Evil Triumphs When Good People Do Nothing

justice

Years ago, at an academic hospital on the West coast, a physician friend of mine named Terry (not his real name) discovered, quite by accident, that a mutual friend of ours named Sean (not his real name), also a physician, was moonlighting.  While moonlighting wasn’t illegal, it was in violation of the contract they’d signed with their employer.  Terry asked Sean to stop, but Sean refused, arguing that it was no big deal and that it had nothing to do with Terry.  Terry told Sean that if he didn’t stop, he’d report him to their employer.  Sean told Terry that if he did that their relationship was certain to be damaged. “We work together every day,” Sean argued. “We need to get along.”

Several days later, after confirming with Sean that he’d not stopped moonlighting, Terry reported him.  Their employer told Sean he had to stop moonlighting immediately.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

As Edmund Burke reminds us, justice exists only because human beings make the effort to stand against injustice.  The argument that small injustices which harm only faceless conglomerates aren’t as immoral as large injustices like genocide or Ponzi schemes seems fundamentally flawed.  A famous story illustrates this point well:  the playwright George Bernard Shaw was overheard at a party to have said that anyone could be bought for a price.  When a woman at the party disagreed, he asked her if she’d sleep with him for a million pounds.  She replied that for a million pounds she very well might.  But when he asked if she’d do it for ten shillings, she replied indignantly, “Certainly not! What do you think I am?”  “We’ve already established what you are,” Shaw is reputed to have said.  “Now we’re only haggling over price.”

Whether large or small, an injustice is an injustice is an injustice. We might try to argue that our actions can be justified when the apparent harm is small or non-existent, or diffused across so many people that no one person would even recognize they’ve been harmed, but this has always struck me as a rationalization.  Without a doubt, determining whether or not something really is unjust is always a complex calculation—and I’m sure many would argue that what Sean did wasn’t, strictly speaking, unjust.  But once we’ve decided something is unjust, if we do nothing about it:

  1. We harm others.  Either directly or indirectly, someone or something is always harmed by injustice.  We may find comfort in thinking we’re only doing an insignificant harm if, for example, we commit insurance fraud by overestimating our claim to avoid paying our deductible.  But if enough people attempted to perpetuate a similar harm, even the largest, most stable institution might suffer a death of a thousand cuts, as the current economic crisis makes clear.  And, as the current economic crisis also makes clear, what happens to even one institution can affect us all.  The world truly is interdependent to a degree it never has been before.
  2. We harm our relationships.  Whether or not we believe in moral absolutes intellectually, most of us feel in our hearts that right and wrong are valid concepts.  Without debating whether or not that feeling reflects the truth, the simple fact is that almost all of us believe that it does.  We may travel the length of our entire lives and never suffer any kind of internal retribution for an injustice we commit or for failing to stand up to one committed by others, but we can never know when someone we greatly respect or whose esteem matters to us most, like one of our parents or our children, might one day learn about what we did—or failed to do—and from that day on view us just a little differently.
  3. We set a bad example.  Someone is always watching us.  They may not model our behavior consciously, but even the most independent thinkers among us aren’t immune to being influenced by the actions of others.  We are all role models for each other.  The influence of a group’s behavior has been demonstrated in innumerable instances throughout history to exert a powerful influence on the behavior of individuals, from Hitler’s Nazi Germany to the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York.  Just what kind of world do we want to make?
  4. We perpetuate other injustices linked to ours.  Whether or not we agree drug use is morally wrong or harmful, there’s little question that it perpetuates murder.  Recreational drugs are mostly available from drug dealers, who kill people as part of their business model, both in this country and others (one need look no further than Mexico to appreciate the scope of this problem).  If worldwide demand for recreational drugs vanished, so would the drug cartels and so would drug-related murders.  Few drug users think about this as they light up, snort, or inject, but the path their drug of choice took to them was almost certainly littered with the bodies of innocents.  If we perpetuate a large injustice with our small one, we must consider ourselves at least partially responsible for the large one.
  5. We begin to slide down a slippery slope.  By choosing to commit even the most venal of sins, over time it may become progressively easier to commit more serious ones.  We may find ourselves thinking: if what I did before was all right, surely what I’m doing now isn’t much worse.  One wonders if Bernie Madoff found himself at the top of a 50 billion dollar Ponzi scheme through a series of small steps over several years.
IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU

Did Sean’s indiscretion have anything to do with Terry?  Why would it?  It caused no harm to Terry.  Aren’t events that cause no harm to us by definition outside of our purview?  Possibly.  But what if we have relationships with the people who are harmed?  Most, I think, would agree that probably would make it our business.

