I always struggle with this notion of good vs. bad. How we define each of these must be subjective, particularly since we would probably disagree about what they mean. Is a “good boy” someone who is well-behaved and obedient to his parents, or is it someone who merely takes on that appearance, having yet to be caught stealing money from his mother’s purse?
With society, I think we could nearly all agree about what a good society is —it is one in which we easily find justice, equality in treatment and of opportunity, general obedience to the rule of law, good citizenship (civics) … and most people doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. We might also agree that a good society is one in which neighbors look after one another, and one in which everyone is willing to do their fair share: everyone has a job; everyone pays their fair share in taxes; everyone takes a turn at jury duty.
Of course, in modern society, not everyone has a job and not everyone wants one. We can thank Lyndon Johnson for that … as he gave us the least greatest society ever in the history of the United States. He gave us social reforms that forced us to look at people differently; he gave us the soft bigotry of low expectation, told people who do work that they had to support those who don’t … and he demanded voting rights on behalf of people who know little of any political candidates beyond their party affiliation.
Let me say that I find a lot of wisdom in the Bible. Proverbs tells us in Chapter 16, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece. An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends. Wickedness loves company, and leads others into sin.” Allowing people to remain at home while receiving benefits paid for by others seems a very bad idea to me. What do these people do, who stay at home while other’s work? Theirs’s are idle hands and what we find in extremely large numbers is alcohol consumption, drug abuse, deep depression, psychotic behavior, upsurges in crime against persons and property, and increasing numbers of pregnancies (most of these out of wedlock). Along with the latter, we can note a large number of abortions paid for by the American taxpayer.
Nothing that appears in the above two paragraphs would seem to denote a good society. Quite the contrary, in fact. Economic opportunity doesn’t matter if large numbers of people refuse to take advantage of those opportunities —as, for example, staying in school. Why are so many people refusing to avail themselves of economic opportunity in this land of milk and honey? The truth is that large numbers of people refuse to work because we are paying them to stay home —and more than this, we are paying them to have more babies out of wedlock.
America’s founding fathers wanted a society that provided liberty and justice for all. In practical terms, this is no more than a slogan useful to interests on both sides of the political spectrum. The fact is that liberty and justice is only obtainable when people seek the good, and repudiate the bad.
Plato, who lived between 428—348 BC, speaks to us from the grave; and he tells us that if we are not good citizens, then we must be denied a good life. Still, how do we define such things as “good citizen,” and “good life?” I suppose someone could make the argument that a good life includes one paid for by others —which is to say, good is that thing that serves “me” best— but this is hardly a traditionally western value. But then, neither is the view that there are never enough things to make us happy. This attitude, foisted upon us by a series of commercial advertisements aired 24/7-365, drives hard-working people into debt; their personal greed leads them into slavery; they relinquish their liberty by turning themselves over to banks. And, of course, it is never “our” fault, is it?
Another ancient philosopher was Aristotle (384-322 BC); he believed that free men must be responsible for their actions (whether voluntary of involuntary) and their behaviors … so that any fault we attribute to people with weak character must be theirs alone. Aristotle would argue that society is not to blame for the consequences of idle hands; if society has no blame, then society should not have feed, clothe, and house members of society who are too stupid to take advantage of a free education, or too lazy to get a job.
Yet, we like to think of ourselves as living in a free society —which Americans traditionally define as an environment within which we encourage one another to do the right thing. Ours is a just culture, which is to say a civilization guided by laws; a society guided by tolerance, mercy, and understanding. We base our rule of law, by the way, on fundamental moral truths that are easily understood by all concerned. Our freedom is neither a commodity manipulated by dictatorial bureaucrats, nor a vacuum for anarchists. Our liberty is priceless —particularly when one considers how many lives have been lost in order to guarantee it. I look at it this way: freedom is a God-given right, often paid for in blood of young men and women who were willing to stand up to evil. Liberty comes from human beings making the right choices for themselves. There is no liberty sitting home waiting for a welfare check.
(To be continued)