This Too, Will Pass ~ JUST IDEAS?
SOME TIME AGO, I WAS
SPEAKING with someone about the violence in society,
and he maintained that there was nothing he could
do to change it, as that is just the way society is.
I reminded him that society is not something apart
from ourselves, but that it is made up of individuals,
of units like he and I, to which he replied: "Well,
I do my share; I don't kill, steal, or cheat,"
considering his not-doing as doing, which of course,
it is. "Anyway," he went on, "there's
no such thing as 'good' or 'bad'; they are just ideas."
Well, certainly, many of our ideas about
good and bad are somewhat flexible and subject to
change, and what is 'good' in a particular time and
place might not be good in another. Many Muslims,
for example, practice polygamy, and it's quite alright
and 'good' for a Muslim man to have a number of wives,
but in the West, where the culture is Christian-based
in its concepts of morality— it is illegal,
and therefore 'bad.'
Some religions and cults have practiced
human-sacrifice, and perhaps it still goes on in parts
today, though not openly; animal-sacrifice, however,
is still practiced in various countries. And in India,
according to a rather-obscure Hindu doctrine, immolation
by widows on their husbands' funeral-pyres (but never
the other way around, as with many things in patriarchal
religion), was considered an act of incalculable merit.
During their 'period of tenure' in India, however,
the British did not see it as such, and outlawed the
custom. But, in 1987, with fundamentalism on the rise
among Hindus, too, there was a well-publicized case
of widow-burning, with prominent Hindu priests speaking
out publicly in praise of it.
Like a number of our laws, some of our ideas
and beliefs are antiquated and questionable. In our
conceit, we bipeds, considering ourselves 'the highest
of God's creations,' have divorced ourselves from
the rest of Nature and deem ourselves special and
different— which, of course, we are, but not
in the way we think— with the right to exploit
Nature as we see fit. Furthermore, not being content
to consider humans the highest creatures, we have
divided ourselves into smaller and ever-smaller groups,
inventing or imagining divisions where none exist,
so that even religions which sprang up as divisions,
have split up into numerous sects and sub-sects—
each claiming to be the only 'right' one, and therefore
looking on all others as 'wrong' and sometimes 'evil';
Christianity undoubtedly holds the record for this,
with hundreds and hundreds— nay, thousands —
of often-conflicting sects. It is to the 'credit'
of humans— and, moreover, humans who professed
to be religious— that such concepts and organizations
as 'the Chosen and the Damned,' Apartheid, 'Holy War,'
the Ku Klux Klan, etc., have come into existence,
things that are not to be found in the rest of Nature.
In the Animal World, to be sure, the 'Law
of the Jungle' prevails, and 'big fish eats little
fish' in a matter of 'kill or be killed.' We humans
pride ourselves on being different, higher, and better
than animals, but are we, really? Certainly, we are
different in that we possess the ability to speak
and communicate with each other about almost any matter,
which animals cannot do; we walk upright on two legs,
our hands can make, hold and use tools, we have mastered
fire, and we cook our food. But perhaps the greatest
difference between animals and humans is that we are
not bound by instinct, as they are, and have the power
of choice. Does this make us better or morally-superior
to the animals, though? Not necessarily. In itself,
it is neither good nor bad, but with it, we have the
capacity for good or bad, such as no other animal,
and today, we have it in greater measure than ever
before. And what do we do with it? Sadly, we often
misuse our god-like ability to choose, and cause disaster;
sometimes, it seems that we would be better off without
it, and function by instinct, like the 'lower' animals.
Tigers or sharks have no choice about being carnivores;
their systems need flesh, and they must kill in order
to survive. But are they bad or evil because of that?
Not at all; they are just following their natures,
and if we understand that, we keep out of their reach.
Bees make honey and chickens lay eggs, which we like,
and therefore we say they are 'good'; but are they
good just because we utilize and exploit them? Of
course not; bees and chickens, too, are only following
their natures, and have no thought about being 'good.'
Now, while some things that we call 'good'
and 'bad' are subjective and change with time and
place, other things do not, and are recognized by
any and all societies as such. Murder, robbery, blackmail,
extortion, rape, mugging, etc., are regarded by all
societies as bad and wrong, and surely, not even people
like dictators or leaders of totalitarian regimes,
if asked about them, would say such activities are
good, even though they might practice them themselves.
"But," said my friend, "criminals would
not agree with that; they think that what they are
doing is good, otherwise they wouldn't do it."
"Do they?" I said. "do they really?
If they do, it means that their minds must be very,
very small, so small that they are unable to think
of anyone except themselves. But even criminals love
their families and wish to be happy, do they not?
And we can hardly imagine them being happy if someone
savagely beat them up or robbed them, or kidnapped
and murdered their children, which means that even
they recognize the difference between good and bad,
right and wrong, but as yet have not the strength
of character to avoid doing what is wrong and bad."
As we all probably know, it is easier to
fall down a tree or mountain than to climb one, and
it's easier to do bad than do good. We all have the
capacity to do evil, and most of us entertain evil
thoughts at times; nevertheless, we must try to prevent
evil thoughts becoming evil deeds, and strive to do
good instead, for our own sakes as well as for the
sake of the community we live in. And if we can share
this with others and help them understand, we will
have done inestimable good. And it is my aim, by my
writings, to share something with others.
Some people might say it is mere intellection,
but I would deny that, because the world is made up
of ideas— ideas of nationalism, religion, politics,
economy, etc., etc.— and some of these ideas
are silly, wrong, divisive and dangerous. If we would
examine our ideas and replace wrong ideas with right,
the world would be better off, because as we think,
so we act; our actions are preceded by thoughts. Therefore,
I make no apology for writing in what might appear
to be an intellectual or theoretical manner, for if
we are to have a direction in life, we must first
think about it clearly, otherwise we shall just be
carried along by the current.