On the other hand, what if we have no significant relationship with the people who are harmed but simply know them?  Or we know people are being harmed somewhere but don’t know them personally at all?  One could argue that those situations don’t have anything to do with us.  But when we ask if Hitler’s murder of 6 million Jews had anything to do with the German people who knew it was happening, or if the U.N. had anything to do with the Rwandan genocide of 1994, that line of reasoning, in my view, becomes problematic.  As a result, I’ve come to the challenging conclusion that any injustice we have the power to prevent is our responsibility to prevent, whether or not it affects us, anyone we care about, anyone we merely know, or anyone we merely know of.

WE HAVE TO WORK WITH EACH OTHER

We do have to get along.  And I’ve experienced my share of requests from friends to support what I considered unethical or immoral behavior.  And I’ve gone along with them, rationalizing that the friendship was worth more than the principle.  But what kind of friend asks us to compromise our principles?  Since Terry’s example, and the example of my wife, who has the least tolerance for injustice, large or small, of anyone I’ve ever known, I find myself now trying to live up to a higher standard, a standard consistent with the person I most want to be.  I may find myself more often in uncomfortable or awkward situations as a result of refusing to endorse injustice, but whenever I feel that way I remind myself I’m not responsible for any of those awkward moments; the people who perpetrate the injustice are.

LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN…

There are still many times when I fail to live up to my aspirations to fight injustice, when I fall prey to the arguments of the unjust.  None of us is perfect.  We’ve all done things that are wrong.  But no one should be taken in by the specious argument—most often made by those who know they’re behaving wrongly to those who would unmask them—that because we may not be a paragon of moral virtue in every situation we therefore have no right to fight injustice in any.  We always have the moral standing, even the responsibility, to fight injustice even if we’re committing another injustice in some other way ourselves. If only perfect people had the moral standing to fight injustice, justice would never exist.  Fighting injustice when you yourself have been unjust doesn’t make you a hypocrite.  It makes you an imperfect person striving to improve.

Though I never told Terry, had I been in his position with Sean my first impulse would have been to look the other way.  In fact, I was grateful he hadn’t come to me before he’d reported Terry so that I could posture after the fact the same righteousness and courage he actually displayed.

In the end, for reasons known only to him, Sean refused to stop moonlighting and was fired.  Terry had to endure some awkward moments and some harsh criticism from his peers.  But never from me.

NEXT WEEK: Delivering Bad News

29 comments to Evil Triumphs When Good People Do Nothing

  • Susan

    Wow, thought provoking and I must admit maybe a twinge of guilt. I would be happy to share this with my friends and colleagues.

  • Pete

    Alex, I’m not sure that your wife’s absolute intolerance is necessarily an absolute virtue. It might be if her assessment of an injustice was perfect. What is the result if she mistakenly reports a perceived injustice and is wrong? Have innocent parties been harmed and/or relationships broken or lost forever?

    Also are you suggesting that perceived injustices be reported or stopped at personal risk or the risk of others? One must be very sensitive and cautious in deciding what is an injustice in different cultures and societies. i.e aborginal natives collecting fees for the use of their native land or waters may not be legal but one could argue is morally correct. What would be the position of your wife on this?

  • Alice

    I thought your article very thought provoking; and think more of us should wrestle with and discuss these issues.

    I believe that the conscience is like a muscle; unexercised…we lose it, it gets buried in excuses and rationalizations. History is filled with examples of letting things slide til it’s too late—you mentioned a few; look in our own back yard…Blagoyovich & his cronies. I also agree that we are mere mortals, but we have been given freedom of choice. Herein lies our greatest challenge…discernment. What to do when life and temptation comes a callin’?—which it does, daily. I say exercise that most valuable and elusive of all muscles on all the small stuff, so we are ready when the motherlode hits. I will certainly send this on. Thanks for the reminder.

    Alice: I love the idea of thinking of conscience like a muscle and that, like a muscle, we either use it or lose it. I recognize this is quite a controversial topic and really appreciate your take on it. And thanks for sending it on. I really appreciate the support.

    Alex

  • Mike Lickerman

    Alex:

    I think you ought to leave philosphy to philosphers who have philosphical credentials. This piece is scary to read.

  • This gives us all much to think about. As Pete points out, we, as humans, are not perfect. And by being imperfect we risk making mistakes in our assessment of what is just and unjust. The point you make that “we always have the moral standing, even the responsibility, to fight injustice even if we’re committing another injustice in some other way” is a good one for me to remember. Being wrong or risking a harmed or lost relationships is a very real risk that goes along with this responsibility.

