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03 April, 2017

THE EVIL OF GOODNESS: JEROME TEELUCKSINGH, Ph.D.

I am neither a theologian nor a philosopher but often wonder: What constitutes good and evil, positive or negative? What manner of persons would belong in these categories of moral and immoral? There is an obvious dichotomy and we live in a seemingly binary world but many do not acknowledge or are oblivious to the acceptance of the many shades of evil and goodness.


Should the State (government) decide what is right and wrong or should each citizen make that decision? Likewise, would a secular government possess the authority to eradicate or change religious practices or customs?


If the moral choice of an individual conflicts with that of the government, what should be the option or penalty? The individual’s freedom is important in a democracy and a democratically elected government also has a vital role.


In 2016, there were 462 murders in Trinidad and Tobago. This is a relatively high number in a small population of approximately 1.4 million persons. It is easy to argue that those who committed these acts would be labelled as “evil”. The debatable question is: Would those persons who did not act to prevent these murders be considered evil? Should the security forces (police and army) and the ruling government be considered evil because they did not provide sufficient security for citizens? Many citizens, who voted for the government, remained quiet and probably did not want to embarrass the politicians. Or maybe citizens had become complacent and grown accustomed to the regular reports of murders.


Those citizens, who read and heard the reports of heinous crimes, believed themselves to be law-abiding and good persons. Many (including myself) have a sense of goodness that we are living relatively decent lives. We can ignore the evil especially when it does not directly affect our lives. If someone is kidnapped or robbed, and not related to us or not within our circle of friends, then we can continue living (or surviving) without any sign of remorse or guilty conscience.


Is this phenomenon occurring in other countries across the globe? Yes, many of us remain in our comfort zones and do not want to publicly voice our displeasure or display any sign of discontent. Why? There is the fear of repercussions such as being jailed, victimized, killed, or the loss of a job. We want to remain within our safe comfort zones and certainly do not want to disturb the status quo. We met certain systems and ideologies and will leave this world without questioning or attempting to change these systems and ideologies. This is partly the reason why social problems as unemployment and poverty exist. We do not want to drastically disturb our environment or surroundings and appear different, confrontational, anti-government, radical, erratic, or odd.


Many of us continue our daily routine as if we are robots or remain silent as plants. An illustration is the manner in which we have dealt with traffic on the roadways. During rush hour, many sit in their vehicles and complain. But they would neither write to their political representative nor voice their opinion in a newspaper. Some vent their disgust in social media (Facebook, Twitter). They lose valuable time idling in traffic and do not make an effort to change the scenario. This is time that cannot be regained, it is gone and useless. The government either does not care or fails to realize the loss in human productivity. What is the lesson that is learned? It’s a simple lesson that is repeated -- we have learned to accept traffic as normal or congestion on the subway. Similarly, we have conditioned our minds to accept murders and serious crimes as normal and part of our existence.


However, we can accept limited changes in our lives. These include moving to a new apartment, making a new friend, marriage, death of a relative, migrating, travelling to a new country, divorce and obtaining a job. The reason that we accept and adapt to these changes is that we regularly witness or experience these changes.


What should be our stance on controversial issues such as abortion? Is there a right and wrong stance? For instance, a teenager who is raped and then becomes pregnant would want to have an abortion. Should the act of abortion, as a result of rape, be considered sinful or wrong? A woman who has a serious medical condition and her life is at risk or has a large family would consider abortion. Should she have control of her body to make the choice or should she be influenced or guided by government legislation or religious law? The use of marijuana would be considered wrong by some but some persons use medicinal purposes. There is a difference between recreational and medicinal purposes. Who is correct?


C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” seems accurate in stating:   “We humans call one thing good and another thing bad. But according to some people that is merely our human point of view. These people would say that the wiser you become, the less you would want to call anything good or bad, and the more clearly you would see that everything is good in one way and bad in another, and that nothing could have been different.”
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JEROME TEELUCKSINGH, Ph.D. is the Founder of International Men's Day (www.imd-global.org),  a Gender Issues Thought Leader, faculty member in the History Department of the University of West Indies, prolific author, and Contributing Editor to IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R).

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