What is Good?

Sitting down to blog about the “good” in my life right now is hard, as “good” seems to be stretched a bit thin at the moment. The presidential race is in turmoil and the legislative and executive branches of the US government are at loggerheads. The North Carolina general assembly continues to make questionable decisions, and there seems to be little chance or desire of compromise between average citizens. Add to that the recent massacre in Orlando, the two officer shootings this past week and the murder of five police officers in Dallas last night, and it seems we have all lost our way – individually and collectively.

The quote attributed to parliamentarian Edmond Burke says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” But what defines a good man? The older I get, the harder this question becomes as black and white grows gray and absolutes lose their absoluteness. Our text says, “Goods are often associated with what is right and proper for humans to be and do. The question for us is what living a ‘good life’ or being a ‘good person’ looks like in a time of narrative and virtue disagreement. “ (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 3) I count as my “good” honesty, empathy, and integrity. Good is my family including my three young grandchildren. Good is my church, Bright Blessings (an organization that serves homeless and impoverished children in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties), HAWK (Habitat and Wildlife Keepers – a local chapter of the National Wildlife Federation), and running. My good allows people to be who they are, while working to make sure that nobody goes cold, hungry, or is denied medical care.

But my “good” is not necessarily the good of my neighbor. If I can’t find common ground with the person that lives across the street how can I expect the issue of gun control, or police shootings, or any of the other recent tragedies to be resolved? What can I, as a “good man,” do to prevent evil from gaining a better foothold? I think part of the answer may be found in our textbook. I feel very blessed to be in this class in this moment in history. Maybe it’s a stretch to some, but it seems to me that this curriculum is speaking directly to the events that are happening around us, and giving us guidance on how best to move forward and help others move with us. As bad as we all want to take action to forward our good, our text tells us that sometimes the best action we can take is to listen and learn.

“Dialogic ethics begins with modesty, not enabled self-assurance. Dialogic ethics begins with invitation, not demand. Dialogic ethics begins with difference, not commonality. Dialogic ethics begins with the assumption that ethics used as a weapon and dialogue used as weapon turn upon themselves, becoming counterfeit communicative actions in an era that cries for learning over the rush to blame. . . . Simply put, there is much that we do not share in common with one another, which moves us, first and foremost, from trying to impose ourselves one another to trying to learn from the differences that meet us.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. xviii)

If we are willing to listen and learn, I believe amazing things can happen and true healing can begin.

Works cited:

Arnett, R.C., Fritz, J. M.H, Bell, L. M. (2009) Communications ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.



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