If Virtue Equals Success…

I have a few Facebook friends that work out and love to post inspiring stuff about working out. Yesterday, one said “Everything I learned I learned in the gym. Hard work and commitment are all you need in life to achieve your goals.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it feeds into something I’ve been thinking about in society for a while now. I’ve seen it repeat in my history studies as well, and I think it bears acknowledgment.

What my friend (actually, he’s a bit of a dick) said the above is the echo of the American Dream. Success comes from virtue, being a good person, working hard, honesty, etc. You are rewarded for your Goodness. You can call it God’s Blessings, or Instant Karma, or whatever. They mean that if you are “good” you will have success.

But if that is true, then it would follow that if you don’t have success, you are a bad person. You’re not smart enough, or lazy, or violent, or drunk, etc. You have some flaw that is keeping you from millions of dollars and a yacht filled with women in bikinis and/or men in g strings.

Obviously that isn’t true. Bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad ones. But we cling to that belief like it’s a rope over a pit of lava. It influences the way we see and act toward other people, and not in a good way.

John Lennon was wrong. Instant Karma doesn’t get you. Dumb luck does.

two-face-i-make-my-own-luck

Wealth is Your Reward. Poverty is Your Punishment

“See that family in the trailer park? They must be drunks or meth addicts. That’s why they live there.”

“Don’t give that homeless guy change. He’ll probably just spend it on booze.”

“Those people on the welfare line?” They’re lazy. Get a job and quit sponging off my taxes!”

And on and on. We assume that they are bad, because they have bad circumstances. We use the scant examples of virtue leading to success as proof that it’s all we need. Success is 1% virtue and 99% luck (not data-based stats. It’s probably much less).

To blame someone else for your troubles is cowardice. Bravery is accepting your lot and trying to make it better.

We look down upon the poor, because part of us believes that they deserve it. They are bad people.  We also look up to the rich, because they must’ve earned it. They’re so smart, hard-working, dedicated, etc. We should be like them. It doesn’t matter if their parents were millionaires, sent them to the best schools, found them a great job through their connections, etc.

We worship the rich because we believe that they are worth worshiping, even if they’re only rich from inheritance or a sex tape (or both). But they are no better or worse than us, just like the poor. We all have virtues and vices, and they are separate from fame and fortune.

The Blame Game

“So why aren’t I rich? I’m a good person. Someone’s keeping me down. It’s not my fault, it’s their’s. They took our jobs. They rape and murder. They blah blah blah it’s not me.”

Sound familiar? It’s because you hear it every day, thrown at every “other.” It’s the immigrants. It’s the Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Pagans. It’s the feminists. It’s the government. They’re the reason my life sucks, not me. I’m infallible.

superman-immigration

People need to find a reason, no matter how absurd it is. To blame luck is to accept the random futility of life. You are not suffering because of anyone else. You are not suffering because of yourself. You are suffering because people suffer without cause and effect. The sooner you accept this and stop blaming others, the better off you will be.

Remember, you can play the game perfectly and still lose.

picard-still-lose

Praying to the Dollar

There’s a quote usually attributed to John Steinbeck, but I’m not so sure about that. It goes “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

I don’t think that it’s true, and I don’t think it has to do with Socialism (and I really don’t give a damn about Socialism) so much as how we see the rich and poor. It’s because according to the American Dream, the rich are virtuous and the poor are laden with vice. You reap what you sow. You get what’s comin’ to you, etc.

It’s bullshit. Stop worshiping the rich. Stop crapping on the poor. Start treating people like they’re people instead of a tax bracket.  Stop blaming others for our lack of joy. We’re all in the goddamn fights of our lives, and we’re all going to lose at the end.

Joy doesn’t come from winning, but from playing the game.

Stop complaining. Keep fighting.

cosmic-cat tripping balls redux

Advertisements

Real Life Alignment: A Pointless Voyage Into Good and Evil

I decided to take some time off of my shameless plugging in order to discuss something that is often, if not always, on my mind.

I am a nice person. I am always polite to people. I hold doors open. I compliment people for no other reason than to make them feel good. But am I a good person? There’s a difference, and being nice does not necessarily equate to being good.

I’m not saying that I am a bad person. I don’t think that there are many truly bad people in the world. There’s a current book out whose name I can’t remember. It says that one out of twenty people, 5% of the population, are sociopathic. They have no ability to feel empathy, or to act in any way other than for their own benefit. We all know at least one sociopath (I happen to know several). Not all of them are criminals or even noticeable in their sociopathy, but all of them are incurably selfish.

We are all selfish at one time or another, but that doesn’t make the person “bad.” Being selfish all of the time–being unable to be anything but selfish–that’s bad. Of course, there are other kinds of evil too. There are many normal people out there that have explosive tempers, or purposefully hurt someone to fill a need inside of them. I think these are learned traits, though, and different from sociopathic behavior. They’re just assholes.

I play a lot of roleplaying games. In D & D, they have something called “Alignment.” This is where you decide your character’s world view on an ethical (law vs chaos) and moral (good vs evil) scale. When I was younger, I used to argue with my DM that people were inherently good, and it was ethics that were variable. He countered that most people are neutral: they care about family and friends, maybe even the greater world around them, but they do little to help anyone outside their immediate circle.

I was an idealist. I am not anymore. I think that my DM is right. You can be a nice person, but unless you are taking an active stance towards improving the world, you are neutral. “Good” is reserved for heroism in RPGs, and in a lesser sense, in real life.

Because I’m a writer, and especially because I write speculative fiction, I am constantly grappling with the nature of good and evil. Song of Simon, for example. Simon begins as a “nice guy,” but an ordinary guy. He has fears, he has moments of selfishness. He makes bad decisions that come back to haunt him. Yet the novel is about him growing from a “nice person” into a “good person,” a person that will take a stand to defend what is right.

There are other characters in Song of Simon that are not quite so heroic. And there are those that appear heroic, but have done (and do) horrible things. I tried to show the variability of what is good and what is evil. Good and evil isn’t black and white. It isn’t even shades of gray. Good and evil is every color in the rainbow and every shade therein. It’s alizarin crimson and yellow ochre. It’s midnight blue and aquamarine. There are no simple answers to be found.

As for me, I’m going to make a change. I’m tired of just being a nice person. I want to be a good person. I want to help, and I’m gonna find some way to do it.