  • I find, as I get older, that absolutes are pretty frightening in and of themselves … while I agree that conscience and personal responsibility are important (and as someone who’s grabbed and sat on more than one mugger, I’ve acted on my belief system) I also think that people should be allowed to take their own risks … as long as they’re only risking their own health, that’s their right.

    I liken it to drinking and drinking and driving … people have the right to drink in excess, however wrong it may be … they just don’t have the right to risk others.

    In your story, I don’t see where Sean was endangering anyone else or risking anyone but his own name and reputation … I freely admit I could be wrong, however, I don’t know enough (and don’t the forced long hours on beginning doctors endanger others unnecessarily) about that situation to make a blanket judgment.

    And I think that’s the key, really.

    When I was in grad school, we weren’t supposed to work at jobs outside of the program, either … but I did and I did it only because I had to … it certainly wasn’t something I WANTED to do, I was broke and it was the only way I could survive and eat.

    My professors and fellow students were aware of it and looked the other way. I worked hard, if not harder, than anyone else and earned my place.

    I don’t know that THAT was Sean’s situation … I’m simply saying that your position is, he broke the rules, he was wrong …

    I don’t mean to say, there aren’t things that are wrong (government torture, illegal wiretapping, voter fraud, murder, priests molesting kids, etc) I absolutely do. Just that I don’t think THIS situation falls into that dark, dark zone of an unallowable act.

    Sometimes, as Kirk says in WRATH OF KHAN, it’s the rules that are wrong. And sometimes not. I can’t tell from your post which this situation falls into.

    Life is not black and white quite a lot of the time, much as we would like it to be.

    This is just my opinion, of course.

    Joshua: Thanks for your insightful comments and excellent questions, and for pointing out what I now think is a shortcoming of the post: I should have included more details around Sean’s choice to moonlight. As you rightly point out, what constitutes evil or injustice is not often so black and white and requires careful and considered judgment. One of my main points, however, is that small injustices (once you’ve judged them as unjust–admittedly often a complex calculation) shouldn’t be treated differently than large ones.

    I was told that Sean was moonlighting not because he was in desperate need of extra money but rather because he simply wanted to make more–certainly nothing wrong with that, and I would agree not deserving of the label “evil.” However, he did sign a contract which he willfully violated. The entity at risk from his behavior was the hospital at which he worked, which had a very real liability exposure as it had no malpractice coverage for Sean at his moonlighting job and could have easily been sued by any patient Sean was treating there.

    I also agree with you that some rules/laws are inherently immoral and should be ignored and/or protested. I was talking in my post about our own intrinsic sense of right and wrong, existing apart from man-made laws. Certainly there may be strong disagreement about what may be right and wrong in any individual situation–which, as you aptly put, requires an intimate knowledge of the details involved–but most would, I think, agree that right and wrong often do apply.

    Finally, I used the word “evil” in the title of the post not to suggest that all injustices are equally heinous, or that what Sean did qualified as evil, but rather that in allowing even small injustices to stand unopposed we allow evil to thrive in our world in general.

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully.

    Alex

  • I should add, too, that I think your use of EVIL in the title of this post is not only not accurate, given the story that follows, but unnecessarily inflamatory.

    There’s much evil that gets ignored, in terms of child abuse, hunger, sexual harassment, war … a guy working second job shouldn’t even be on the list of evil things, much less at the op.

    And as I said, sometimes rules and laws are wrong, and breaking them is the right thing (as a Buddhist) to do.

    For example, in my lifetime it was actually against the law for my wife (who is a different race than I) and I to marry in 14 states in this country.

    Protests were made, people broke local laws by eating at counters they weren’t supposed to, riding in bus sections where they weren’t allowed … in other words, RULES were broken.

    And breaking THOSE rules was right.

    I don’t know Sean’s situation, nor did I work with him, so I’m not qualified to make a judgment call on the matter. But for me, the fact that he did nothing illegal and was simply breaking a rule would not, on its own, be enough for me to report him.

    Indeed, if he were in desperate financial need (as I was in grad school) and it was the only way for him to survive, I would have not only NOT reported him, I would have shunned Terry for doing so … and felt right about it.

    And it’s doubtful I would have worked with Terry again.

    That’s just conjecture, of course … I wasn’t there.

    I’m simply pointing out that breaking the rules isn’t EVIL in and of itself, not at all, and sometimes, it is even necessary.

    IMHO, of course.

  • Anon

    An injustice was recognized by excommunicating a Catholic bishop who denied the existence of the Holocaust. The Pope has now lifted that excommunication. Justice is frequently blind or compromised for political purposes.

