Anchor for this item posted by Bernard Tremblay at Sunday, December 15, 2002; Sunday, December 15, 2002

Good intentions?!


Good intentions ... stuff with which to pave the road to hell.

Imagine for a moment that the notion of impartial, unbiased, objective, "scientific" inquiry is not entirely empty. Now imagine: if we have this attitude on one hand, what do we have on the other?
My point is simply this: our adversarial, materialistic, reductionist legalism appears to moot all consideration of intention and motive. While we trot out something like untrammeled individualism as a near-holy touchstone, what gives such considerations any validity at all is the first victim of rabid ambition and greed; the subjectivity that provides the plurality of views and opinion upon which democracy rests is discarded in favour of a bottom-line fixation that is perhaps fitting for a computer but is nothing but indignity for a human being. Thinking that proceeds along computer-like lines, driven by lust and attachment, must necessarily do violence at every instant of its manifestation.
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions" was tossed at me this morning. My initial response was to point out how most "good intention" of the sort referred to was sterile, lacking the will and effort required by actual engagement, and so it would in no way direct one along any path ... and that leading to hell seemed a natural default. My second was to draw a distinction between those "good intentions" that are the hallmark of "good will" and those that are nothing but self-serving rhetoric trotted out by those whose aim is to impose their own will in order to justify and plausibly rationalize behaviour that is actually destructive and usually cruel. (Wars in the name of some benevolent and just god come to mind here.) Truly good intentions, on the other hand, are accompanied by the energetic responsiveness that makes for creative engagement in what is so often paradoxical social situations.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
- Benjamin Franklin
There is nothing of "good intentions" when the central focus of one's daily life is the increased accumulation of already surplus wealth, or the continued service of an already over-blown ego; this is nothing but the pain-filled spinning of a being bewildered by context and ignorant of nature. Can we expect this complex to be anything but unsatisfactory for those directly involved and corrosive to whatever and whomever it touches?
"Wolves in sheeps' clothing" ... that's how I'd characterize the vast majority of citizens today. Consummers of mind-bendingly simplistic culture and body-wrackingly amplified food, the individuals who are the real recepients of most of this world's wealth are more hideously deformed by our social processes than any primitve hunter/gatherer, and no sophitry can obviate the facts: even a glance at statistics concerning parent-child relations will bear this out.

Like the citizens of a decadent civilization that we are, we have set out to fill the world with proclamations of our superiority and to obliterate all societies that defy us even by merely continuing to exist in face of our "manifest destiny". As though lacking even the social instincts of "beasts", as though entirely mindless, as though no more informed or aware than cells in a malignantly cancerous tumour, we know naught but to consume ever more and to replicate ever more rapidly.
Perhaps, if we can enjoy the benefit of even a moment's calm from the fevered imposition of our cliched thinking, we might catch a glimpse of the brilliant and blissful awareness that is the compliment of the agonized compulsiveness that is modern life. Inspired by that glimpse, we will then dignify the basis of the liberal revolutions, acknowledge our thinking as deformed representations of high concepts best expressed in the age of enlightenment, and by that be moved by self-respect to improve our own situation by attending to those with whom we exist in community. That self-interest, I suggest, can comprise the cornerstone of true "good intention". Apart from that is only irresponsible and self-destructive deniability in the service of imperial greed, the striving for a fantastic, totally impossible and totally a-social personal sovereignty.