"If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long
ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, 'to
every good work reprobate.'"
-- Hazlitt +
| "Enjoy and
give pleasure, without doing harm to yourself or to anyone else - that,
I think, is the whole of morality."
I continue being not well, and otherwise also as before, so I cannot do
much. But I had promised an end
of year meditation, and here it is, translated and adapted from the
same of December 31, 2007, and
capable of explaining, in principle, much of the facts I learned the
past year about and around ME.
the good, the bad and the stupid
I will make it easy for myself, and start with quoting
from my chapter 11 annexed to
In fact, much of what I could say here is in Goffman
reveals all (nearly) - Groups & Groupthinking; for Dutch
readers in my
note to Multatuli's Idee 1211; and in my chapter 11
to "On the Logic of
Moral Discourse", so I don't say but link it, and only
concentrate one relevant consideration in an arithmetical way:
One way of understanding society - any
human society anywhere, of sufficient size, say 10 or a 100 or more not
specially selected persons - is that the good : the bad : the stupid = 1 : 9
: 90. Alternatively expressed but to the same effect: the intelligent :
unintelligent = 1 : 9 and the unegoistic : egoistic = 1 : 9, and
intelligence and egoism are independent.
Note that part of my meaning is that the bad
is normally the harm
that is done actively or passively to others because of egoism,
malevolence, and that it is for the most part due, in everyday
human practice, to indifference, convenience, or conformism:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is
for good men to do nothing."
-- Edmund Burke
With this understanding, viz. that it is normally a lot
easier to leave the good one sees one should do, on one's own
principles, undone - because leaving it undone is very often easier,
more convenient, better paid, or more normal or correct.
Putting it all in a table with
percentages (while remembering that intelligence
and moral courage are probably for the largest part determined by
innate factors, and non posse nemo obligatur):
|| not good
| not intelligent
| not intelligent
|| not good
That is one important part of the
reason why Hazlitt was right and so much of human society so often is
in such a mess:
"If mankind had wished for what is right, they
might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are
prone to mischief, 'to every good work reprobate.'"
Next, another important part of
the reasons why man's inhumanity to man is so common os that all
members of society have a public and a private face
and role, and the public face consists mostly of deception.
The public character
people assume is usually
1. composed of lies that are derived from what they think is
supposed to be desirable behaviour of members of their society
2. it is a role played by an actor for the rewards one's
society provides for playing this role or for the punishments
one's society provides for not playing the role and
3. it consists of deception even if one's deceptions happen to be
one knows one is playing a role.
Seen in the light of these
important points - the distributions of intelligence and egoism and the
fact that all social acting consists of role-playing in which
deception is the norm - it is not so strange nearly all social and
political analyses are false, phoney and illusory, and also part of
role-playing and delusion or deception.
And - it seems - (3) is important:
Those who make a career are those who are known to be liars by those
who already have made a career. Somebody who is honest won't get far in
any society or group, even if - very privately - many will agree he is
honest and truthful.
The best expositions I know about
the problems I am treating here in a simplistic and generalizing manner
- A. Anti-totalitarian texts:
Talmon: "The rise of totalitarian democracy";
Farm", "1984" and "Collected Essays and Letters";
Revèl: "The totalitarian temptation".
- B. Texts on socialism:
Conquest: "The Great Terror";
Hayek: "Road to serfdom";
You'll find more about this in the context of chapter 11
I mentioned earlier. And here is a relevant diagnostic quotation of a
more comprehensive type, from T.H. White's
The Book of Merlyn:
"What are we, then, at present?"
"We find that at present the human race is divided politically into one
wise man, nine knaves and ninety fools out of every hundred. That is,
by an optimistic observer. The nine knaves assemble themselves under
the banner of the most knavish among them, and become 'politicians':
the wise man stands out, because he knows himself to be hopelessly
outnumbered, and devotes himself to poetry, mathematics or philosophy;
while the ninety fools plod off behind the banners of the nine
villains, according to fancy, into the labyrinths of chicanery, malice
and warfare. It is pleasant to have command, observed Sancho Panza,
even over a flock of sheep, and that is why politicians raise their
banners. It is, moreover, the same thing for the sheep, whatever the
banner. If it is democracy, then the nine knaves will become members of
parliament; if fascism will become party leaders; if communism,
commissars. Nothing will be different, except the name. The fools will
still be fools, the knaves still leaders, the result still
exploitation. As for the wise man, his lot will be much the same under
any ideology. Under democracy he will be encouraged to starve to death
in a garret, under fascism he will be put in a concentration camp,
under communism he will be liquidated. This is an optimistic but on the
whole scientific statement (...)"
(T.H. White: "The Book of Merlyn", p. 50-1)