Who says that good is good?
[March 3, 2000]
This poem, appended below, is part of an article that I wrote for a Bangladeshi Internet forum called Alochona. There was a context for writing this piece, which should be obvious from the article itself.
Dear Alochona friends,
Salam and greetings.
It has been a while since I have written on Alochona, but I still continue to be a regular reader. After all, writers need to do their reading too. Therefore, little bit of pause in "discussions" sometimes helps me read better, which then helps when I actively write. Another word, to keep some proportion in our intellectual exertions, reading, at least as much as writing, is good. Oops! I promised myself today that in this piece of writing I won't use that word: "good". Indeed, using this word too often has become a bad habit. Before any thing, I must beg of you that you must not take this write-up too seriously. Otherwise, my JESTful attempt would JUST go in vain.
Indeed, it may be our national character that we are complainers. We don't see much good around us. But the bads - may be somewhat disproportionately more than goods - draw most of our attention. Isn't this a bad habit? We have become so good (oops, I used it again) in complaining about bads.
One of the recent postings of one of the fellow alochoks, Mr. Chisti provoked me to think about this good and bad in a new perspective. In a well-written posting, "Sexual Assault - the Continuing Saga", he wrote: "I posit that we base our laws not on subjective notions of respect for this individual or that group but on reasons that makes practical, economic sense. Basing them on high moral principles will fail because BEING MORALLY GOOD IS NOT INNATELY HUMAN." [emphasis is mine]
Many of us have grown up with some fixed, frozen notions of moral principles. [I would ignore the "high" - "low" distinction about moral principles as I am not really very good at (oops, I used it again) making that distinction.] Indeed, we used to consider ourselves as human beings in a category all by ourselves. We are "moral" beings. What we do have is a "moral" (from the view point of religionists) and "ethical" (from the viewpoint of secularists) dimension, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, where there is no moral/ethical judgment or qualm as the behavior in the animal kingdom, except we the humanoids, is merely "innate" or "instinctive". We have understood that "being morally good" is not easy - it never came easy, but it's worth and we are defined by such moral dimension. We call the world of the animals, "jungle", but based on this "innate" theory I have a feeling, an awakening, a new realization (choitonnodoy) that we have serious flaw in our understanding of the world around us. Our problem has been fixation with moral good and a "false" premise and arrogance that we are better than our ancestors.
I, along with many among you, have grown up thinking about being good - of course, in a moral sense - is a good thing (did I use that word again?). We have been thinking that as human being we are superior to the rest of the animal kingdom. But the scientists, some of the brightest human minds, are helping us to realize that much of what we attribute to morally "bad", may be, we should not.
Recently, based on a news story similar to the one mentioned by Mr. Chisti, I wrote a piece "Poor rapists! It's "natural" according to new scientific theory" [Jan 27, 2000; http://www.onelist.com/omessages/Shetubondhon?archive=36 ]. We have been unduly feeling so bad about these poor rapists as what they usually do or act up to do is merely "innate" male-human nature. By the way, those scientific studies as covered in my article is backed by rigorous research on "insects".
Earlier, scientists have already "posited" that many criminals are simply biologically disposed based on their "evolutionary" - genetic characteristics. Isn't it terrible to criminalize their "innate" behavior over which they don't have any control? New age science is already close to convincing our modern minds that sexual orientation is merely "innate" to individuals based on their acquired biological traits in the process of evolution. How dare people bring moral judgment or perspective into this?
Just look at the bright side of such new age science. If these behavioral traits of human beings are rooted in our "innate" nature, then, first of all, there might be some medical remedies (Oops! "Remedy" would be a morally judgmental expression) for such conditions. Secondly, if scientifically it's proven and, especially those vast majority among us, whose irrational mind-sets are still not liberated from old, frozen shackles of moral precepts and standards, would be persuaded to be really free, then all these good/bad moral judgment would be simply trashed like so many other things of the old-past have been. And, we will be liberated, at last.
