Avoiding What Will Surely Make Us Evil
I’ve been missing an enormously important question for my whole life: what are the things that will surely make me a bad person, and how do I avoid them?
Just trying to be a good person is tough sledding on its own, avoiding stuff that will surely make me bad is also crucial. Why? Because context affects our behavior a lot. So I wondered - what are the things that consistently turn people toward doing evil?
Here are some of the big ones I’ve considered, from my own experience and observation. This stuff will make a person do horrendous things:
Not dealing with trauma and the hard stuff that happens
Loneliness and isolation
Wanting more: respect, status, power, wealth, etc. (or being around people who really care about that stuff)
Being at the extremes of suffering - being overwhelmed by it (which makes you want to do anything to make it stop) or never experiencing it (so that you can’t understand what suffering does to others)
And there are more, but I think these categories cover a lot.
I think it is important to avoid these things, so that I do not do the stuff that’s highly likely to make me a bad, bad dude. I’d even go further though.
I think I/we have some moral obligation not to subject others to these things that are highly likely to mess them up and turn them toward being bad. We, as individuals, have so much ability to inflict trauma, loneliness, greed, and suffering on others. It would be a dark, heartless, thing to do to put someone else in a situation which makes them unable to avoid these corrupting forces.
And yet, in America we do this to our friends and neighbors all the time. We don’t give people help with trauma, and stigmatize it. We, myself included, are too busy to talk to our friends, family, and neighbors. We’re workaholics that go to great lengths to show our peers we are cooler than them. We try to insulate ourselves from struggle and leave people who don’t seem like us to fend for themselves.
Given that we mess up the basics so badly, we should expect our culture to be morally suspect. I’m almost relieved that moral corruption isn’t more pervasive here.