intricacies of this are being wonderfully unpacked by the excellent people in Scottish football media (see the PureFitbaw or Totally Scottish Football Show pods, for example), so I won't say more on the matter here, except this:
Now more than ever is a time to be kind.
It is a time to fight for and hold sacred that which might truly 'bring healing', to cite another recent trend. It is possible to do this with even those you most ardently oppose. It's called respectful dialogue, and its power is heard most loudly when the other party shows neither respect nor embraces dialogue. We might learn a thing or two in the process. We might even rehabilitate that part of ourselves which needs softened or rounded. That way, even if you're not changing the other person, at least you're changing yourself, and that's a comforting thought.
Thankfully, this kindness doesn't ever need to be at the sake of decent patter. We can enjoy giving and receiving good-natured pelters, it's what makes our game brilliant. But when we do so, let's remember one thing, the person behind the keyboard/phone is a person. They might be driving you mad, and you might be righteously angry, but even they are a person, and even they can be rehabilitated, just like you.
We celebrate David Martindale's rehabilitation and recent successes for the same reason we cry at Boromir's sacrifice in Lord of the Rings or Red's Redemption in The Shawshank Redemption (yes, his is the titular redemption); we treasure their humanity and capacity to be good in spite of their flaws.
We crave this second chance because it signifies hope and all that is good about turning your life around to face the light.
We do this because really, deep down, we know we're just the same.