Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Are people good?

Good and evil are slippery concepts that often depend on your culture and situation. What is good for one might be evil for another. We excuse many things in the service of some hypothetical future or greater good. Still, some things seem to be eternally evil. Torture. Exploitation. Repression.

And I struggle with how complicit we each are with the evil that goes on in our name, or for our benefit. How much can we change things for people living across the globe by refusing to buy things that they have made? Derrick Jensen would say that civilization is irredeemable and must be taken down to let something arise which is not based on, in fact depends on, exploitation and repression, as our culture does.

Because we fool ourselves. We want and NEED to believe we are part of something good. So we look past war, modern day slavery, the destruction of a little piece of the planet every day. We don't read the paper because it is too depressing, or we self-medicate ourselves with drugs, television, workaholism, to forget about it.

Greater folk than I have written on this issue. Derrik Jensen is the first that springs to mind.

I like to break things down and make lists, since that is my way of dealing with things. So here's my estimate. Is this too pessimistic? I don't know.

5% Engaged in active evil. Slavery, torture, firebombing orphanages. Some don't think of it as evil, others know exactly what they are doing.
5% Engaged in actively resisting evil. Protests, marches, boycotts, riots. Risking personal harm to do good.
10% Engaged in actively doing good. Volunteering, running beneficial programs, dedicating life to a cause.
30% Engaged in passively doing good/resisting evil. Being "good" in their own personal sphere, making donations, trying to improve the world through a garden, a blog, their children. Being a Good Samaritan when possible.
50% Trying not to think too much. Trying to get through the day. Ignoring signs of evil around them, as long as it does not impact them directly.

It doesn't take as many people to cause destruction in a second, or practice evil under the cover of night, as it does to resist evil, to build good and to create love.

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