All it takes for a good person to do evil is the right set of circumstances and social conditioning.
I no longer see any magnitude difference between a man coming into my home and raping or killing me, than that same man walking into a voting booth to take away my civil rights because I’m a lesbian or because I’m atheist or some other group identifier.
When one person believes that another is not due any compassion or personal sovereignty, then removing rights and killing the person’s legal status is not substantially different than killing them outright.
What is it that makes it okay, even the right thing to do, for one person to send other people to their deaths?
Certainty in the rightness of their singular world view is the very scary answer, since the source of this certainty and the worldview tends to be religion.
There was a lot of discussion over the Islamic response to the Danish Cartoons and worrisomely, a lot of martyr-style whining from Western Democratic Christians about how they have to put up with so much abuse from Hollywood and the world of art, feminists, gays, secular society – and specifically, how they would not be able to get away with such violent behavior in response to such minor offenses that the Islamic world routinely looses their mind over.
Now, this is concerning on many levels – because foremost, it sounds a lot like the Christians are envying Islamic world because they regularly riot – so efforts are made to not offend. More worrisome, is that the Christians view the slights against Islam with a sense of proportion – it’s just cartoons – but they are not able to see any slight they perceive against themselves as being just a movie, a book, a painting, a whatever.
So, what the Christians are really saying, is that they want to respond to offenses with violent rioting and to turn back the clock and get to be able to be medieval on our asses again.
Aside: I have long suspected that one of the reasons that Christians object to gay newspapers is because the personal ads are sexuality explicit, and it’s not the explicit per se, but rather that a gay man can post an explicit advert citing size, sexual position and details and get many responses to that ad, but straight men can’t post a similar ad and get any or any quality responses from women. It’s jealousy, not moral outrage.
The only thing that is stopping the average theists in a Western Democratic country from behaving violently as a group is because the foundation for the nations are not religion. Western Democratic countries are not theocracies. Capitalism is the basis and under capitalism, you cannot afford to alienate whole swathes of customers or the labour force.
Combining capitalism with individual rights and freedoms – and religious beliefs are no longer the main framework for behavior in society. Religion is reduced from being the social contract to being a personal choice, your private business.
Public business is conducted on the basis of a secular structure.
This explains why theists are constantly feeling attacked, no matter what order of magnitude the offense is, because their private framework for understanding and responding to the world, isn’t shared by the world they inhabit.
The secular foundational laws – the US Bill of Rights, the Canadian Charter of rights – all the way back to the Magna Carta which set out rights as standardized and guaranteed law and meant that people were no longer ruled by the king’s whim – basically with the stoke of the signatures, removed religion from the public sphere – and religion has not gone willingly.
But, it is going steadily, as additional legislation is added to ensure that the broadly worded foundational documents clarify and specify that yes, Everyone means everyone, not everyone except this gender, or colour or sexuality or ability or religion or belief or or or or or whoever. Everyone means every one.
Except that religionists, because they had control of how everyone included is not feeling attacked because what everyone means is that they are not special and can’t discriminate – and they liked to discriminate, they’ve always been able to discriminate – and to take away their right and ability to discriminate is …wait for it…discriminating against them.
But, there is no right to discriminate and there is no way to be tolerant to bigots and be tolerant to those the bigots target. So, we accept the lesser of the discriminations and say that the historical discrimination is less acceptable, so get over it bigots. Learn to tolerate.
But, but, but say the religious bigots – look at those religious bigots who are rioting and destroying things and killing people. We’re not as bad.
Except, yah are, Bigot, yah are – yah just can’t get away with it anymore.
Because you live in a capitalist society that has individual freedoms, you can go and violently riot – but you will be arrested and charged. There are consequences for violent riots, because the basis for our society doesn’t allow for violent riots. Theocratic societies too – violent riots are encouraged and sanctioned even – because that way, those in power, remain in power and the average theist in a theocratic nation doesn’t start to think, hey, why is it that when Christians are offended that they don’t riot? What are they scared to lose? Don’t they love their god and want to show devotion to their god? Why do they allow other people to blaspheme?
And, as long as the average theocratic theists continues in that mindset, then they will view Christians as weak in faith and go and go kill someone for wanting to vote or not wear the magic clothes or blow themselves up to make their god’s point.
But, if the average theocratic theist took a moment, and looked at the distribution of wealth in their country compared to a Capitalist democratic one – if they turned to themselves to support themselves and have a good life now and not later, in the afterlife after decades of suffering in poverty and trying to balance middle ages society with modern technology – they might instead of rioting for god, riot against the government – and start to expect individual rights and freedoms.
Wait, that’s actually is what’s happening in Egypt and Libya. So, why is it that the Americans, who used be to the shining light of human rights in the world, are now looking to go back in time, when, that light is finally reflecting back?
Capitalism is a civilizing influence and it needs to be alloyed or tempered with collectivism, to ensure that everyone truly has equal access and treatment under the law to be sustainable. We have to err on the side of inclusion and tolerance and not allow intolerance to flourish, even when it means being intolerant to intolerance.
All it takes for a good person to do good, is give consideration to the next person who is seemed lesser than by society. In that way, we are all elevated and meaningful equality becomes possible. Not just equal under the law or equal access.