The Modern Misunderstanding of What It Means to Be “Good”

Are we intrinsically good? This question has been raised on Ignite ME before, with the author making a claim that no religious catalogue of moral and immoral behaviour is needed for people to arrive at the haven of decency and kindness. While one can have an endless debate about the pros and cons of coming to conclusions about ethical treatment through personalised life experience as opposed to taking useful shortcuts delivered by universal ancient life hacks (which is what the Ten Commandments really are at the end – just imagine them on an online blog captured: “With these 10 rules you will never fuck up another incarnation again” and a general acceptance among youth is expected immediately) – the usefulness of such a debate remains questionable. Hence what will be of concern here is steering this battle of competing thought games towards a more concrete subject.

Have you ever noticed the need to “do something good in the world” among the youth of this era, this post-modernity we live in? Let’s forget about the job market and its crazy demands for proving social and humanitarian skills, making “Rescue Africa” projects a mandatory trend in which it’s “cool” to pose with a sad looking black child on your Facebook profile. Let’s rather look at those members of this new arising, enlightened generation who rediscover themselves as human beings rather than consumers of materialistic joys. These people have deeply thought about their lives (or regret their parents’ failings) and have decided to leave a positive imprint on this planet – hence pursue intercultural studies, understanding that this globe is growing together ever as quickly, and then move on to a meaningful job at an NGO that they believe is going to fulfill their lives and bring about the necessary changes the planet needs to become a fairer and more equal place. Has it worked? Have these people become happier than the rest of us? Do they see their dreams coming true? Maybe yes, for some of them. But the overall picture tells us, this mission failed a long time ago.

Yet, why is that so? Here is why: “Goodness”, as it’s perceived today, is being outsourced to certain organisations and activities that are labelled “good” according to our current understanding. The reasoning is “I have a shitty job and an annoying family, but on the weekends I go to that dog shelter and before Ramadan or Christmas I donate some of my old clothes (which I have already hated for the past five months) to those poor children in the other neighbourhood. By that I am still doing so much more than all of the other people I know.” Unfortunately, that might be true, but it’s far from the point. Not only do you find out when you enter an NGO that, at the end of the day, it, too, is run like any other cold-blooded corporation, making up nobel sounding reasons for their staff to keep their jobs for the reliable pay checks, keeping them competing for their jobs and trying to climb up the ladder as soon as possible – which all boils down to egoism. But you also discover that the only thing that is expected of you there is to be an obedient clerk filling out forms and you will know the answer to your question: “Will any of what I am doing here ever actually have an impact on a human life?”

So what is there to do? If you want to create a better world, then be good every day of the year, every day of the week, every hour of the day and every minute of the hour in any given place and any given circumstance. None of us has to go anywhere to be good. None of us has to go to a designated place with any confined frame and a calculated number representing the reimbursement for your goodness where, once you set your foot inside, you begin to give, and when you leave the building keep the rosy stuff all to yourself again. Understand that all of these confinements are just ideas that have no real value since they can and will be changed at any given moment, but that life is happening now. And now. And now. And that everything you see around you in this very second is worthy of receiving your goodness, your love. That includes yourself first and foremost, and the shopkeeper downstairs, the bus driver, your parents, the plant on your balcony, and even the things that always give you what you need but you probably don’t even appreciate because you think that’s just what they’re supposed to do. Work in a supermarket, but be good to your colleagues and your customers. Does good equal consequentially friendly? No, not necessarily. Each and every moment requires its own kind of reaction and sometimes doing good requires you to stop somebody from behaving “badly” and friendliness won’t always do the job. The main point here is: don’t be afraid. Because unfortunately, being “good” in the ancient sense found in the scriptures is not a trend today and you are going to stand out. And yet, you will be rewarded for your bravery in ways you cannot even imagine but will start to feel with the first flash of a new assertive smile on your face.

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