The Myth of the Good and the Bad
When are people good or bad? This is a question that has been asked since ancient times, the answer of which is the basis of religion and philosophy. It is my personal opinion, however, that people are neither good nor bad. It is the others who label them as such; those who are admired for their actions are considered good, those who are hated, bad. It is undeniable to say that such labelling is objective. A person may be good to an individual but may be bad to another. Given a circumstance, good people may turn out to do evil things, thus they are branded as bad. It is for these reasons that to divide people into good or bad is absurd. There are no good or bad people, only actions that affect and influence others. There are, of course, people who are really “bad” they need no such circumstances to do universally acknowledged “evil” things, such as rape and murder, and continue to do such acts without remorse. These people are demented with no concept of “good” but their own urge. This, however falls on a different category. The question raised here is whether or not people could be said to be good or bad based on class and society, culture and tradition, race and ethnicity, government and philosophy, or even clan and family, or regardless of how we group them.
Every people has different race, culture and systems of belief. People’s objectivity of good or bad depends on their belief system. People of the same culture or belief will, more often than not, have the same views about good and evil. They will often find people who perform acts and exhibit behavior in conformity with their belief charming. Thus good people are those who conforms with their belief, otherwise they are bad. It is universally accepted, however, that every individual is different from the other, more so that every cuture or belief is defferent from each other. What some has percieved to be good may not be percieved the same as others. Philip Zimbardo (2007) explains that certain people are labelled as less than human or “non comparable in humanity or personal dignity to those who do the labelling.” He explains that this labelling, the act of dehumanization, is how even people who are “good” are turned into “evil.” The concept of good and evil, then, should not be limited to culture and belief, but to actions as it affect our humanity. When we walk, we do it right foot then the left foot or vice versa, not the “right” foot then the “wrong” foot. In short, we do things in accordance to how we know to do it, as taught by people with authority because of wisdom or experience, such as a father to his child or a mentor to his protege; not because we know for a fact that it is universally good. Zimbardo also explains that given the right, or wrong, circumstances, most people will abandon moral standard in exchange for oppression and violence. German Nazi, for example, exemplified nationality in its strictest sense. Could we label such devotion to country as purely evil? History judged them as evil in the sense that they affected other nations and group, such as the Jews, in a negative way. For the Nazi, they were doing their country favor and were adored by, at least, most of their countrymen, but for those who were “dehumanized” they were the embodiment of evil. The same is true for others who were judged, by history and other groups of people. History, after all, is written by winners, and winners, more often than not, dictate what was good or wrong. Bottomline, we all have the capacity to do good or to do evil. To say a collective group of people is absolutely good or absolutely evil is nonsense.
The concept of what is good and what is evil is based on the perception of an individual or groups of them. Every perception is based on their culture and belief, among other things. Every people fight for what they believe is right, but to say the opponent is fighting for evil is foolish. All of us has good reason to do things, those reasons may or may not be approved by everyone else. Things that don’t usually agree with our percerption of good in not necessarily evil, though there are things that necessarily “evil.” We cannot judge others without understanding the reasons why people do such “evil” things in our eyes.
Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.