The concept “The Greater Good” is used to justify oppression, violence and even genocide – which cannot truly be in the interest of “good”, greater or otherwise.
People who promote religions and political systems often believe they are acting for the greater good. They always have the courage of their convictions, too, which makes them attractive to follow as leaders.
There seems to be an inverse relationship though, between the level of courage and the caliber of the conviction. Especially when the conviction is “for me and mine”, instead of for everyone.
The idea was expressed perhaps less elegantly, but more clearly in Star Trek :
The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few or the one.
In the Star Trek universe, this is a Vulcan saying and Vulcans are all about logic and that at all about emotion. While the Many and The Greater Good have numbers on their side, these ideas leave a lot of room to for very bad and even evil actions.
Neither concept defines what good or the need is.
And both fly in the face of civil rights, equality under the law and even fairness.
Under these principles, it’s easy to deny a portion of the population the ability to vote, have safe working conditions, or even be considered citizens deserving of equal treatment.
These two concepts are really just two fancy or high-minded seeming ways to say rule by the mob.
Who decides what is actually good?
If the largest part of the population’s framework for determining what “good” means is a faulty framework, then can it produce a direction towards actually good results?
We cannot say that simple majorities can determine good, because that means that any genocide of a minority population is good. But of course, it’s really not.
Clue: The reason we have put protection of minority rights into law, is because the majority cannot be trusted to be fair.
Religious groups frame good in the context of their religion – but, all religions have the same amount of evidence and logic behind them – which is to say none at all. So we really can’t use religion as a framework to determine good or bad.
Especially when all religions come down to anyone in the group is good and everyone outside the group has to be converted or killed.
Very few religions are content to leave non-members to their own devices.
The basic premise is that since you are not a member, you must be “saved” for your own good – and wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all one big happy family believing in the same god and worshiping it in the same way.
I was asked by a religious person “What evidence do you need to belive in god.” I’m not entirely sure which god, but it was one of the christian flavours.
I responded that it would be the same evidence that he would require in order to convert to worshiping Odin and the other Norse gods.
Anyone who trots out the Greater Good justification is saying that they know better for everyone, than everyone else knows for themselves.
The world is too complicated a place for any one person or think tank to really know what’s best. Especially when that “what’s best” always seems to be for everyone to act, think, dress and behave like the person or group pushing for their solutions.
That other people do not act or believe like them is incomprehensible. The only way people who believe in a particular way can make sense that others do not share their convictions or beliefs is to categorize us as perpetually rebelling teenagers, ignorant, willfully evil or angry at their god.
It never occurs to the extreme believers (right or left makes no difference) that what they believe to be self-evident really isn’t. It’s just what they accepted for whatever reason – it was taught to them as children, they are comfortable in the black and white framework, they confuse what they wish to be true as being true.
And for the Believer views and beliefs to be true, they must be true for everyone – and Believers do not deal well with other people being happy, successful or even existing without sharing the beliefs being pushed.
And that’s where the greater good comes into play. A person or group has decided for everyone what’s true and good.
That this good excludes some people, forces others to change, well, it’s really in their best interest, after all, we don’t really want people to go to a bad afterlife, we don’t want people to act immorally or amorally in this life. Basically, you only have free will if you follow the rules.
Which is when the irony meter exploded for everyone else.
I do not accept that the greater good is served when it is at the expense of a minority. I don’t even know how people can even enjoy a good outcome for themselves when they know that the opportunity for the outcome is specifically denied to others.
It comes down to entitlement – I don’t know how any man could go to vote in an election, knowing that his wife, sister, mother and especially daughters would not be permitted to cast a ballot as well.
I don’t know how any white landowner felt entitled to own other people as indentured servants or slaves to work the land.
I understand why people want to get married and I don’t expect heterosexuals to not be married until gays and lesbians can also marry – but, how do some people think that they are entitled to the over 1000 rights that come with marriage and gays/lesbians are not.
The basic premise of all religions is that the people who believe in the true one, are members of an exclusive club who are in the on truth and have a pass to the VIP afterlife – and for them to enjoy it, others must not only be denied it, but also be punished.
Aside: How can we get rid of bullying in school when adult society is all about pecking order and entitlement over others.
The basic premise of all bigotry is that the group the bigot is in, is better than all other groups. The inferior groups generally being women, other ethnicities, other religions, other mental/physical abilities, other body shapes, other sexualities, and just other other.
Which is why religion is often the validation, justification and motivation of/for bigotry.
I do not accept that the needs of the many outweigh the few or the one in all or even most cases.
I don’t accept this especially The One gets the short end of the stick, because it depends on who that “one” is.
Anyone who has a body guard is saying that their life is more important than the life of the person guarding them.
People in political and religious leadership roles are deemed more important than the rank and file.
Anyone who pushes for a certain public morality that they themselves fall short of is saying that they are more important than everyone else who should follow their rules. Putting yourself above “the rules” and especially your own version of “the rules” is saying you’re more important.
Going back to gay marriage….
The majority in most countries did not feel gay marriage was in society’s interests (read greater good).
Not having access to marriage is defiantly a disadvantage to gays and lesbians (the few).
But, the majority’s discomfort and opposition isn’t a justification to not allow gays and lesbians to marry. Especially when the minority interest really has no negative or really any impact on the majority.
You just have to share. Include people. Play nicely and treat others how you want to be treated.
Isn’t that what we’re trying to teach the children?
And aren’t they learning that words mean nothing and action is everything. That the adult words are in opposition to adult actions?
If human rights are to mean anything, they have to apply to everyone the same.
The path to that starts with seeing everyone as humans. With different views, beliefs and values. What’s true and self-evident to one is not likely so to another who grew up in a different environment.
Understanding those different views, where they come from and balancing them with our own is the first step to seeing each other as humans deserving of rights.