Tag Archives: ethics

Good and Bad People

The truth about “good people” and “bad people”.

From “Guards! Guards!” by the great Sir Terry Pratchett.  (Guards! Guards! is recommended reading for these  fractious political times.)

Setting: As the dust settles the Patrician speaks with the Captain of the Night Watch (a civilian police force, i.e. of the people not of the state, it is not military – soldiers shoot citizens).

‘It may help you make some sense of the world.’

‘Sir.’

‘I believe you find life such a  problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people,’ said the man. ‘You are wrong of course.  There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.’

He waved his thin hand towards the city and walked over to the window.

‘A great rolling sea of evil,’ he said, almost proprietorially.  ‘Shallower in some places, of course, but deeper, oh, so much deeper in others.  But people like you put together little rafts of rules and vaguely good intentions and say, this is the opposite, this will triumph in the end.  Amazing!’  He slapped Vimes good-naturedly on the back.

‘Down there,’ he said, ‘are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any iniquity.  All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness.  Not the really high, creative loathesomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass produced darkness of the soul.  Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality.  They accept the evil not because they say yes, but because the don’t say no’.  I’m sorry if this offends you,’ he added, patting the captain’s shoulder, ‘but you fellows really need us.’

‘Yes, sir?’ said Vimes quietly.

‘Oh, yes.  We’re the only ones who know how to make things work.  You see, the only thing the good people are good at it overthrowing the bad people.  And you’re good at that I’ll grant you.  But the trouble is that it’s the only thing you’re good at.  One day it’s the ringing of the bells and the casting down of the evil tyrant, and the next it’s everyone sitting down complaining that ever since the tyrant was overthrown no-one’s been taking out the trash.  Because bad people know how to plan.  It’s part of the specification, you might say.  Every evil tyrant has a plan to rule the world.  The good people don’t seem to have the knack.’

‘Maybe.  But you’re wrong about the rest!’ said Vimes. ‘It’s just because people are afraid, and alone–‘ He paused.  It sounded pretty hollow, even to him.

He shrugged.  ‘They’re just people,’ he said. ‘They’re just doing what people do.  Sir.’

Lord Vetinari gave him a friendly smile.

‘Of course, of course,’ he said. ‘You believe that , I appreciate.  Otherwise you’d think you’re standing on a feather-thin bridge over the vaults of Hell .  Otherwise existence would be a dark agony and the only hope would be that there is no life after death.   I quite understand.’  …


Genius and beautifully explained.

So, is there a way off the bridge?

Is there a chance for “goodness”?

I believe so.  But it is not some dramatic performance, it is simply about being more universal.  It is about letting go of our animal fear and greed.  It is about embracing existence and allowing ourselves to reconnect with nature.  It is about realising that you are part of the bridge and the abyss and it is only fearful if your ego overpowers you.  If you let go of fear,  the bridge becomes choice and the abyss a pool of love.

It is simple to follow the path presented by the universe once you have let go.  How to let go?  Breathe. Think. Flow.

System change, social media and your choices.

drowningworldcarCOP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night.  Climate change is great, but it’s not good.  I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze.  But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems.  Both civilisation and nature.

The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different.  Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing.  Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.

For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar.  For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.All of these people are connected by social organisation and media.  We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows,  … We tend to communicate with like minded people.  It is not easy to cross over.  But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation.  (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)

Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends.  Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?

COP21marchWhile there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people:  People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.

The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable.  Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow.  For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of  his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.

gas_balloon_scaleA litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg.  So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2.  Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement.  It’s heavy!  And it’s just one event on one day.

So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.

The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels.  The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.

unethicalCivilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical.  Every crisis comes about because of moral failure.  Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion.  There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power.  If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.

So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle.  It’s not about equality it’s about equity.  Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve.  The system is a result of everybody’s choices.  We must all choose better.  We must aim to do the right thing the right way.