Indeed, I have hard time understanding why do we often fuss about our jungle of politics. What I see is that probably our political parties and elites are behaving according to their "innate" human nature. They want power, control, wealth. Moreover, they would like to have those all by themselves. Is that really bad? Why should we make "moral" issue out of it? Let's simply treat these as reflections of our "innate" human nature and get over our qualms. Isn't "survival of the fittest" instinct an important dimension of "innate" human nature? It appears that some "smart" (or more fitting) minds have already figured out the rule of the economic games. They borrow large amount of money knowing/expecting that they won't have to pay back. They are acting simply based on their pristine economic sense as a confirmation that "being morally good is not 'innately' human."
Sometime I fail to understand what is this fuss about that America nuked the Japanese, or Hitler exterminated a good (oops, I used that word again) many of our Semitic brothers (sisters included), or Pakistani military committed genocide and mass rapes? Wasn't what these people have done is a reflection of their "innate" human nature? After all, "being morally good" wouldn't have been so easy in any of these cases?
What is all this nostalgia, especially of these well-to-do expatriate Bangladeshi professionals, about a land called Bangladesh? Why should they care? Is "caring" an "innate" human nature? If it is, then we don't need to have all this fuss, as it is expected to be acted out "naturally". Why should Awami League behave in any way different than what it is doing now (clinging to power and fortifying its hegemony by whatever means necessary), or why should we expect the oppositions to behave any different than their committed pursuit of short-circuiting the democracy? What is bad about what all of them are doing?
I think I am now having a better grasp of issues and problems. It's really our old-fashioned, ineffective, fixation with "moral" standards. Let's get over this terrible hangover. Let's follow what "works" from economic, social, political, military viewpoint. It won't be long before we can put all our worries, concerns and complain about bads to rest.
One more thing we will achieve in this process. In our superstitious mode of thinking and culture, even in this age of science and rationality, we have alienated ourselves from our true heritage and bond - our ancestors. Being true to our "innate" nature, while discarding the nauseating moralities, we would free ourselves from our terrible human arrogance and be closer to our ancestors.
Suddenly, I can see my last visit to the zoo in a completely new light. While we the poor human souls are striving day and night for a little glimpse of happiness, there they were - right in front of my eyes. Those wonderful monkeys! With tails proudly projected toward the sky they were "monkey"ing around - I did not see a trace of any sadness or complain. I saw only happiness - pristine happiness! Your experience might concur with mine: each of those relatives of ours threw at me the most happy grins I have ever seen. Quite instinctively, I felt closer to them. I didn't realize when my hand reached my back probably in search of my coccyx, the special bone, the tailbone: an infallible proof, at least to me, of our missing evolutionary link to our tailed ancestral relatives. One of those relatives was throwing at me a curious stare, as if saying "what monkeys you have made of yourselves, o humanoids?".
Yes, for our better future, we must bury our morals, especially the "high" ones. Also, to facilitate the ushering in of that better future, let's teach our kids, and the new generation, our new age maxim: "BEING MORALLY GOOD IS NOT INNATELY HUMAN. Therefore, our decisions, policies, laws should be motivated and guided by, more than anything else, our practical, economic sense."
Let me conclude by saying:
Who says that good is good?
Wake up the world!
In this question, for thought
there is tremendous food.
After all, isn't it merely matter of semantics?
Who says that bad is so bad?
For raising these questions, I plead your forgiveness;
At me, please don't get mad.
Let's have a new revolution!
Let's discard these stale morals of good or bad;
The truth is: but what is truth anyway?
I haven't thought this way, but I wish I had.
Ah! If good is not good any more,
bad would be good - kind of new fad;
Just the thought of this convolution feels so GOOD,
No, no, I must not use that word; it's a habit so bad!
Let's not cling to the past.
Let's not have this hangover of "moral" sense;
We have suffered enough already;
Let's now devote to our "economic" cents.