Published: Tuesday, 14 October 2003 18:17
First, a reading assignment: This Perfect Day by Ira Levin.
I picked this one over Brave New World, THX 1138 and 1984 because if it’s idyllic perfectness. In your reading assignment, you have truly a perfect world. Everyone is equal, no Alphas, Betas, Deltas and Gammas, and there is no war like in 1984.
This Perfect Day describes a Tranzi’s idea of heaven. The world is one big Family. The Benevolent UniComp takes care of everyone, from picking a nameber (Name/serial number, like Mark GH5178392), to deciding where you live and what you do. ‘F*ck’ is an acceptable word, but ‘hate’ is used as a swear word. You eat cakes and Cokes every day. The price is total conformity. Any deviant behavior gets you grabbed and taken to a medical facility where the ‘sick’ person is ‘helped.’ You are constantly pumped full of psychotropic drugs to keep you happy.
The standing question is, can good things happen in such a world? I mean the bad things were eliminated, like war, crime, poverty, intolerance and hate. Does this mean that only the good things were left? And what else was given up? Individuality, self-determination, worship of God, freedom and the like. Are these good things?
In Oh, God! Book II, the little girl that God picked to be His messenger asked God, “Why do bad things happen to people?”
(I’m paraphrasing here, I don’t remember the exact conversation)
God replied, “Have you ever seen a top without a bottom?”
“Nope,” said the little girl.
“How about a left without a right?”
“An up without a down?”
“Then,” Said God, “how can you have good without bad? You tell what the good things are by comparing them to the bad things. If you have nothing to compare good to, is it really good?”
I believe the single thing that makes America great is the freedom to choose bad over good. That doesn’t mean I’m soft on crime or whatever. I firmly believe there should be serious, negative consequences for doing bad things, just like there are serious positive consequences for doing good. It is this very action/consequence cycle that should propel us towards good, but doesn’t always do so.
Just look at the rest of the world. Nowhere else is anybody able to have as much freedom and power as the American people. Nowhere else do you see people who work harder, produce more, are more innovative and play harder than America as well. We are the people who invented the light bulb, powered flight, the computer and landed on the moon.
Good and bad are on a bell curve. Every time you take a serious piece out of doing bad, you lose some of your greatness in the process. I am quite sure we could take a serious bite out of the drug trade by executing dealers on the spot. But what would that cost us in the long run? What freedoms would we lose in order to allow such an action? And what are the long term effects of the loss of such freedoms? Not developing some important piece of technology? How about not saving someone’s life?
The consequences of ‘getting rid of bad’ at any cost are myriad and uncomprehendingly complex. It’s like in the 1978 series Connections James Burke starts off with a touchstone. He then draws a line from innovation to innovation, one invention or idea building on the last one until he arrived at the atomic bomb. There is just no way to determine what the long-term consequences will be to our actions if we are not very careful.
It’s like the Treaty of Versailles. The conditions of the treaty on Germany made World War II inevitable, but at the time they thought they were making sure war wouldn’t happen again. Irony can be pretty ironic.
Which brings me back around to my old Conservative idea of doing the right thing for the right reasons. This is not an easy task, let me tell you. You can do the right thing for the wrong reasons pretty easily, getting positive short-term results. But then something will come back and bite you in the rear later over it and it will leave you wondering, “What did I do to deserve this?” All must be in positive alignment, action, motivation and intent, to obtain a long-term positive outcome. Remember this always and you will do much good in this world.