the good, the bad and the stupid
I will make it
easy for myself, and start with quoting from my chapter 11
annexed to "On
"The Logic of Moral Discourse"":
In fact, much of what I could say here is in Goffman
reveals all (nearly) - Groups & Groupthinking; for Dutch
readers in my
note to Multatuli's Idee 1211; and in my chapter 11
to "On the Logic of
Moral Discourse", so I don't say but link it, and only
concentrate one relevant consideration in an arithmetical way:
One way of understanding society - any
human society anywhere, of sufficient size, say 10 or a 100 or more not
specially selected persons - is that the good : the bad : the stupid = 1 : 9
: 90. Alternatively expressed but to the same effect: the intelligent :
unintelligent = 1 : 9 and the unegoistic : egoistic = 1 : 9, and
intelligence and egoism are independent.
Note that part of my meaning is that the bad
is normally the harm
that is done actively or passively to others because of egoism,
malevolence, and that it is for the most part due, in everyday
human practice, to indifference, convenience, or conformism:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is
for good men to do nothing."
-- Edmund Burke
With this understanding, viz. that it is normally a lot
easier to leave the good one sees one should do, on one's own
principles, undone - because leaving it undone is very often easier,
more convenient, better paid, or more normal or correct.
Putting it all in a table with
percentages (while remembering that intelligence
and moral courage are probably for the largest part determined by
innate factors, and non posse nemo obligatur):
|| not good
| not intelligent
| not intelligent
|| not good
That is one important part of the
reason why Hazlitt
was right and so much of human society so often is in such a mess:
"If mankind had wished for what is right, they
might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are
prone to mischief, 'to every good work reprobate.'"
Next, another important part of
the reasons why man's inhumanity to man is so common os that all
members of society have a public and a private face
and role, and the public face consists mostly of deception.
The public character
people assume is usually
1. composed of lies that are derived from what they think is
supposed to be desirable behaviour of members of their society
2. it is a role played by an actor for the rewards one's
society provides for playing this role or for the punishments
one's society provides for not playing the role and
3. it consists of deception even if one's deceptions happen to be
one knows one is playing a role.
Seen in the light of these
important points - the distributions of intelligence and egoism and the
fact that all social acting consists of role-playing in which
deception is the norm - it is not so strange nearly all social and
political analyses are false, phoney and illusory, and also part of
role-playing and delusion or deception.
And - it seems - (3) is important:
Those who make a career are those who are known to be liars by those
who already have made a career. Somebody who is honest won't get far in
any society or group, even if - very privately - many will agree he is
honest and truthful.
The best expositions I know about
the problems I am treating here in a simplistic and generalizing manner
- A. Anti-totalitarian texts:
Talmon: "The rise of totalitarian democracy";
Farm", "1984" and "Collected Essays and Letters";
Revèl: "The totalitarian temptation".
- B. Texts on socialism:
Conquest: "The Great Terror";
Hayek: "Road to serfdom";
You'll find more about this in the context of chapter 11
I mentioned earlier. And here is a relevant diagnostic quotation of a
more comprehensive type, from T.H. White's
The Book of Merlyn:
"What are we, then, at present?"
"We find that at present the human race is divided
politically into one wise man, nine knaves and ninety fools out of
every hundred. That is, by an optimistic observer. The nine knaves
assemble themselves under the banner of the most knavish among them,
and become 'politicians': the wise man stands out, because he knows
himself to be hopelessly outnumbered, and devotes himself to poetry,
mathematics or philosophy; while the ninety fools plod off behind the
banners of the nine villains, according to fancy, into the labyrinths
of chicanery, malice and warfare. It is pleasant to have command,
observed Sancho Panza, even over a flock of sheep, and that is why
politicians raise their banners. It is, moreover, the same thing for
the sheep, whatever the banner. If it is democracy, then the nine
knaves will become members of parliament; if fascism will become party
leaders; if communism, commissars. Nothing will be different, except
the name. The fools will still be fools, the knaves still leaders, the
result still exploitation. As for the wise man, his lot will be much
the same under any ideology. Under democracy he will be encouraged to
starve to death in a garret, under fascism he will be put in a
concentration camp, under communism he will be liquidated. This is an
optimistic but on the whole scientific statement (...)"
(T.H. White: "The Book of Merlyn" p. 50-51)
Anyway... there's more along similar lines in
Boétie's The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.
So in this short piece you have found links or references
to no less than twelve explanations for man's inhumanity to man.
1. "On the Logic of
Moral Discourse" esp.
2. Ervin Goffman: "The Presentation of
Self in Everyday Life"
3. Talmon: "The rise of
4-6. Orwell: "Animal Farm",
"1984" and "Collected Essays and Letters"
7. Revèl: "The totalitarian temptation"
8. Conquest: "The Great Terror"
9. Hayek: "Road to serfdom"
10. Zinoviev: "Yawning Heights"
T.H. White: "The Book of Merlyn"
Boétie: "The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude"