Tag Archives: morality

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.