Thursday, September 1, 2011

winners and losers

Colloquially thinking, history favors the righteous. Good triumphs over evil and the moral compass of the collective world because more finely tuned as deviating groups get weeded out.

It would be implausibly coincidental if the morally righteous (in the absolute sense of the phrase; let's not worry about whether there is such a thing for the moment) side of all of these historical struggles just happened to be the more powerful, and thus victorious, side. So how to explain the colloquial thinking?

Is is that the ones who won pass on their own definition of morality, which we forget was not unambiguously true? Or similarly, do we simply prefer to adopt the morality of victors, as though their victory is evidence of the absolute goodness of it, or because we initially just fear crossing them and later generations forget that our stated beliefs were disingenuous?*

Is it that we simply selectively remember the incidents in history in which good triumphed over evil, because we are ashamed of our history as an imperfect people?**

Or is it that true morality is defined by the system that works, in the sense that it survives and perpetuates itself among the greatest number of people? And that therefore, the righteous must eventually be triumphant?***

I really believe each of those three explanations are in operation, and yet two of them imply that conventional wisdom is misguided and the third implies that it's dead on. Which one wins out, most of the time?


*see: missionaries. maybe replace 'fear' with 'bribe'. it's amazing how much more receptive people are to Gods Word when lip-service to such a thing comes with a livelihood. and amazing how deeply entrenched Christianity is in Africa and such missionary-drenched places after so short a time.

**see: public school lessons on the holocaust vs. the trail of tears.

***see: the cold war. no need for a war against communism; just sit back and watch it implode.


JohnRaymond said...

I like the underlying "optimism" in this, i.e. that one way or another the "righteous" end up "winning" ;) however I'm a little troubled by the second scenario in the sense that it doesn't seem to have the same force as the others, i.e. mere forgetting doesn't by itself bring triumph, doesn't have the power to change anything "out there", only the mind, or? Or maybe we're not really talking about triumph here at all, just a state of mind (?). That would be a rather chilling realization, if we ever get to that point...

Vera said...

yeah doesn't necessarily change anything objectively, but if the goal is to explain a mindset (the notion that good tends to triumph) then maybe the explanation only exists in the mind too.