These words, spoken by the Ancient Roman writer and commentator Seneca the Elder in the first century AD, have stood the test of times for thousands of years.
One of the greatest ways we can accrue knowledge and experience is by following the example of others, or of our own.
These past few days have, however, very much turned these profound remarks on their head, instead showcasing a vivid example of what not to do. I speak here of two specific disgraceful and entirely self-inflicted scandals, those at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and with the attempt to circumnavigate democracy over the vote concerning Owen Paterson.
Both of these brought shame on our country, with the former making this normally extremely proud Yorkshireman feel embarrassment about the region I so love.
While I am not a massive cricket fan, I know only too well how Yorkshire County Cricket Club serves as one of the county’s towering institutions, known to sports fans across the globe.
To see it dragged into the mire over the appalling treatment of former spin bowler Azeem Rafiq would have been extraordinary if it were not under such abysmal of circumstances.
And while he is to be commended for taking a stance on highlighting the abuse, much of which was racist, his plight was made all the more unbearable by the club’s response to his allegations. After YCCC decided that none of the incidents Mr Rafiq was subjected to merited any disciplinary action, and details of the club’s own report were leaked to media, it became obvious that the club was simply hoping all this would blow over.
The exact same pattern of behaviour was witnessed 200 miles south in the House of Commons.
After the Standards Committee had recommended former Tory cabinet minister Mr Paterson should be suspended from Parliament for 30 days after committing an “egregious” breach of a ban on paid lobbying by MPs, the Government sought to delay the suspension and ordered Conservative MPs to vote for a new committee to consider a new system of appeals. Scores of back bench MPs were strong-armed into voting through something they knew to be wrong, although I must commend Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake for defying the whip voting against.
Even worse was seeing Cabinet members appearing in front of television cameras, insisting that what they were doing had some form of moral conviction.
Amid a maelstrom of dissent, including from London-based MPs usually sympathetic to the Government’s agenda, and with opposition parties refusing to cooperate, ministers were forced into a humiliating climb down.
Both incidents served to remind all that an approach of sticking one’s head in the sand and hoping it will all just go away never works.
The two scandals, and the botched attempt to manage them, have served as a master class of maladministration.
That it happen to our own seat of Government and one of the world’s best-known sports clubs, showcased how institutionalised a rotten culture can become if not held to account.
One hopes for a veritable line in the sand moment for both of them. Lord Kamlesh Patel has been installed as the new chair of YCCC and has made all of the right noises, promising to regain trust and rebuild the club’s tarnished image. On this I can only take him at his word and wish him every success. His task is unenviable.
Similarly, the fact that Mr Paterson has chosen to resign his seat than to take the suspension, and that the overhaul that would have got him off the hook has been mothballed, should serve as a reminder to Government that they are not untouchable and that standards matter.
Here’s hoping for great transparency and accountability to be manifested in our society going forward. This may well be blind optimism on our part but its the only option we have.
To do otherwise would be to accept a very grim reality indeed.