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    The Greater Good Governs Society

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    The world is in a very precarious place whereby society today is formed by the ideals of what is considered to be the ‘greater good’. The reason quotations are used for the term is due to the fact that it’s quite difficult to get a solid definition of the word to which the general public can agree on. There is no true definition of the word since every individual has their own idea of what is considered the best outcome for any given situation. The greater good was created with the idea of benefiting the most amount of people. However this idea has morphed over the years into a deception of wanting others to believe in an individualistic selfish purpose.

    The greater good initially had the best interest of people at heart but now its a way to sell an ideology by guilt tripping the people who don’t see eye to eye. I would value the idea of the greater good much like the trojan horse. The Trojan Horse is a story from the Trojan War in which the trick was for the Greeks to enter the independent city of Troy and win the war. After a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse and hid a select force of men inside, including Odysseus.

    The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under the cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war. Metaphorically speaking the Trojan Horse refers to any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or place. The concept of a greater good is much like the idea of selling an imaginary picture of what life may look like if everyone is like minded towards a certain goal.

    By implanting the seed of thought, more people willingly buy into it as the selling point as nobody loses at the end of the day so obviously the concept has no flaws much like how the horse baits the foe. The securely protected bastion is likened to the human mind as we allow new ideologies to penetrate the mind without going through logical reasoning. Today many individuals around the world don’t know what to believe in and end up accepting whatever it is the majority believes. The idea of a majority staying in power for eternity mainly due to ideological capture by constant verification that they are on the right side is a wrong approach towards true freedom.

    Believe Me

    Greater good

    Social media has brought forward many questionable social groups to have a platform to cause polarization rates to increase rapidly by practicing the concept of the greater good. People are tweeting and spreading their own version of what they believe is the best approach to shape society and also creating cult like movements to back their claims. These social groups have set the precedent that anyone who believes in an opposing ideology is clearly in the wrong. It has become more and more common to read statements that insinuate a jab at individuals who are skeptical towards something that is too good to be true.

    If you are Not on this Side then You are Clearly on the Wrong Side

    These quotes are very often thrown around on social media and the reason why many people easily buy into the concept of greater good. It has become increasingly difficult for individuals to maintain a level of authenticity when society today thrives on like mindedness in the attempts to fit in and seek validation. The idea of the greater good which raises an ethical question has somehow managed to have a psychological hold on the generation causing them to change for others. This theory was tested through the Asch Conformity Experiment which is an experiment to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform.

    The line judgement test was an extremely popular method to prove the concept. Each person in the room had to state aloud which comparison line (A, B or C) was most like the target line. The answer was always obvious.  The real participant sat at the end of the row and gave his or her answer last. After listening to all the paid actors the wrong answer the last person would question their answer which was evidently correct and end up following the crowd by answering the false answer.

    This same scenario is happening in the real world where people blindly follow others but only now this behavior is destructive as it involves ideologies, political views and also economical policies. Just because the general public believes in one policy does not necessarily mean its the best option and the idea of a greater good is in most cases non existent due to the fact that there is no perfect solution to any problem. The best we can do is source our information wisely and make a coherent conclusion after being provided all the required information.

    True Freedom

    Greater good

    We fail to understand that we as a society are never and will never be truly free as we are forced to live in a constrained environment. Our values and beliefs will never originate from the depths originality as there will always be outside influence that poisons our thoughts. Those who believe they are free fail to realize that they are being watched, inspected, spied upon, directed law driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured and commanded by beings who neither have the right or wisdom to do so. [Pierre-Joseph Proudhon]

    Accepting the fact that we will never truly be free is the first step towards tackling the idea of the greater good as we must first stop living in constant denial. When we acknowledge our chains we are able to push back and understand the concept of what it means to be altruistic and live a life beyond ourselves. Our decisions lie in being greater than ourselves by merely being ourselves. Widespread ignorance regarding our lack of freedom isn’t the main reason why freedom is slowly retreating, instead the kiss of death for our freedom lies in the belief of the greater good.

    ” The great citizens of a country are not those who bend the knee before authority but rather those who, against authority if need be, are adamant as to the honor and freedom of the country”

    Albert Camus

    Collectivism has taken over the minds of the youth and many people are being easily indoctrinated by a flawed system. In a society where opinions are structured based on the majority we have to ask the question on whether or not the individual exists for the society or does the society exist for the sake of individuals. Collectivism believes in the first statement and so the individual has to subordinate himself to and conduct himself for the benefit of society. The individual has to sacrifice his selfish private interests to the common good and this is how the concept of the greater good was born.

    This collectivist mindset is the foundation for communism, fascism and socialism as the idea stands that it should always be the common good before the individual good– Adolf Hitler. The idea of collectivism was widespread through many eras of civilization dating back all the way to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Lenin. These dictators believed in the idea of the greater good and were seen as individuals that were against capitalism. Somehow these individuals who believed in the idea of common good ended up being the ones to cause mass destruction. The question is how does one reach to such a point when the good of the people is seen as the top priority?

    “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”

    Gothe

    The Great Flaw

    Greater good

    The practical application of this ideology does not seem to work due to the fact that the idea of sacrificing ones personal interest for the sake of society, insinuates that society is more than abstract and is in fact concrete. The reality is ‘society’ is nothing more than a term, a concept for the symbiosis of a group of human beings. A concept is not a carrier of life– Carl Jung. In contrast to the individual which has a real existence in the world, society is an abstraction used to represent an ever changing collection of individuals living and interacting in close proximity. There is no such concrete entity for society and that is the way it will forever remain.

