Do-Gooders Do Bad?

Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. We don’t kiss and hug our coins and notes.

Love they neighbour as thyself. This is also misunderstood. We cannot love our neighbour until we have learned to love ourselves.

Forget all this rubbish about original sin. In fact I think I dislike the word “sin” more than any other word except “sacrifice”. It began as a means for the powers that be to take it on themselves to tell others what to do and so this has happened since we first learned to talk.

Love is just about the most misunderstood word in our vocabulary. The opposite of love is hatred. This explains why, throughout history, so many hideous murders began with a “love affair”.

“I cannot live without you” is another excuse. Closer to the truth is I can’t live without myself. No-one can disagree about that. Q.E.D. My theme today is that if we try too hard to be “do-gooders” we are barking up the wrong tree.

It is a good idea to start children off reading fairy tales. Remember that these stories were made up by people trying to categorise different capacities of everyone around them. Jung called his categorising archetypes : characteristics that we are all born with to a greater or lesser degree. Part of every child’s education should be to learn what people can be like. Categorisations are useful ways to size up strangers quickly. However we can only make our own judgements out of all we know about ourselves and others. This is why the best of the classics in literature is a great help in understanding human nature. Studying the people around us is not enough.

I have often asked myself why certain kinds of literature are much more popular than others. I have in mind detective stories, which include much of the darker side of people and horror stories that thrill us and frighten us at the same time. Much of the more popular literature in the western world of Victorianism and earlier is full of injunctions to “be good”. It was late in the 19th century that the passionate interest in detective and horror stories began, at a time that more and more people could read.

I believe that this strong interest which includes an obsession with anything to do with “sex”, drugs and food is very understandable. This a time when we are beginning to hear more about the taboo side, that was avoided for so long.

I keep trying to find more suitable words for “good” and “evil”. I cannot do better than “positive” and “negative” because they are not saturated with strong emotions.

The trouble with “do-gooders” is that much of what they do causes harm. Look at what has gone wrong in the social services. We can see the results by the increasing number of negative actions. That is bound to happen if you don’t try to understand the dark side as well. Maybe, as someone has said, it is better to focus on “trying not to do harm”. Once we begin to think of ourselves as “good” we become overbearingly smug and hypocritical.

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