Bad Things, Good People

You want to know why Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Because shit happens, that’s why.

Because nothing is certain. Because people are animals. They are unpredictable, and are often cruel to one another. Because animals are territorial and aggressive. Because we do self-destructive things. Because our genes are just wonky. Because we’re selfish and greedy.

Why do *good people* die (so early)? Because everybody dies. Every single thing on this planet will die. This is what makes us special; the fact that we are *not* special. That there is nothing different between you and I. This is why it doesn’t matter if you prefer to put your penis in someone’s bum, or mouth, or vagina, or if you prefer no penises at all. Because in between birth and death is *all there is*. It’s all that matters. If there’s anything else out there, we don’t know what it is, so there’s no sense in worrying about it. If something came before, we can’t change it, so just let it go, for Chrissakes.

Is there a lesson in everything? Sure. Why not? What are you supposed to learn from suffering? You’re supposed to learn that there IS suffering. You suffer, I suffer, everybody bloody suffers. Why do some people suffer more than others?

Why do some people suffer more than others?

Who knows? What does it *matter* why? Isn’t it enough to know that it is? Can’t we just see something and say, “that is. I cannot change that. But I can change how I see it, or how I react to it”? Can we not see suffering and say that suffering is bad because it causes pain, and that while I cannot stop the suffering of ten million people in another country, I can try to help someone who is suffering in my house, my family, my neighbourhood, my town, my country?

There *are no pat answers*, and I don’t know why we expect there to be. Science and religion aren’t supposed to answer questions like that. Education isn’t about learning pat answers; it’s about learning how to learn. It’s about learning how to ask and learning how to think. If that’s not happening, then we’re doing it wrong.

It’s interesting to think about how we define “bad things” and the scale of “bad”. It’s pretty easy to say “killing people is bad”, but then what about the scenario where you kill someone who is harming your family? What about if you kill someone who is leading an army of insurgents doing horrific things to people? Are “bad things” *always* bad? Do you need perspective there? *Is* there such a thing as black and white? Good and bad?

And then how do we define “good”? Is there an act that is *always* “good”, no matter how, when, or why it’s performed? If you give money to charity, is that good? What about if you give money to charity because it makes you feel good to do so? What about if you give money to charity because you get a tax break? What about if you give money to charity because you’re sick to death of all of those loafers on social assistance draining your tax dollars away from important things like making more money? Is charity only “good” when it’s selfless? What about if you starve yourself in protest for your people’s freedom? If you cause harm to yourself to try to ameliorate the suffering of others? Is that an act of “goodness”? Or does your suffering then add to the suffering of the world?

Are things like “good” and “suffering” cumulative? “Bad things” happen. They just do. Our job then is to accept the poop and move on, isn’t it? There are schools of philosophers (the utilitarians) who say that our job is to minimise suffering and maximise joy. On the surface, that sounds pretty awesome. But in minimising suffering, are you ignoring the truth? Are you simply being overly optimistic?

In fact, my friend Edward Willett recently wrote a post on his blog about how ‘unrealistic expectations are good for you‘. It talks about why we are programmed to be optimistic. Some of us, anyway.

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  4 comments for “Bad Things, Good People

  1. Sm
    25 May 2011 at 8:27 am

    I am intrigued lately as to why everyone seems to feel the need to judge everyone else. No help is offered without judgement. Even the TV ads looking for assistance for orhpans feel the need to say that that “This innocent child needs your help”. We cant just say someone needs our help, they have to be judged as “innocent’. Since, as you say, shit seems to fall from the sky from time to time, are we using judgement as an explanation? And isn’t it time we stopped? And how does one stop? One looks at everyone else as their equal — as equally requiring the same things in life that we are. My baby was beloved by me — isn’t a child elsewhere of a different colour, perhaps on a rickety boat arriving from Sri Lanka as beloved by their parent? When you look at school pictures of children, don’t each of them feel love and pain? You’d never guess it by the way we treat the same child, only older, when they are down on their luck, or they go to a G20 protest, or they visit their mother in Canada and get lost and frustrated in the airport.

    Lose the judgement. That’s what I’d love to see happen. I was reading the prelim to the Liberal Party, posted on another ProgBlog site the other day, and noticed how they seem to be okay with Equal Opportunity, but they weren’t actually advocating Equality.

    • 25 May 2011 at 12:45 pm

      There is certainly a lot of judginess going around – perhaps it has to do with JUDGMENT DAY last Saturday? Heh.

      Anyhow, yeah, the hippie flake in me wants to say it has something to do with the way planets are aligning and all that jazz, but the non-hippie-flake in me wants to say it’s because my peers are entering in to a time in their lives when we all start telling kids to get the hell off our lawns and we’ve finally reached that point we *thought* we were at at 16, when we knew more than our parents. I mean, we *don’t* know more than our parents, but we *do* know more than our kids, and I think that has something to do with it. We’re all getting to a place of retrospection and we’re saying, “Dude. I did that. What you’re doing is a Bad Choice for the following reasons…”

      Or not. You know, I could just be talking out of my arse.

      That being said, I think there are huge, enormous groups of people who claim to be in support of or opposed to Equal Opportunities, who still don’t understand that that’s not the same as equality.

  2. Ernst Bitterman
    25 May 2011 at 9:03 am

    I’ve been giving Stoicism a try– “It could be worse” has a certain amount of personal comfort, and you can engage in bettering other people’s plights while at the same time armouring yourself against future distress with, “Crap, what if this was happening to me?”

  3. 25 May 2011 at 10:58 pm

    its u

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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