Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When It's Bad to Be Good

Some of the greatest atrocities have been perpetrated in the name of the good. Certainly the Inquisition was one of these. In The Grand Inquisitor section of The Brothers Karamazov Dostoevsky describes the condition of Christ being brought before the Grand Inquisitor for sacrilege though it was Christianity that the Inquisition was supposed to be protecting. Goodness can become a juggernaut, a tsumani in which initial objectives may be lost in the whirlwind, the inertial force of the movement itself. Max Weber distinguished between a sect and a church, with the sect representing the institutionalization of extemporaneous fervor. It’s like that with adherence to the cause of Goodness, whose original principals may be lost in the bureaucracy that's left in its wake. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" goes the old homily and Goodness is supposed to be the best good intention. When Armageddon comes as a result of a nuclear device being dropped to thwart evil, what will we be able to say about the triumph of Good? You might say that Goodness can only be defined as a process, a means rather than an end, as a way of deterring those who would commit destructive deeds under the banner of Goodness. But Goodness itself is elusive. It’s a public relations device that creates a sanctimonious, self-congratulatory air around  its adherents and that buys them immunity from detection or prosecution. When Bad Things Happen to Good People was a bestselling book about how misfortune can befall even the most well-meaning of people. But sometimes it's just bad to be a goody two shoes.

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