Can We do Good?

I’ve often written about religion, both supporting many of its inherent qualities, and criticizing its more superficial adoption and the wider ramifications of such carelessness. A quote comes to mind, the essence of which is, you will always have people doing good acts and evil acts, but it takes religion to make a good person do evil acts. It’s not just religion, though. It is any belief that has not been fully examined.

You might say that Wall Street people, the banking people and our Washington leaders have a religion. Perhaps it’s a little like that golden calf the Jewish people made by collecting up all the people’s gold, melting into an image of idolatry, and worshiped in place of God. But what happens if we do not give up our gold?

Government is not evil, necessarily. It has a potential to unite us in common causes, just like religion. Just like the pursuit of idols. The important thing to remember is that all are human creations, whose purpose was, at least at one time, to help us unite our collective selves together.

Ideologies and beliefs are powerful. They are often even stronger than tradition and habit. It is the easy path, thinking in habitual ways. These ways are safe, they require little effort, and you can find many people to back you up. However, these ways are never the way of the hero. The habitual is not the way of the martyr. Change requires a sacrifice of one thing for another.

It is this line of thinking from which the often touted term “jihad” emerges. But what is holy to us? A tattered and dilapidated notion of true freedom? Some intangible fluff represented by “the pursuit of happiness”? Some radically unbalanced notion of Justice? It takes belief to make a good person do evil.

Right now, the United States has more people in prison than anyone else in the world. We are utterly without peer for taking away people’s freedom. We also invade more countries and fight more wars than any other country on Earth. We bribe and coerce more governments than anyone else, to insure that America’s “best interests” are realized. What are these interests? Well, in South America it was making certain our oil companies and other corporate interests were firmly rooted, and that nobody there had free health care or easy access to education. This, in exchange for a promise of prosperity under dictatorships and coups we staged. This is why Iran dislikes and distrusts us, too. And England. We are not a good country.

Yes paradoxically, we are good. Almost all of us, individually, are good people. So how is it that our leaders, both locally and nationally, somehow turn us into this giant black-hearted oppression machine? We don’t want people be killed so that Exxon can get more oil. We don’t want millions of people to slowly starve to death because they won’t agree to grow just a few select crops and import the rest from us, and other key partners. We don’t think people should be left to die when they don’t have money. We don’t want people to be tortured.

It is obvious that our government does not represent our wishes. Instead, our government represents ideologies that are devoid of a human conscience. However, our government is large. Many social programs within our government do represent our wishes. Unfortunately, the prevailing ideologies believe that we have limitless money to spend on the industries devoted to killling people, yet no money to spend upon ourselves, for the benefit of even our most basic humanity.

I can scarcely imagine what society we might create if we devoted our resources toward our own betterment instead of siphoning out all our resources to feed the machinery that only can kill. I don’t even mind the idea of a very large government, as long as it served the true best interests of the United States, which is the interests of all its people.

Unfortunately, it is ingrained into us from early on that our best course, as an individual, is to seek all that we want and desire for ourselves. There is little thought given to seeking what would be best for all people, not just ourselves. This mentality lingers even still. What business owner does not create and dangle carrots of hope before his employees, yet always holds absolute control within themselves? What intents and arrangements are formed between business people that do not, inevitably, lead to the fulfillment and triumph of one self-interested strategy over another? Is it any wonder that we normal people, when placed in a position of power, become corrupt by the inherent idolatry that has permeated the very formation of our character, and as such, is often invisible, even to ourselves?

When you are a religious person who tries seeing the world from outside the limiting scope of your belief, you encounter one of the greatest challenges that anyone might face. That challenge is, truly looking at yourself. This is the challenge we face. Any change that comes without meeting this challenge will be only the most superficial and meaningless change.

And in the spirit of government being capable of good, I have to mention Heidi. She lives deep in the bowels of the Center for Disease Control in California with all her biology ickyness — I mean goodness. We have a very long history. Heidi is an extraordinarily intelligent person, and I don’t say that lightly. She’s probably smarter than me, though I’ll never admit it. Strangely, I can never remember us ever really arguing about anything, though we have some fairly pronounced differences. She is exceptionally gracious. I could say that I am, at least, more honest than her, but I’d be dishonest saying it. I love Heidi — she is one of a kind.

The CDC has started requiring a couple days off each month, I am imagining, as a result of budget constraints. With this small bit of free time, Heidi has started offering health consultancy. I have no idea why, considering she is also a professor at UC SF and UC Berkeley. Her research specialties are sexually transmitted diseases and women’s health issues, including the insidious HPV, and also the collection of medical data for analysis. I mention this because some of you are policy makers who can most certainly benefit by listening to someone of Heidi’s character and expertise, and you, Johnny my boy, Mr. Big Wig at Planned Parenthood, if you guys need some serious research expertise.

Anyway, you can contact Heidi and learn more about the all-around sexy creature herself on her website. But don’t get the wrong idea from my silly words, this woman is hard-core. Mind like a vice grip. Now you’ve been warned, too.

We need to spend all that we possibly can on education for people. We need to focus our thoughts and energies into bettering our lives, and realizing that a better life does not, in any way, mean the accumulation of money credits. A better life is simply, just about each other.