Just a Thought – The Good Bad & the Ugly | May 2024

Just a Thought – The Good Bad & the Ugly | May 2024

“See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” – Three Wise Monkeys

The famous maxim of the three wise monkeys was depicted in a 17th century carving over a door in a shrine in Japan and incorporates Confucius’s Code of Conduct and centuries of Buddhist philosophy – its meaning in the East being to avoid evil thoughts and deeds, resulting in living a moral and decent life. It is no accident that when we started our label some 20 years ago we adopted those three monkeys for “Just Music” – a perfect partnership!

“Good can exist without evil, whereas evil cannot exist without good” – Thomas Aquinas

Standing in a crowded train cheek by jowl with fellow passengers, sitting in a park surrounded by children with their mothers and fathers, attending a crowded gig, walking in a busy street – to name but four very ordinary human activities – each one dependent on the good and decent behaviour of others to make the world go round pleasantly and safely. Social interactions that occur endlessly worldwide every day and belie the constant bad news items of news media and social media – the truth is that the vast majority of us are essentially good.

“The corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst” – David Hume

It is a mistake in my view to simply reference general antonyms like ‘dark/light’, ‘hot/cold, ’black/white’, ‘fast/slow’ when considering what ‘evil’ may be. Evil is not the opposite of good. It’s not even the opposite of quite good – which in many instances is good enough! No, I think a better case can be made for evil being a corruption of what is good.

That corruption is depicted in a million and one narratives from time immemorial – the Old Testament apple in the Garden of Eden, a blissful place where just the one temptation leads to the troubles of the world – to Star Wars, an intergalactic battle between those Jedi knights who continue to feel the force for good and those who turned their back on it and went to the dark side. As the saying goes “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely….”

“Life is neither good or evil but only a place for good and evil” – Marcus Aurelius

Corruption may arise for many reasons and takes many forms – it may be caused by mental health issues, propaganda, indoctrination, peer pressure – the list is endless – but whatever it is, it twists what is rational, so that whilst the motivation may be thought or believed to be good, the outcome is evil. Examples of that evil causing endless misery and suffering are manifold – wars, cruelty, prejudice – you only have to look at the world today and in history. But despite that I still think the vast majority do it for irrational reasons, thinking that they are right and that it’s for the common good.

“To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it – Martin Luther King

The vast majority of us have the capacity to make ethical choices. I was moved today listening to the story of a child so bullied by social media that it resulted in a suicide. That incident has propelled the call for legislation to protect children from the online bombardment of what would have been described as “evil” all those centuries ago by those three wise monkeys looking to guard us against it. We would do well to learn that lesson, not only to protect our children, but also to include us grown up children as well.