What makes a person bad?
Since we are little we’re told, without a doubt, some actions are good and others are bad. It’s a definitive thing; black and white. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how wrong that is. Few things in life are completely good or bad. Funny, it seems people rarely talk about the gray area.
The in between has been forefront for me since going to Germany and visiting Dachau. Lessons had always focused on the evil that led to such a horrible situation — true. Many of those captured were faced with doing something horrible or death. Surviving meant starting over with nothing and having a place filled with horrific memories as the closest thing you’ve known to “home” in years. Fatal experiments were done, torturing those involved but resulting in discoveries that benefited those still living today.
This visit has planted a consideration in my mind that I can’t shake: What makes something or someone bad? And, if you consider them bad, does that really make them bad? Or, are you simply not privy to a side shared with others? Numerous historic figures were married, for example. Seems like there was at one point love in their heart.
This week the thoughts were fed thanks to the WNYC Radiolab podcast— Shout out to my Stitcher app for suggesting it — entitled the bad show. It explored the idea of being bad. One interesting theory debated was that of wanting to give people the benefit of the doubt. In literature and movies, many people doing bad have a reason; something happened and they snapped or they’re forced to do horrible acts to save those they love. We as the audience want there to be a reason. As I write this, I’m watching a special talking to young people who kill and asks them why? Do they feel remorse now? Am I drawn to this for an interest in violence? No; I often want to know why. I honestly expect there to be a reason; there has to be. But does there?
Does it matter why someone does something bad? If so, who defines bad.
Probably the last one to watch “The Help,” but saw it last night and was reminded of segregation evils. Everyday acts of disrespect which were accepted by many as acceptable. In fact, in many states, thinking otherwise and working for the civil rights movement was illegal. So what we currently see as being the right thing to do was often seen as wrong there.
What are we doing today that will be viewed this way in 40 to 50 years? Gay rights instantly comes to mind, but that can’t be the only one.
Maybe it’s a relative question. We are all capable of good and bad. Snarky remarks among friends then volunteering — does it balance things out? Will it be like “Drop Dead Diva” where each action is calculated like a tally sheet. Ultimately we will have made either more nice or mean decisions in life. The winning tally determines your classification. It can’t be that simple.
Throw any belief in destiny into the equation and it’s more complicated. For now, I’m exploring the realization of the world’s shades of gray.