Between good and evil there exists a certain rebelliousness or naughtiness rooted in our capacity for cynicism. A lot of bad or anti-social behaviour stems from an intelligent appreciation or common-sense intuition that what is going on around one is a great deception, an enormous waste of time based on hypocritical notions of what is right and good. Where there is moral inconsistency and hypocrisy there will be cynical rebellion. Every criminal begins as a cynic, either through a reasoned discovery of the hypocrisy or through cynical education from family and peers, artists and rebels.
The “general good”, when it is neither particularly good or general, can therefore perpetuate a general naughtiness. Values are soft and flexible, everything can be moulded to suit one’s needs. Survivors in the dog-eat-dog world turn life into a joke: something that needs to be twisted and played with in an intellectual way in order to be bearable — even if this intellectual way is hardly ever clever at all. The more the joker suffers, the crueller and more unreasonable his or her pranks become. A society of cynics cries out for comprehension, until the permissiveness of society is interpreted as a free-rein for even crueller prodding into the ribs of anything trying to be authentically good and do the right thing.
In order for anyone to want to do anything, one has to feel capable of doing it. The criminal does the wrong thing because that is what he or she does best. For someone to think that he or she is better at doing bad things than good things, there has to be a learning that gives the criminal or pervert the notion that this judgement is right. The psychological schools, on the one hand, and the sociological methodologies, on the other, give us tools for appreciating what we do best even if our best behaviour is ethically wrong. Education, in the capitalist civilisation is a crutch, supporting excuses for doing what is humanistically wrong if that is what you do best. In this way society becomes plagued with geniuses of the craft of deception; masters of the arts of insults and rulers of manipulations that will get them exactly what they desire.
Opposed to these are the submissives who learn that the best they can do is follow orders and smile, or lower their heads when they are insulted.
The pleasure principle of psychology begins to poke its head in here. What we are good at; what we should be good at; and what we could be good at. The one good at receiving orders should also be good at giving orders – after all, one learns through submission the reasons and needs for orders to be handed out. The pleasure will come from one or the other, for those who are good at both.
One learns that radically shifting one’s own personality, and even identity features, can be a pleasurable game. Discovering a space to role play in – to delve into the naughty space between good and evil – brings pleasure, but it also undermines our capacity to do authentic good and recognise real evil.
When the answer to “what should I be good at?” amounts to “whatever gives me pleasure” society has a problem, because a society made up of ego-centric parts cannot function as a society. The prime question of society, and its members, has to be “what should we be good at?”.
But once we do ask what we should be good at, to then answer, “whatever gives us pleasure,” is immediately seen as problematical. Pleasure is never an objective, universal phenomena, even though all totalitarian regimes try to make it so. Pleasure must be a subjective phenomenon, and this makes it an inappropriate aim for society.
But what then is the answer to the question? What should we be good at?
Firstly, we should be good at being us, which means humanistically good; good in the sense of the universal community – and that goes beyond the humanistic restrictions of the nation-states or any kind of empire that is not universal. Only once that sense of universalism is established and the pillars of good and evil are clearly established, can we freely seek the pleasure that lies between those two columns.
For crass naughtiness to become purposeful rebelliousness, good must be clearly defined as a purposeful aim, and evil as the deliberate attempt to negate all authentic purposefulness.