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There have been instances recently of people saying or doing something inappropriate, and there being an associated furore over it.

A scientist making sexist comments about 'distractingly sexy' women in the lab.

A guy wearing a 'pin ups' T-shirt when talking about a space mission.

Or the whole 'sad puppies' thing around the Hugo awards.

Even "gamer gate".

The problem is in these scenarios, that there seems to be an urge to categorize people as either 'good people' or 'bad people'. And then there's a massive debate.

There is just no such thing as an unambiguously good - or bad - person. It's never so simple. There's no ethical calculus that lets you be a saint for 40 years, and then get a free pass on murdering a baby or two.

Nor do you -ever- get to 'cancel out' past mistakes. You can seek redemption, but the only way you ever get it is via forgiveness, not fixing the past.
So it's actually quite harmful to apply this sort of abstraction. We saw this in the Jimmy Savile affair (and many many other examples). People who couldn't believe he was doing what he was doing, because of all the good things he did.
And the truth is - he did both. He _did_ do a lot of good, and raise a lot of awareness and supported charities. We're fools if we dismiss that in light of the subsequent revelations.
But likewise - that doesn't excuse - or prevent from happening - the _other_ things he (allegedly?) did.
And the same is true of pretty much everyone. Everyone has a price. Everyone has pressure points. Everyone has weaknesses. Everyone has prejudices. Everyone makes mistakes.
And in some cases - these prejudices, mistakes and weaknesses lead to causing a harm that can never be repaired. And you just have to live with that. That doesn't mean you cannot do better, or indeed that you become irredeemable. It doesn't make you unforgivable.

Think how horrible _that_ would be. One mistake, you're now a 'bad person' and that is that.

A lot of people misunderstand what it is to forgive. It isn't about letting something pass, and say 'never mind, it doesn't matter'. If it didn't matter, it wouldn't need to be forgiven. It's about letting go of _your_ pain, anger, hate or fear. Acknowledging a harm - understanding that it hurt and always will - but letting go of it's ability to control your future.
Continuing to hate someone is ultimately very poisonous. It taints your world view massively.
That doesn't mean we should let "wrong" pass - not by any means. Challenge it whenever you can, especially when it's at a point that by doing so, you can change the course of a thing. But merely accept that every person in the world is a complex bundle of ambiguities, and picking fights and censure rarely changes anyone's opinion.
And you never get to 'fix' the past.

This started as a comment on a facebook post, but turned into a bit of a rant

Date: 2015-06-13 12:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] malal.livejournal.com
Isn't the most notable example of this Hitler - famed animal lover & vegetarian for ethical reasons.... o0

If even he wasn't 100% pure evil, who is?

Date: 2015-06-13 12:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sobrique.livejournal.com
Hitler was democratically elected. It may be a little controversial, but I daresay he did some quite good, beneficial and positive things.

He also did some really bad things.

But when I say - "if you want to see some excellent oratory, watch some of his speeches", it is not because I condone the holocaust or any of the other points he was making
Edited Date: 2015-06-13 12:08 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-06-13 12:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sobrique.livejournal.com
A better example might be Margaret Thatcher. When she died I heard a lot of opinions. Very few were neutral. Some thought her evil, others thought her a hero.

Not many were indifferent. Both sides were trying to weigh up what she did and decide.


But she could have easily been both.

Date: 2015-06-13 12:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] malal.livejournal.com
Not sure she is. With her, you mostly get people looking at a specific thing she did & declaring it awesome or terrible depending on if they're left or right. It's difficult to find examples of stuff she did that are universally thought to be good or bad.

With Hitler, pretty much everyone agrees that he did Bad Things. But the few examples of good things about him are also generally things universally thought of as good.

Thatcher is a shade of grey because the things she did are a shade of grey. How dark the grey is depends on the viewer. Hitler is Really Dark Grey because he did a lot of Black, with a touch of White, and the colours of those parts are pretty universally agreed by the viewers.

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