    Society is merely a manifestation of the thoughts and actions of people. There is no end goal for this concept as nobody knows what it is to be a perfect. There are merely written scenarios of what a perfect society could encompass but the sad reality is if the individuals are the ones that make up a society, every individual has to lead a perfect life in order for the term of society to embody the use of the word perfection. Society has no life of its own apart from the individual and therefore not an end in itself. All life is individual life and thus the ultimate meaning for a collective term is still to be found.

    Thus for the idea of the greater good to come into play, a group of individuals must be given the authority to decide what exactly is needed by society. This group of individuals in the past may be classified as the upper class such the priests and scribes of Ancient Egypt, the Leisure class of Ancient Greece, the Brahmins of Ancient India and the Shi or Gentry scholars of Ancient China. This proves that the greater good in most cases only amounts to those in power.

    In a collectivist system the individual will always be the victim as they are commanded to be ‘unselfish’ in sacrificial service to some allegedly higher value called God, or pharaoh or emperor or king or society or state or the cosmos .

    Nathaniel Branden (The Psychology of Romantic Love)

    We have been brought up with the idea of the greater good from many different aspects. We assign ourselves a lower value than most things in existence due to the sheer grandeur of all the unsolved mysteries we face in the universe. There were times in which man would sacrifice himself on the altar for the good of the tribe under the idea of selflessness but the truth is in most cases there is no selfless good deed and it is the sense of selfishness that leads us to the idea of collectivism. We feel that we are living for a greater purpose if we sacrifice our ideals for the sake of others.

    It is this morality that has served of justification for every dictatorship and every atrocity, past or present. The greater good is driven by the idea that a single person is something subordinate and as such should dedicate himself to the ethical whole– George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The symbiosis between authority and its subordinates has been a very complex relationship to decipher. It is hard to draw the ethical line in which produces the guidelines on how we are to live harmoniously with those who hold power over our lives.

    Society Exists for Us

    Greater good

    An individual who opposes the idea of the greater good believes that society exists for the individual due to the fact that the individual is king and all other things exist for the king– Auberon Herbert. It can be said that many facilities, amenities or creations in general exist to serve the individual and thus society would be a void concept if it wasn’t for the individual who gives meaning to the word. It can be said that we should have a say and live our lives as we please so long as we do not impede the lives of others.

    Those who support individual rights are not motivated by an insensitivity to the suffering of others but rather by the recognition that includes granting each of us the freedom to pursue our own good. By pursuing a life that is self fulfilling we are able to contribute to the ideals of the greater good on a much larger scale. Collectivists believe that the greater good is a means of achieving self satisfaction as well as fulfilling the satisfaction of others who may need the help of others. We live as a collective entity that relies on one another in a complex social entanglement.

    Centralized control is the key feature when it comes to the greater good and it is the way that allows one figure or group to make the most prominent decisions. This removes the ability of the individual to make their own decisions for the betterment of their own personal life as there is always an after effect for every individualistic decision, in which the effects are experienced by others in a society.

    “If you don’t say what you think then you kill your unborn self.”
    ― Jordan B. Peterson

    Individual rights allow us to live our lives and make our own decisions so long as they don’t directly affect the individual rights of another human being. This proves that every individual has the freedom to be equal before the law, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to public assembly, etc. These individual rights are in danger if the idea of the greater good becomes the social norm as it will limit the opinions of others due to a moral or ethical value which is assigned based on bias. Individual rights are universal yet somehow they are being suppressed by groups of individuals who personally deem these rights to be a threat towards the greater good of the nation.

    The Key to The Future

    Greater good

    When a society and the judicial system are predicated on a deep respect for the commitment to individual rights the individual is king and thus the individual is free. This is the key to the future that should supersede the idea of the greater good. We should be in our own control and not be governed by the idea of what is best for others. In most cases a collectivist system will be the fall of a democracy as the freedom of the people are taken away by the context of greater good which is valued higher than the betterment of the individual.

    “To say that majorities, as such, have a right to rule minorities, is equivalent to saying that minorities have, and ought to have, no rights, except such as majorities please to allow them.” ― Lysander Spooner

    We are slowly but surely moving towards a widespread acceptance for collectivism and it can be seen primarily in how our social culture is being shaped. Our thoughts are shaped by what is deemed to be good and bad by others rather than having the ability to form our own opinions. This is what slowly leads mankind to being slaves for an individual who is deemed to be of a higher order than the rest. Every insubordinate person, when he rises up against oppression, reaffirms thereby the solidarity of all men- Albert Camus.

    The greater good affirms that our life has a larger purpose than individualism but the true question is whether or not this cultural phenomenon is merely a way for us to feel better about ourselves. The greater good is either going to help society or end up shattering a civilization that took years to build. Individualism should always have a place in the modern world regardless if it may go against the societal norm. Forcing ethics and morality onto an individual should be left up for judicial debate as these fine lines are hard to distinguish and the general public can never agree on such topics.

    We should live our lives on our own terms and not on the basis of the greater good. As much as we are codependent we are also a singularity in a complex ecosystem. To live for the sake of others entirely is a foolish sentiment and should be left as a choice for the individual to decide. A greater good can only be attained if we live a self fulfilling life in which we retain our own principles.

    “True freedom gives a man not only the right to make a right choice, but also the freedom to make a wrong choice”

    References:

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