Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: What happened to the moral compass?


Once upon a time people had this thing called a ‘moral compass’. Once commonplace, in these modern times it has become a relic of the past. Something you’d find on the $2 table at Vinnies. Or free on Byron Swap and Sell.

The Moral Compass comes from long ago when people were actually quite nice. Not because people are nice naturally. They’re not. People are by nature self-invested little narcissists. Me Firsts. It was the moral compass that helped steer us away from complete and utter prickdom.

The good old Moral Compass helped you make challenging decisions. The kind of decisions that grownups have to make every day. It was especially useful when self-interest was so strong it affected your ability to make an appropriate choice. You’d say, ‘this isn’t what I want to do, but it’s the “right” thing to do’. Then you’d do it, and in the process become a slightly less awful person than you really were.

It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes the Moral Compass made you do things that caused you discomfort, like offer your seat to an old lady on the bus or pass up on the last cupcake. The Moral Compass might even stop you having an affair or lying on your tax return. The Moral Compass would make it difficult to walk past a homeless person and not offer them some warm chit-chat, or a cup of tea, or a swig of your whisky. Or a bed.

The Moral Compass meant that when something happened and you saw it you had to do something about it. If you ‘accidentally’ reversed into someone’s parked car you’d leave a business card with your contact details, not a note that says ‘I’m writing this note so people think I’m leaving my contact details. So long fucker!’

If you heard a person screaming, instead of hiding behind the couch or turning up the TV you’d offer assistance.
Or call the police. And if a boat full of asylum seekers turned up in your country you’d offer them sanctuary.

I started to wonder what had happened to the Moral Compass. I wondered if having one is actually a disability. I still have mine. It’s not only embarrassing, it’s so irritating. I would be really successful if I didn’t have the stupid thing. I wouldn’t work so hard. I’d live off other people.

I’d get to blame other people for my mistakes. I could steal jokes instead of having to live through shit and find the funny side. I could finally get Botox and then tell people I looked this good because of yoga. And green smoothies. I could write a book on green smoothies and say that everyone should drink green smoothies all the time but have no actual evidence to back that up.

I could join a pyramid-money scheme. No, better than that, I could start one of those women’s money circles and use my charisma to elicit cash from the vulnerable. Shit, I could put my house on Airbnb for $700 a night. Hang on, I could put in a granny flat and sign the bit that says I’m not going to use it for commercial gain and then rent it out.

Life without a Moral Compass is amazing. It’s all about Me. Me. Me wanting stuff. Me taking stuff from other people. Me keeping stuff that belongs to other people but pretending it was something I’d always had. Me lying. Me not sharing. Me crushing other people if they don’t agree with me. Me, basically being better than other people. Me taking photos of Me being amazing and then posting myself on Instagram so other people without a Moral Compass decide they want to be me.

Maybe I should have the Moral Compass removed. I could have it embroidered and try to sell it on Etsy. It seems it’s more on trend these days not to not have one, or at least not one that still works. George Pell got rid of his. Donald Trump never had one and I’m pretty sure Malcolm Turnbull left his at the dry cleaners. I am not sure if the Moral Compass is actually surgically removed or if it just shrivels from lack of use. I guess I’ll just have to find out. In the spot where most humans once had a Moral Compass, now there’s just dust.

8 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: What happened to the moral compass?”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    Is this a serious attempt at a serious subject by a comedian.
    “Once upon a time..”
    is about fairytales in childhood and in childhood, children believed anything.
    You begin as if you mean it.
    “Back in the days of truth when men and women were true to each other and lived by the idiom of “til death us do part…”there was no such thing as divorce, and there was truth and true love.”

  2. margrette young says:

    spot on mandy. and once the word ‘honour’ had currency – being an honourable person, acting honourably was something the public, the media, the average punter wanted, was proud of being.

    Currently that’s not admired or even part of the public dialogue.

    Now you’re a fool to have that as a priority – now the aim is to be rich, to have an ‘amazing’ house, ‘amazing’ gardens, expensive and the latest ‘toys’, be ‘beautiful, have smart chat, be ‘important’ – that is by being ‘successful’ by having those things.

    That’s what is looked up to.

    The leadership in this country and other countries is modelling that.

    There is little modelling of honour, integrity, honesty – the moral compasss. Whoops sorry – got serious.

    Love your – mandy’s ability to make the message with humour

  3. tracey says:

    Hi Mandy
    I think that the decent people are suddenly waking up to the fact that narcissisic sociopaths seem to be doing so well in the world and we are all jumping on board. I too pine for the day when Bob Menzies was prime minister and everyone had nice manners.

  4. Larry Larstead says:

    Mandy you’re such a beautiful archaeologist! Fancy digging up the remains of an old Moral Compass. I look forward to your column every week. Keep it up!

  5. Susie Dove says:

    Great SOMEONE is finally taking about the true demise of modern society!!! Thanks once again Mandy.
    It seems if our leaders blatantly make decisions based on greed and self interest instead of the good of society, where does that leave the little people who still try to live good life and do the right thing by others??
    Carrying the load. Or deciding “F**K it, I might as well cheat the system too – if it’s good enough for our leaders it’s good enough for me.
    As a council volunteer I have to declare I will not make any decisions that might be seen as a “Conflict of Interest”.
    When did it become legal for politicians and leaders to own businesses directly benefitting from their political decisions (e.g.. Dick Cheney – Halliburton Catering – catering to the Iraq soldiers)?
    I think it’s high time morality became a talking point in politics, schools, and in the mainstream media.
    Good on you Mandy!!!!

  6. Yes, Mandy. Having a Moral Compass is a ‘Disability’. I can’t quite get myself to accept that I need to
    blame other people for the screw-ups I’ve made, or refuse to get involved when the freedom & rights
    of others are torn down, lands stolen, rivers polluted & women & children & the aged are being beaten
    & threatened in ANY country. [Recall, I am my brother’s/sister’s keeper]. Hell, I doubt if the Compass
    could be surgically removed. My pitch is that – this withered prune-shaped Cardiovascular thing [NB
    ‘heart’] simply slipped out of the chest into a ‘back pocket’ holding credit card & iPhone. Our 21st
    century is a wipe-out. Come to think of it [the brain works?], thinking helps no-one & isn’t a belief
    system at all. Stefanie Bennett

  7. earthlover says:

    My favourite to date 😀

    Sad, though, huh, that it’s so very true … 🙁

    Honouring the Moral Compass.. Perhaps that could become a fashionable new year’s toast… or something even simpler, so people can remember the words… “I resolve to grow a spine”, or a heart, or some other bodily part that suggests one actually cares… 🙂

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