Who Is Good?

Posted on 04 August 2014

In the last number of decades we have seen more and more people admiring fictional villains, seeking transgressive humour, and deriding those things that are meant to represent good. In step with these trends is the increasing violence found in TV, film, and computer games.

Is this a sign that people are going bad? Is the civilising force of society breaking down? Are those things that keep people from basic destructive urges dissolving? I would say, little bit yes…and a bit more no.

The best metaphor I can think of for our current situation is a dysfunctional family. In such a family you may have a husband/father who was abused by his own parents as a child. He has learned that the safest place to be is in power, where he can intimidate others, and frighten people into giving him what he needs and wants. He is terrified of showing any sign of weakness, because as a child the weaknesses of being small, emotional, and inexperienced had dire consequences.

In the same family you may have a wife/mother who was abused in her own way. She will have received little acknowledgement as a child, except when destructive attention was directed her way. She may end up feeling in need of a protector who is as big or bigger a force than her parents. In this way she may trade off who she fears most. She may feel that she can at least control her husband in some way and so he is in essence her dangerous guard dog. Living without him may seem terrifying in its own right.

The children have a natural inclination to bond with their first source of survival. If their parents are also dangerous to that survival, they will develop strategies to get by. Because this is all they know, they will see the situation as normal, and not even know to question it, much less realise something better is out there.

Some children will survive by doing what they are told, flattering their parents’s egos, and/or staying out of the way or hidden. They will agree to everything: all the demands, all of the judgements, all of the worldviews. In so doing they become part of the dynamic that holds the dysfunctional family together. They will be seen as “good” children by their parents, and parents of equally dysfunctional families.

Then you have the children who sense something is wrong. They may act out, becoming destructive. They may try running away. They may start questioning and talking back. They may start having problems with depression and suicidal behaviour. These will be seen as “bad” children for threatening the status quo of a dysfunctional situation.

So, who really are the “good” children and who the “bad”?

If we have a society that is similarly dysfunctional on a massive scale, then you are going to find people who are deemed “good” simply because they are holding the system in place. They aren’t good because they are kind, caring, or actively seeking the well-being of humanity and the planet. They smile and are unchallenging.

You will also find people who can’t manage living within a system that is inimical to their mental and emotional health. They may become violent and/or self-destructive. They may start speaking out, protesting, challenging social power. All of them will be called equally “bad”. Sometimes they will embrace this. Not often enough do people defend themselves as representing a healthier good.

Right now the Earth needs an uprising of genuine goodness: a goodness that enacts kindness, respect, acceptance, and the life-affirming. We need to rethink, redefine, and reclaim goodness. The bullies of the world are not good, but they are wounded, and completely lost in that woundedness. The “bad” kids of the world fully have it in them to lead us all to the light.

Peace and kindness,


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