  • I understand … however, I respectfully don’t think this story supports your overall point … it smacks a bit like blaming the guy who smokes the occasionally joint for the crack epidemic, which is a false equivalency in my mind.

    Big evils and little evils depend on context … right action also depends on context.

    For example, if we knew Terry was jealous of Sean, wouldn’t that change things? What are Terry’s motives? We can only guess, really.

    I have but your word he was acting for the greater good … however, the Transit Cop who shot and killed an unarmed handcuffed young man in the back (he allegedly meant to use his taser) on a subway platform also makes the same claim.

    Context, I find as I get older, means a lot. Not that there aren’t absolutes, there are … I just don’t think this story is the best way to talk about our shared right vs wrong absolutes.

    the contract was between Sean and the hospital, not Sean and Terry, and Sean still has my sympathies … I’d be willing to bet money the hospital has hedged contracts with a few of its employees in the past … to be fair, Terry talked it over with Sean first, but in this instance, I don’t agree that what he did was evil or even necessarily wrong … it was just against regs …

    Small wrongs (evils? What about second hand smoking around children? To me that is a larger crime that dodging a clause in a contract … have you (or anyone you know) reported a parent for smoking in front of their child? I mean that not to badger you (it is, however, a subject I get steamed about) but to point out the obvious difference between that example and Sean / Terry’s example.

  • Jules

    After reading this very thought provoking article I am caught in a moral conundrum. Within the blog I should be able to find the answer but my bulb may not be bright enough. :)
    1. I believe in supporting my friends, family and others who are attempting to fulfill their dreams (when morally sound, of course).

    2. I also feel strongly about not soliciting my friends and family through the internet or otherwise.

    I wrestled with this issue when my sister became a jewelry rep and asked me to host a party.

    PS. Did anyone send this to Blago to get his take on it?

  • Ariel

    Drug use perpetuates murder? Gov’t’s and their policies that decide certain drugs should be legal (i.e. alcohol and tobacco) vs. others that are not (marijuana and cocaine) I would argue perpetuate murder. They create the “War on Drugs.” Without their policies the situation could be completely different. I’m not going to write a long post because I think much of what I have to say was touched on by Josh.

    I do see the value in trying to live to a higher standard and not setting bad examples for others, but depending on the context, a bad example to one person might be viewed completely opposite by another. What does one do if a policy or rule appears to be wrong or even detrimental for that person? Sometimes you have to take that walk down that slippery slope.

  • Pete

    Tom Daschle and his multi-million salary and accountant overlooked paying $148k in taxes and found the error prior to confirmation hearings. As of today President Obama still gives him absolute support as being the “right man for Sec of HHS.”

    Elsie Brown, a black single mother with 4 kids is arrested and sentenced to probation and barred from shopping at PUBLIX for “forgetting “she had a package of luncheon meat in her jacket for her kids that cost $10.50.

    Gimme a break!

    Should I report to store management a senior citizen or any other shopper who appears to be shop lifting needed food? I think not! Good test for the President to decide whether or not integrity is one of the important qualifications to head HHS.

  • R Lub

    Hey, Doc,

    Your argument is steeped in a deontological ethic. I prefer a blend of teleologic-utilitarian and virtue ethics when decoding whether to call the police on a car that passes me on the road when it’s clearly marked 35 mph, and I’m going 35 mph, and they’re going 36 mph at least.

    I think we have to allow for varying codes of justice, and be laissez-faire in some cases.

    I also think you have to analyze lesser of two evils and utilitarian outcome (teleological quasi-kantian jeremy bentham utilitarian principles) when deciding whether to tattle tale on the moonlighter. The Talmud says that in this case, you may be inflicting MORE injustice by “reporting the proverbial Sean,” by besmirching his good name, causing financial ruin to his family, and preventing all manner of future mitzvahs.

    Turning in one who steals bread to a govt that kills for such infractions is clearly an unjust course to my way of thinking. so we really have to think about outcome, and be skeptical of our own “righteous decrees.”

    It’s possible that Sean had a problem with capitalist hierarchic structures, and so had no allegiance to his company’s policy, which aimed to stifle wealth potential and curb competition. Moonlighting has very little direct impact on a company, and forbidding it is an unjust policy. There is nothing wrong with Sean railing against the unjust, as you so ably pointed out.

    Justice is subjective, ruled by the passions first, reason second, and as such, we should be very careful before we interfere. I know it’s hard for those of us who are so eager to don the cape.

