Wednesday, September 16, 2009

bad things happen . . .

There was a short piece on the radio this morning about white collar crime. They interviewed a woman who had been defrauded, and (particularly after just learning that the latest ponzi scheme perpetrator was someone from my hometown) I really felt bad for her. She obviously felt betrayed and wounded by a person who she’d trusted. But then she said something that made me pause – she said “I always told my kids that if you are a good person, good things will happen to you, and if you’re a bad person, bad things will happen to you, but that’s not the case here.”

And I thought . . . wait a minute, why would you ever tell your children that? Because that was never the deal. Whatever justice may mean on a human or more divine scale, history has not given us any indication that good things happen to good people, and vice versa. Jesus got crucified, Martin Luther King Jr. got shot, and Nelson Mandela spent an awfully long time in prison. Kanye West is a superstar with legions of fans.

It seems to me that having a worldview based on good and bad being doled out on a quid pro quo basis is dangerous. Because what happens when something bad happens to you? There are two possibilities: either a) something bad has happened to you because you are actually a bad person; or b) your worldview was wrong, and even though you are a good person, this will not protect you from bad things happening. Either way, why bother continuing to do good?

So, I don’t know what you should tell your children (maybe I should add moral philosophy to my fun fall reading list, along with feminist theology and development theory ... ), but it seems that if you build your moral framework around the idea that good things happen to good people, you’re going to be ill-equipped to deal with the tragedies and betrayals that are part of life.


Simone said...

good post. I don't really have anything to add, but I agree. That might be a dangerous philosophy of life.

senatorsmith said...

Who is this KanyƩ West you speak of? :p

In regards to your last post, my impression is this is a very poor social construct - a social control if you will... not necessarily a moral framework.

Unfortunately, there are many people that live in this type of bubble, where they see the world with rose coloured glasses.

Sometimes parents are completely clueless (and I am not excluding myself).

I was embarrassed and humbled when an empowered Junior stated: It's okay if my favourite colour is pink Dad! Or Rose for that matter. ;)

As usual, I enjoy your musings immensely. See you sometime?

el Maggie said...

I agree that it's a social control, i.e. a way to make your kids be good, but I think it also becomes a moral framework - my thought was that if your main reason for doing good is so that you'll be rewarded with good, you're likely to be disappointed at some point, and then you have no more incentive for good. The question this all raised, which I didn't ask here, because I couldn't even come up with an answer is "so, why DO we do good? And how do we boil that down to something we can tell children?" (and I am not satisfied with "because the Bible says so . . .).

And three cheers for Junior! He puts a smile on my face ;-)

Simone said...

Can we do good because we like to make other people happy? Or at least because we want to do no harm?

el Maggie said...

Sim - seems like a good reason to me!