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Good people – Bad World / 15 pages – Download Back

Why just being good isn't enough to improve the world

 

Reading sample:

Class 1: Towards a better world

The world is full of good people - and it's been that way for quite a while. Almost all religions, spiritual movements, consciousness-schools, philosophies, educational projects and policy initiatives share that goal: the development of mankind and making the earth a better place. With so much effort and labor, you would think we would have reached the finish line by now. But just like the horizon, with each new effort made, the distance to this goal seems to move further and further away.

If we look to the outside, into the mirror the world provides, we see very clearly that something is wrong with us. The huge mountains of debt - even those of developed countries, the unjust distribution of wealth, the pollution of the oceans with toxins and plastic waste, deforestation and soil erosion, air pollution levels, the many wars and frozen conflicts, the millions of refugees. Some of these problems are generated at a higher level - for example, in politics or in the financial world - so that an individual can have very little influence on them. But even at these higher levels there are people making decisions and taking action who very much want to be seen as good people. But what is good and what is not?
Napoleon and, yes, even Stalin and Hitler still have millions of fans: the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela too. In between, we have the whole range of human meanness and kindness.

And on the normal level of the reality of our everyday life, even more things happen that are not easy to categorize. We know that the bargain price of the t-shirt bought without a second thought could only have been achieved under inhumane manufacturing conditions; we know that the long journey that we are making only for our pleasure harms the environment; we know that we would fair just as well with a smaller car or a simpler smartphone.
The sheer number of relatively small acts of fraud and waste add up to huge problems worldwide. The ever faster growing exploitation and wastage due to ever cheaper food, clothes and electrical appliances; the self-exploitation that comes into our lives with modern media and which penetrates and commercializes the private spheres of life ever increasingly - all of this we are well aware of and yet it always gets more -instead of less.

How can this be, with so many good people around? When does the tide turn and take us back to a world that is truly in balance?

Do you know a single place on this earth where everything is in order?
Sometimes it seems this way when we are in love, traveling, or in a particular community. But if we look closely, we realize that the goodness of the situation has been attained by excluding some basic aspects of the human condition.

Lovers have their deep confrontations still to come; the traveler is in the privileged situation to move on at any time; special communities live according to rules that can never apply to all people.
If you and I could determine how this world should be - would it then be a really good place? Are we mostly good as a whole? And does something really good spring forth in the world as a result of our goodness?

I've have searched for a long time, but I do not know a single place in the world where everything is permanently and comprehendsively in order. This realization leads me to my central question: Is it enough to be a good person? According to my definition, good people are those who work to ensure that they themselves, as many other people as possible and the earth are all doing well.

To this end, I see only two plausible paths: one, we have to intensify our efforts a bit more. There must be even more commitment and willingness to help, even more of helping people to help themselves and even more environmental protection. For this purpose, better logistics, more efficient technology, cheaper medicine and fairer trading conditions are needed. This is the common logic that soothes us with the promise: work at it a little harder, soon we'll get results.

Or the second approach: there is something fundamentally wrong with our goodness. Its lack of success is part of its nature. Unless we understand this, we will chase the mirage of a good world just as the donkey chases a carrot. The donkey only keeps trying because he doesn't see, who is holding the carrot.

If I were to heed the first statement, which says that we only need to put a little more effort in, I could give you hints and tips on how you can strengthen your positive, loving, supportive, respectful and compassionate qualities. I could tell you what you can do to more effectively be a good person. That wouldn't be a wrong thing to do. It would probably help to improve the world a little.

But because this approach has been pursued for so long by so many people, I would like to make a new proposal: let's try to understand our own good will better.

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