- “Follow your dreams.”
- “Avoid name calling.”
- “Follow your conscience.”
- “Never compromise on your ideals.”
- “Don’t speak ill of other people.”
- “Be true to yourself.”
- “Treat everyone with respect.”
What do these statement have in common?
Answer: they all sound good, but they’re not really true. They may be true on some basic level, but unless you dig deeper, they’re almost meaningless.
For example: Follow your dreams. That’s good, right? No, actually, what’s more important than following your dreams is that your dreams are good. If your dreams are to invade Poland to restore national pride, then you’d be well advised not to follow your dreams.
Or how about, “Don’t call people names”, isn’t that a good sentiment? No, not really. Name calling in itself is not evil. In fact, name calling can be good. What’s more important than avoidance of name-calling is ensuring that the name with which you’ve labeled is accurate. If you called a person “thief”, the morality of that act depends entirely on whether that person is a thief. If he is a thief, then name calling was not only permitted, but may actually be required of you. And that applies for thief, adulterer, dictator, control-freak, hateful, whatever.
Don’t avoid name-calling; go a level deeper and ensure your what you’ve said is accurate. Then, yes, go name calling.
And by all means, never compromise your principles. Unless your principles are bad, in which case you should compromise as much as you can.
See the pattern here?
These nice-sounding sentiments upon which western culture seems to rely on so much are not actually good for moral guidance.
Name calling is good
A few months ago, it bothered me that you fine Kineti readers were name calling in the comments to this blog. “One Law Messianics are supersessionists!”, “Bilateral Ecclesiology Messianics are racists!”, and so on. The name calling went back and forth, and finally I put my foot down and said, “No more name calling, or I delete your comment.”
And much DEL key pressing ensued.
However, this foray into censorship bothered me because, on some level, those accusations could be accurate. And if they are accurate, then I was, on some level, deleting truth. (Suddenly I feel very zen.)
It reinforced the reason I almost never delete comments: removing evidence of what people think doesn’t solve anything. It’s basically censorship; generally it does little good.
Democracy is bad
In the present hour, political upheaval is taking place in Egypt.
Riots in the streets, people getting shot, government smack down stuff. Big stuff.
The standard commentary I’m hearing from our western media is: “The Egyptian people have a right to vote! They have a right to choose their leaders!”
The New York Times, a popular left-wing publication in the US, has had numerous opinion pieces saying, albeit with more flowery words, this very thing.
But stop for a moment and go a level deeper: yes, it may be basically true that the Egyptian people should be able to choose their own leaders. But more important than the right to choose your own leader is ensuring your motives are aligned with good. Forgive the premature invocation of Godwin’s Law, but the German people had a right to choose their leader in 1932, and choose they did, with 13,745,800 Germans choosing an evil greater than any the modern world had seen.
That isn’t to say Egypt will choose some evil on par with Hitler.
But on the other hand, the future’s not looking too bright for Egypt. The party looking to make the most gains from the Egyptian upheaval is the Society of the Muslim Brothers, or Muslim Brotherhood for short.
Are the Egyptian people making a good choice in ousting its dictator and replacing it with the Muslim Brotherhood?
Unless you define good as an Islamic theocracy that suppresses religious and social minorities, this group doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in its running towards goodness. It’s founding credo, for example, states,
Allah is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.
I mean – ferchristsake – their logo is comprised of swords with the subtitle, “Islam is the answer”.
Not exactly subtle about that “we hate non-Muslims” thing.
Admittedly, if Islam is right, and Allah is God and Islam the only way to God, then we should be cheering for beheadings of infidels and suppression of minority religions and all that. But I say Islam isn’t right, in fact, it’s so bad for humanity, it is worth fighting against.
So when you hear, “Egypt has the right to choose their leaders!”, go a level deeper and ask whether their choice for a new leader is good. More important than the right to choose your own leader is ensuring your motives for change are aligned with good. If you’re going to choose badly, better to not choose at all. Or, in the words of Mark Twain,
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Right now, it’s looking bad for Egypt. I hereby offer the heretical view that it is better for Egypt to suffer in its current dictatorship than it is to institute the bad choice of leadership it is now putting into power. I predict Egypt will, in the next 10 years, suffer more than they ever have under the old dictatorship. And I predict the surrounding nations, particularly Israel, will also suffer because of Egypt’s choice.
Democracy is only as good as the people it puts into power.
John Lennon, and why his lyrics sound so good but are actually really bad
I’m a fan of music. I find beauty in all kinds of music. I like classical, I like rock, I like Messianic, I like metal. I can find good in almost all kinds of music, really.
Most of all, I am a fan of the Beatles. And I like John Lennon’s music.
But it dawned on me the other day that John Lennon’s lyrics are rather terrible. They are great on the nice sounding platitudes for change, but dig a level deeper, and they’re actually quite horrible if implemented.
Take, for example, the famous John Lennon hit, “Imagine”:
Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one
Well, maybe not the “no religion” part so much, but hey, I’ve always been a Cowboy Religionist anyways, so who needs religion when you can have God? And besides, nothing to kill or die for? Oh man. Sign me up to be one of the dreamers, I want to live as one!
But hold on, while it does sound appealing to any peace-loving person, is it really good? Go a level deeper.
Yes, no killing is good, everybody wants peace. But what about having something to die for? Or having something to live for?
When a man feels passionately enough about something, he is willing to give his life for it. A man willing to lay down his life for his wife, or for his friend, a man willing to die for his ideals & beliefs, a person standing up for what’s right.
Without anything to die for, this all sounds like Equilibrium, some kind of Orwellian nightmare, where all emotion and expressions are frowned upon by the society. After all, emotion might breed passion, or worse, lead to fear, and fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, … and suddenly we’re all fighting again.
Lennon’s utopian lyrics sound nice, but considering a world without religion, without anything to die for, without any ultimate justice (“no hell below us, above us only sky”), I think his utopia would actually be hell on earth.
Make no mistake, if religion were to disappear tomorrow, people would still fight – and kill and die – for the things they feel passionately about. Nations, beliefs, philosophies, races, pride, grievances, women, name any motivator, good or bad. Remove the big ones (religions, nations, races), we’ll just move onto fighting about the small ones. Humans fight for what we believe in, but – get this – that’s not always a bad thing.
Sometimes it is good to have something worth fighting for, worth dying for.
More important than not fighting is fighting for what’s good, standing up for what’s right. And doing nothing in the face of evil is not some great act of peacemaking, but one of great moral cowardice.
In summary, I’m insane, but I think I’m right
The morality and ethics of all the west is based on what are essentially nice-sounding catch-phrases like “Be kind to all people”, “Follow your dreams”, etc. And all it takes to debunk them is going a level deeper. But most people just stop at the nice-sounding part.
I’ve finally moved past that nice-sounding part. And I’m feeling a bit freer in my thinking already.
More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody — remember this — neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, ‘Now, let’s create a really oppressive and evil society.’ Hitler said, ‘Let’s take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order.’ And Lenin said, ‘Let’s take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world.’
In short, it is your responsibility…not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.
-US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Being good starts with being wise. For such an important foundation, you’d think wisdom would be taught in schools.