Saturday, December 21, 2013

On the idea that Evil is more honest than Good

A while ago, I posted about clouds. And with that post about clouds, there was a quote from C S Lewis, a quote about how we're often led to believe that we should dismiss things that make us feel joy as being fluffy and sentimental, while negative experiences that make us feel unsettled or fearful or depressed are "the way things really are."

I want to talk about a related idea, which is this:

Actually, instead of just coming right out and saying it, I'm going to put it this way.

I'm watching a documentary right now, "Mr. Rogers and Me," a documentary about Fred Rogers, the creator of the TV show that we all watched as kids. It's likely how we all discovered how crayons were made, how to deal with feelings of disappointment and frustration, and that we, as individuals, were special. The documentary is a glowing tribute, talking about him in reverent tones, as if he had all the answers, and if we all lived by the things he tried to teach, we'd all be happy and get along fine.

Imagine that, today, some kind of seedy news comes out that reveals that Mr. Rogers was actually doing something despicably vile the entire time, that a good portion of those public television dollars were being funneled into something nefarious.

What would your reaction be?

See, because I think we've got a huge portion of our society today whose reaction would be something best described as delight. They want to find out that nothing is genuinely good. They want to have everything exposed as awful.

At the very least, even if they didn't feel joy, I think that just about everyone would think, "Wow. Now we know the real Fred Rogers."

Like with the CS Lewis quote about good feelings and bad feelings, I think we've come to a place where, as a society, the good things people do are always questioned and assumed to be fake or part of a "PR campaign" to create an image of themselves.

But when someone does something bad, we never get similarly skeptical. We never wonder if their blood sugar was low or they had a migraine or the flu or something dragging them down, or been fighting off pressure for years at the moment they made the bad decision. We never genuinely believe they hated themselves after doing it, looked on that action with regret forever after.

It's become so easy for us to assume that every bad action is embraced wholeheartedly by the person who performed it and every good action is done reluctantly and for questionable reasons.

Obviously, it's all lies.

People are both good and bad. There are dumb things we do, even things that we repeatedly do, that we swear we're never going to do again every time we do them. There are good things we do for good reasons, even among the best of us. Which part of it is who we "really" are? Some of it? All of it? None of it?

Obviously, the answers are going to be different for each person. This post isn't meant to teach people how to judge who people really are.

But there is a cultural shift that I'd like to see:

I'd love it if, as a society, we stopped rooting for our heroes to have feet of clay. Let's stop getting excited about discovering the weakest moments of people's lives.

And let's let people's good moments always be considered as much an honest part of who they are as their worst moments.

People are people. All people are people. It's as deep and simple as that.

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