April 26, 2011
I see a lot of judging going around lately. And I notice that people often invent their own standards of right and wrong just before passing sentence. What this world needs is some sort of universal standard so we’d always know for sure who is good and who is bad.
The Ten Commandments was a start. That list covers some of the basics. But it’s a bit dated, and it doesn’t cover the important questions of our day, such as who is arrogant, who doesn’t work hard enough, who should come out of the closet, who is a hypocrite, who is an Internet troll, and so on. Society is inventing new ways of being bad more quickly than we can evolve the rules to cover the new situations. We need some sort of standard that can keep up.
I’m unqualified for the task of creating this new standard of good and bad because I believe free will is an illusion. By my view, we’re born, our molecules bump around then we die. No one is good or bad if we’re all just bumping around according to physical laws. Any standard for good and bad behavior that I suggest would be inconsistent with my own point of view.
But for some reason I’m going to suggest just such a standard anyway. Apparently I can’t help myself. And my standard goes like this: You’re a good person if you work hard at something that is useful to society and you try to avoid hurting other people when it’s practical.
I’m big on overlooking victimless crime. I’d go further and suggest that anyone who is putting effort into punishing people who commit victimless crimes is bad.
One big problem with my standard is that we live in a world with limited resources. The simple act of getting a job creates a victim if you consider the next best applicant who lost out. If I stand in line to buy something, I make the line longer for the people behind me. Most of what we do has some sort of impact on others. But let’s agree that you can display a certain degree of self-interest and still be a good person. Without some degree of selfish behavior, society would fall apart.
I’ve been thinking about this because a new breed of media has popped up that takes evil to a new level. Today, for example, spewed across the Internet is the report that Rachel Maddow believes some members of the broadcast media who are closeted gays should come out, as she has. Gawker – ironically named after a vigorous form of self-satisfaction – helpfully lists some broadcasters that they believe should come out.
The thin cover for this evil is the notion that when a public figure reveals his or her sexual orientation it is a form of honesty that helps others by example. By Gawker’s view, keeping your private life private can’t be a legitimate personal decision, and it can’t be the sort of image management that every human with a paying job engages in. We humans are always spring-loaded to judge most harshly any form of information concealment, no matter how victimless. How dare our public figures not disclose what sort of genitalia they prefer! Those lying bastards! How can I trust the news about Libya now?!
By my standard, the allegedly gay broadcasters in question presumably work hard and they don’t hurt anyone by reporting the news, unless you count dictators and other scoundrels who try to avoid direct questions.
Gawker, on the other hand, is pure evil. The writers are clearly lazy, based on their output and their lack of research, and their clear goal is to profit by hurting other people. In this case, they’re preying on real or alleged members of the gay community for personal gain. That’s entry level behavior on the Hitler meter.
I should note that when Rachel Maddow states her opinion that broadcasters should come out, she’s not naming names, and she’s not trying to profit from it. Her view is legitimate even if you disagree. The problem comes from the Nazi wannabes at Gawker who turned her opinion into a witch hunt for profit.
On a related topic, I’d like to give a little shout out to TMZ. When my recent dust-up with Men’s Rights advocates and Feminists hit the blog-o-cesspool, only TMZ contacted me to find out the facts. And upon hearing the facts in proper context, apparently they decided there was no legitimate story there. Or at least I didn’t notice one via Google Alert. TMZ put in the work and turned down the chance to take a quote out of context and profit by hurting another human being. I can’t defend any other choices they might make, but they met my standard of good behavior in this situation. Gawker and a number of other sites, including Yahoo, had the same opportunity and chose evil.
What’s your own definition of good and bad? And how does victimless crime fit into your view?