Good Must Prevail

Good Must Prevail

There is an insidious idea that pervades many people’s moral outlook. At first glance, the idea might reassure us and give us hope, but if we examine it’s actual affect, we might be chilled to realize that this idea leads to very dark places. It is the idea that good will ultimately overcome evil.

When we envision ourselves and our place in the world, many (most?) of us think of ourselves as good. Even many (most?) “bad” people probably tend to think of themselves this way. From that point of view, that we are good, it is easy to conflate what we want that is good with all that we want more generally. Making this illogical but somewhat reasonable and understandable leap imbues all our decisions with a righteous quality to go along with the fact that it is already what we desire.

Now, if we imagine this confused but passionate soul struggling mightily for what he or she wants, we can see that the belief in good’s inevitable triumph is a powerful motivation to do selfish and/or evil acts. A wrongdoer will operate as virtuously as someone doing right. Evil will be propagated as vigorously as good. And, either someone else will have to counteract the misguided soul; that misguided soul will have to effectively reevaluate their actions and realize they are in the wrong; or, evil will win.

Even without conflating what we want and what is good, we might still end up batting for the wrong team. We might just get it wrong. In the real world, the villains can have all the same qualities as the heroes. They may be courageous. They may be wise. They may be beautiful. They may be reasonable. They may be popular. They may be “one of us”. They may be too strong to confront or defeat outright. They may be too useful or valuable or have too much authority or money or charisma, etc. to confront or defeat at all. (They might be good.) What does a hero do in this case, when good cannot prevail? It’s a moral minefield.

A hero that cannot vanquish evil is at risk of becoming evil. He might be taken to more and more desperate measures. He might lose hope and forsake good. If he continues to exert himself without effect, he might become damaged, warped, corrupted.
He may become lost.

We are good if we do good.
We will prevail if we are good at it.
We are bad if we do bad.
We will prevail if we are good at it.

Hubris leads us to think silly thoughts, like that we, our person, our flesh, our mind, our spirit, are incontrovertibly and incorruptibly good and that we, our person, our flesh, our mind, our spirit, are somehow fated to prevail, required to prevail in order to fulfill some grand, critical narrative of the universe.
“We must prevail . . .”, as it were.
It’s a dangerous idea because, “. . . even if we have to kill women and children.” and “. . . even if we have to enslave a society.” and “. . . even if we have to destroy the environment.” or even just, “. . . even if I have to cheat on this math test.”


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