Agnostic.com

Belief, Love and Politics

By towkneed 1 month ago

"And now tell me, why is it that you use the words "good people" all the time? Do you call everyone that?

  • Everyone, - the prisoner replied. - There are no evil people in the world.

(- А теперь скажи мне, что это ты все время употребляешь слова добрые
люди"? Ты всех, что ли, так называешь?

  • Всех, - ответил арестант, - злых людей нет на свете.)”
    ― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

In Mikhail Bulgakov’s masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, Pontius Pilate is questioning Yeshua Ha-Nozri (Aramaic for Jesus of Nazareth) when he is told that no one is evil. In “The Meno”, Plato has Socrates sway Meno with the same idea – “Then if not, nobody desires what is bad, for what else is unhappiness but desiring bad things and getting them?”

This idea has been present throughout history, in one form or another - from Rosseau (the idea that man is naturally good) to the ferry scene in ‘The Dark Knight’ (where a prisoner throws a detonator out the window and refuses to save his boat to avoid murder). Most people desire what they think is best, not just for themselves, but for everyone. Whether we are Republican or Democratic, Conservative or Progressive, whatever gender or race we happen to be, most all of us want the best for the entire world.

Problems arise when we do not agree on what that is or how to get there. Many Republican may believe limiting regulations on business is the best way to create jobs and elevate the economy. Many Democrats believe that only by partially regulating business can we ensure reasonable incomes and workplace safety. Libertarians may desire little to no taxes while Progressives may want to use taxation as a means towards economic equity. But whether we are Libertarians, Progressives, Republicans or Democrat, we all want happiness for our children. We all want all people to have enough to eat, a place to sleep, some type of job, and at least a modicum of freedom.

And this is what we too often forget. We forget our commonality and the shared human experience in our echo-chamber-groups. We become emblazoned by the camaraderie and the constant confirmation. It’s never been easier to self-segregate, whether by ideals, perceptions, or preconceived notions. And it’s natural. It’s human to want to feel vindicated, agreed with and, above all, right. We all want to be right - it’s something we all share. And in pursuing what we all share, we forget what we all share. The one thing we want is to be loved. It’s what we are secretly looking for when we make a denigrating post – espousing our superiority and greater worth, saying “look how smart I am compared to this”. And this is exactly when we fail to see the flipside - “look how mean I am for writing this . . .“.

Perhaps the one thing that we should all reject is the urge to disregard each other without consideration. We should reject disregarding the humanity of anyone or any group. We should do this not simply for moral reasons, but also because it works against our own happiness. Anger, besides being unpleasant, is generally unhealthy. Intolerance of others will eventually lead others to be intolerant of us. Pastor Martin Neimoller reminded us how dangerous a lack of empathy for the maligned can be:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I hear the pundits speak about how divided the world is. This may be true, but we are all human beings who want to live in peace, have a good job, feel loved, sleep in a soft bed, be held and have our miseries comforted. We all share more than we admit, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Agnostic, Athiest or somethinig else. We all have and need love more now than ever before.

I challenge you to be kind. Nothing is stronger, easier and harder than kindness.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website or its members.

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6 comments

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1

I agree with alot of this and disagree with some. Such asMost of us want hapiness for our children..... some of us are happily child free. Also, not all of us want all people to have all the basic comforts of life. I personally cannot want that for cluster B (sociopaths/psychopaths/narcissists) violent types or serial/child rapists, regardless of the suffering they may have experienced growing up. Maybe I am just an outlier in this respect though, idk.

Of course. And I doubt you are an outlier. I was trying to be general and brief at the same time, but perhaps I didn't include enough qualifiers to be clear. 🙂

0

If people are basically good, why do we have government ?

I contend we have government because people have BOTH 'good/bad' propensities.
Without government, which one would prevail ?

I choose to believe in a basic goodness because it helps me be more productive, happier and more successful.

Realistically I know that we are just animals.

And I have no idea if government is "needed" or not as I am unaware of any long term historical examples of anarchy (yes, there was the Paris commune of 1871 but even it had some governance and lasted less than a year). Which there may be (or have been), albeit I suspect this is unlikely -"Absence of evidence . . . " - etc.

I have no idea which would "prevail" as I see "good vs evil" as an antiquated dialectic. My definition of "most good" would be closer to an equity of economic outcomes whereas "enough good" would be an equity of opportunity coupled with sufficient comfort for all to ensure a lack of existential anxiety for themselves or their children. I don't see that "evil" is ever an intentional choice, at least for the sane majority. "Evil" outcomes may be a side effect of a need or want for power over others. By defining "evil" in the way we do and by presenting it as an overarching paradigm we make it easier to see ourselves in a positive light as we aren't "evil" at our core.

But I think I understand basically what you mean. And while I know you are probably right in your assertion of our dual nature, I choose not to for pragmatic reasons. I accept my contradictions because they work for me. 😉

4

I’m sure few here will disagree with you, and already hold these views themselves. The main obstacle we have as individuals is our natural instinct for tribalism and a natural affinity with those who resemble us and reflect similar beliefs and customs. To show empathy to others beyond our own ken is harder, and it has to be taught early to our children that all humans are equal, regardless of caste, creed or belief. No children are born hating, nor can they be Christian or Muslim, babies have no religion.

The other cancer in society apart from religion is national borders and identity, extreme nationalism leads to racism, genocide and all manner of evil acts. Most of the wars throughout history were caused by the desire to make either territorial gains or to further nationalist or religious causes. As far as left or right in politics is concerned, these terms are bandied about and used by politicians to divide us, perverting what should be pretty obvious to all that the ordinary voter regardless of which party has more in common with each other than what divides them. We are but pawns in the cynical game they play, called divide and rule. It’s exactly the same with national borders, patriotism, and a fear of immigrants...it’s all about branding those who are not one of us as “the other”. Republican and Democrat supporters are being driven further and further apart by rhetoric and manipulation, not by any real doctrinal difference. Trump may seem to be a prime idiot, but he has been masterful at sowing division and hatred between the American people.

Tolerance and kindness, and teaching our children how to think for themselves and not follow blindly what the majority do or say, are the most important things we can inculcate in our children, and the best way we can do it is by example. In my case it is now my grandchildren’s generation that will hopefully carry forward the universal ideal of brotherhood, because this present older generation of mine has been one of the most selfish and shortsighted, despite being supposedly the “lucky generation”...we seem to have blown it!

BTW....the image is of Mont Saint Michel, in France, which sits on the north coast, on the border between between Normandy and Brittany. It brings back many happy memories of visiting it, first with my late husband on our honeymoon, and then later with our sons on summer vacations. Thank you for rekindling the memories, and for your thought provoking article.

"obvious to all that the ordinary voter regardless of which party has more in common with each other than what divides them"

"not by any real doctrinal difference"

This book (I recently finished) will challenge those notions :

[goodreads.com]

@FearlessFly What is in the interests of the majority of the electorate is the same regardless of party, whether they realise it or not, security and a reasonable standard of living including a roof above their heads and a living wage for an honest day’s work. Ones politics do not change these aspirations regardless of right or left leaning political positions. I don’t need to read other’s views to know that that is fact.

@Marionville That 'fact' does not explain why folks vote against their own interests.

@FearlessFly. They do so because they have been manipulated by the political parties to believing that what divides them is greater than what actually unites them. Take the Republicans ...they have taken the moderate Socialist policies outlined by the Democrats and turned them into a narrative of them wanting to implement raging Communism on the country should they be elected. This is downright misinformation, but it’s calculated to strike fear into most red blooded Americans of both parties because the bogeyman in the USA has been Communism for the past 100 years. It’s plain and simply misdirection and manipulation, because a socially democratic model of universal healthcare would benefit all citizens, but as long as people are made to think it’s a creeping communism they’ll vote against it. That example is only one instance of voting against one’s own interest.

@Marionville Agree. I also think that it's not realistic to expect people to make decisions based upon their self interest, as this implies that most make decisions based upon reason and careful consideration. Most decisions are made based upon emotional appeal, often without intention and usually with little thoughtful consideration.

@Marionville, @FearlessFly The book has an interesting title. I may look into reading it if I easily find a free copy. I am on goodreads as well.

@FearlessFly, @Marionville In a sociology class I took years ago I remember reading that those who go on to hold political power, i.e. senators, congressman, presidents, governors, and even CEOs of major businesses, statistically overwhelmingly graduated from the same Ivy League colleges and universities. These are predominantly populated from the same private schools whose students are predominantly the children of those currently in power. If you think about it, it's kind of what "Ivy League" is - a badge of prestige that opens doors to opportunities. It's a root cause at the disconnect of the powerful from the lives of working people- the powerful have been "bred to power" from a young age by expectations and environment and usually sheilded from normal hardship.

Oh, and I can't take credit for the image. It is beautiful but I think it was added for the sake of "magazine-ness". I didn't add it, although I am happy it's there.

@towkneed I got it as an audiobook from my local public library.

@towkneed I thank you nevertheless!

1

Good article.

5

Well said. Thanks!

5

Challenge accepted.

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