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Got Choices?

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Good and Evil

Up until this point, we have used terms like “good” and “bad” from time to time. In a day of moral relativism, these words may be understood in different ways by different people. So for the purposes of this book, let us try to give them a more precise definition so we know clearly what we are talking about. And hopefully, we can do it in a way which can unite us around the principles of peace and free will.

With the hope and belief that you, the reader, are in this group we expect to be a healthy majority, we will suggest that you are Good, or a person acting as much as possible in a Good way. What is more, you probably value and cherish your own freedom. You enjoy making your own choices and you prefer to act according to your own internal values and desires rather than the dictates of other people who may not share your values.

At least when you think it through, you are also inclined to allow other people the same degree of freedom you like to enjoy yourself. You may not be quite as enthusiastic about preserving other people’s ability to choose as you are in protecting your own freedoms. But generally, you are willing to give others the space to live their own lives as they see fit–particularly if they can do so without disrupting your ability to do the same.

If you are Good, you don’t want to become a predator of other human beings. If you are Good, you consider yourself generally equal to other human beings–not superior. You don’t think the color of your skin or the blood line of your parents entitles you to own other people who are not of your color or bloodline.

While you have your own Faith, you recognize that others may believe differently. But as long as they allow you the freedom to live according to your Faith, you are inclined to allow them the same tolerance. In addition, you recognize some people may have a harder time providing for their own needs. To the degree you are able, you are willing to give a measure of your own time and effort to help those who are less capable. In fact, you typically find this kind of charitable giving actually improves your own joy and satisfaction in life, in addition to helping those who may be in need.

So now let’s define Bad actions as deriving from those motives contrary to the Good ones we have just defined. This includes someone thinking they deserve to belong to an elite ruling class. It includes the idea that one is generally better than others, and therefore, entitled to the ownership, either in whole or in part, of other human beings. This might mean ownership in the really perverse sense of a piece of personal property much as a horse or a cow would be owned. Or it might mean a more subtle kind of ownership in the sort of thoughtless sense of an entitlement to the time, assets or work-product of other people.

For example, a rapist shows by his actions, that he feels entitled to satisfy his own sexual or violent tendencies at the expense of another person whom he can overcome by force. The thief tacitly believes he has a right to take whatever he wants from his victims. The con man may justify his actions as “just business.” If his victim is not smart enough to avoid his trap, then maybe he deserves to lose his money.

By these definitions, we can hope and believe the vast majority of people try to act with Goodness and not Badness. Most people (even many rapists and thieves) would like to think of themselves as good–even if their behavior is inconsistent with that view. Remember these terms are meant to categorize our behavior–not to immutably label each of us as inherently Good or Bad. People can change and they often do. Most often, Bad behaviors change when people finally become truly aware of the pain they are causing for innocent people on the receiving end of their actions.

The point is, a minority of those acting Badly among us often use deception and take advantage of our apathy or ignorance in order to co-opt many Good people into their Bad designs. How does this happen? A Good person might have such virtues as honesty, bravery, loyalty and courage. But a Bad king might want to take up war with a neighboring kingdom for the sake of his own pride or in order to plunder that kingdom for the enrichment of his own treasury.

To do so, he must raise an army of his own fighters. He will need people who will obey orders and are willing to march into the face of danger without hesitation or rebellion. In short, he will need Good people to fight his battle for him. How will he recruit them to his cause? Likely his first job is to convince them it is just. He may claim the neighboring kingdom consists of Bad people who are an immediate threat to safety, security, civilization or other Good things. All he needs is a common enemy “out there” and good men and women will rise up to defend family and country.

Bad people often succeed in factionalizing Good people–setting them up with phantom enemies and pitting one group of Good people against another to further their own selfish purpose. Sometimes a little war can be very good for business–particularly when the king doesn’t have to attend the front lines personally. When this happens, not only do Good people get caught up in a Bad cause, but Bad people on both sides of the conflict may benefit by increasing their strength and power over their own populations. In either case, it is first and foremost a deception. It is Bad to take the time, resources and too often the lives, of Good people without their informed will or consent.

In the United States, a relatively small minority of Bad people have succeeded in dividing a lot of Good people into two factions or tribes: Democrats and Republicans. We all know a lot of Good people in both political parties. On each side of the aisle, there are several common themes: many Good people attribute most of what is Good to the efforts of the leaders of their own tribe. They also attribute most of what is Bad to the efforts of unscrupulous leaders or members of the opposing tribe.

Each election season, political campaigns are used to stir up the devout in each tribe to march off in a kind of war–one where the number of votes cast for the various candidates will determine the winners and the losers. While some of these elected leaders enter the arena for good and noble purposes, the allure of power and control is so enticing that, often the very worst element is attracted to the scene and that power ends up being used to subjugate Good people and exercise dominion over them.

Still, we go on rooting for our team. Go Democrats! Go Republicans! Our team spends a little time in power and then trades power over to the other side for a while. But regardless of who is in power, most of the inequities of society never really improve. Sometimes they get worse, and both teams just go on complaining about the other. Many think: “if only we could have total and complete power, then we could make things better.” But our confidence in our elected leaders may be misplaced.

In some cases, they are Good people but the system of power has become so large, so ominous and so complex, no single person can affect a positive change. In other cases, the leader is really just in the game for his own benefit and advancement and will, at the end of the day, look out for his own interests at the expense of the people who elected him.

Government is not the sole domain of the Bad. The business world is also full of people who may become tempted to act Badly toward other people. Sometimes we act Badly in our personal relationships with others. In short, we can look into any aspect of our society–government, business, education and religion and find both Good and Bad people. More often than not, we will find people who want to be Good and should be Good, but for one reason or another, are engaged in Bad behavior.

Next we will discuss some ways we can concentrate more on being Good to each other. In the latter part of this book, we will discuss a few very specific areas in which we could make immediate and significant changes to promote and expand the peaceful enjoyment of our ability to choose. As we discuss these areas, think about your own political team, whether it be Democrat, Republican, or something else. Try to consider the possibility that many of the people on your team might be Good people who are acting Badly. Consider that there may also be a few people who are just Bad and are acting that way on purpose. Bad people often need Good people to act badly in order to promote their own Bad agenda.

If you are really open minded, maybe you would even consider dropping your old political team in favor of a new team, the Good team. If you could, you would find a lot of friends there. There would be Democrats and Republicans as well as people from a variety of other political affiliations. There would be people of all colors and heritage–people of all Faiths and backgrounds. And if we added up the numbers, there would be a lot more of us than those who want to act Badly. If we could act together in order to bring about Good things, think of what we could do!

The Good team doesn’t have a party. It only has principles, and the principles are very simple: we like our choices and so do other people. If we can just exercise enough true empathy to understand that most other people just want what we want, there is no reason we can’t structure things so we can all have what we want. There doesn’t always have to be a losing team and a winning team. If we organize things in the right way, most everyone can win.

All it takes is a spirit of tolerance and accommodation. We have to be willing to win while letting others win too.

Are you ready to make some change? All you have to do is make a choice.

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