Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Doing What is Right

If a person of strong character firmly believes he is in the right, he will be willing to stand alone against all opposition and do what he believes is right without compromise, even at his own peril.

Many stories are told and retold that have this underlying premise. The protagonist is celebrated as a hero and the antagonists are reviled. Even many stories of martyrs and saints follow this formula. We should all strive to this level of commitment when tested, no?

Oddly, history is replete with tragedies and horror stories that follow precisely this same formula, yet somehow we fail to recognize them as the same. Consider this exchange:

I heard that if you attack with the intent of helping another see the errors of his ways rather than ego, control, or fear, then the attack comes from a good place.
Tomás de Torquemada?

Would we doubt the sincerity of the Grand Inquisitor's faith and belief that what he was doing was right and just? Would we doubt that Hitler believed he was doing the right thing? Do not even suicide victims believe they are doing what is best?

Why do you do what you do? In what is your sense of right and wrong rooted? Is it from a sense of Faith? Justice? Patriotism? Nationalism? Political affiliation? Company employment? Contractual obligation? Tradition? Custom? Honor? Even the simple need to be seen as the one in the right?

Right and wrong are a cloud cut in two, a layer of thought around a layer of concept.

So when you act, who is driving your body? Is it You, or have you surrendered it to an Ideal?

Doing what is Right,
You are already so Wrong.
How can you survive?

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