  • Mike Lickerman

    Alex:

    I see some of the critical comments since mine are more substantive and helpful. And certainly not as mean sounding as mine now seems to me upon a second look. My point and goal in posting my original comment was that I felt your article showed surface level thinking, and had a sort of undeserved self-righteousness to it (maybe I am reading into this). I don’t see credentials to justify your giving others direction on this topic and given your other impressive titles and qualifications in other areas, this article might nevertheless influence people in a dangerous way (in my view) . I probably should have simply posted this comment alone instead of the impulsive one I sent before. I apologize.

  • Norah

    You did not say whether the two were in residency or fellows programs. If they were and Sean’s moonlighting was causing him to be late for shifts , or asking others to cover for him, then I think that would have been an injustice in Terry’s eyes and therefore, after talking to Sean, he could justify reporting him. My concern with this scenario is with a man who disregards contracts with impunity when such contract is in opposition to his desires at at he time. Would he also disregard the Hippocratic Oath, if he so chose? To me a lack of basic moral behavior is the root of injustice.

  • I’m really glad I discovered this blog; you write interesting articles. I totally agree with you on this one. Look at Zimbabwe, the world is carrying on as it always has with only pathetic token gestures to try to change things, and sadly Mugabe knows this all too well.

    Julian: Thanks. I hope to keep it interesting for you.

    Alex

  • [...] A Force For Good In a previous post, Evil Triumphs When Good People Do Nothing, I argued that justice exists in the world only because good people stand up against injustice and [...]

  • rdp

    Returning to the colloquy between Josh and Alex—though you both may be long gone from this post—what troubles me is the apparent bracketing of Sean’s actions from any larger context in which they are embedded.

    Starting from a position closer to Alex’s than to Josh’s, I found over time that my moral calculus tended, on average, to work out to the benefit of those with greater power rather than toward the creation of greater good. In the case of a worker and a hospital, the rules are usually for the benefit of the hospital. One might argue that a person in Sean’s position ought not to have signed the contract, but what if all such work requires a similar contract? Employer requirements are often coercive (accept our terms or no job) and I would argue that it is often a greater evil to accept such arrangements than to subvert them. Even if the terms aren’t arduous for oneself, they might well be for someone else, as well as being unjust. It would be nice if all such circumstances could be fought by organizing employees to resist together, but to undertake such an effort becomes a full-time job. Suppose you wouldn’t be very good at it but could accomplish more good working as a doctor? Sometimes it is better, as Alex said in his original post, simply to act according to one’s own principles and hope someone is watching. It’s interesting to me that “Terry” apparently never asked “Sean” why he was doing this. For me, that would have been an essential step in determining what the right course of action would be. The fact that Sean refused to the point of being fired surely makes this an important point.

    I would argue that the famous Shaw story about haggling over price likewise shows the operation of power rather than a rejection of moral goodness. The reason price matters is that the woman didn’t have a million pounds; if she had, it wouldn’t have been an incentive to sleep with Shaw. Money equals power for many people as it not only allows them to have and do what they want; it frees them from the temptation of small scale “immoral” decisions.

    Although Josh didn’t identify power relations in his reservations about Alex’s conclusions, I think his reasoning shows he has internalized an understanding of them. That’s why he shies away from absolutes. My feeling is that the more power one has, the more one should expect of oneself. In the relationship between the hospital and Sean, in an ideal world, the hospital should have offered a dialogue on the regulation in question, inquired as to Sean’s reasons, and attempted to reach a (moral) accommodation. It seems to me that it’s not just to expect greater moral action from those with less freedom or power than we do those with more.

    Let me add I happened on your site because on your post on the NYT blog “Well” today. “When Everything Seems To Be Going Wrong” is exactly what I needed to read today. (And probably will on many future days.) What a blessing! Thank you so much for it.

    rdp: I find myself agreeing with you on just about all points. As I acknowledged in response to Josh’s original criticism of the original post, I should have included more details about Sean’s interaction with Terry and Sean’s interaction with the hospital. Frankly, I was more focused on making the point that we should stand up against small injustices as vigorously as large ones, and as I knew the details surrounding Sean’s decision to moonlight and Terry’s decision to report him, I didn’t think I needed to focus on the issue of Sean’s action being wrong to make the point of the post (clearly I was mistaken). To fill in a few more details (though perhaps not even these will suffice for anyone else to make a moral judgment), the hospital’s reason for insisting on the clause in Sean’s contract against his moonlighting was to protect itself against lawsuits as it had lost some big ones with past moonlighters. Sean, in fact, was moonlighting without having obtained independent malpractice insurance. I don’t know if Sean attempted to negotiate that part of his contract or not before signing it, but like you I presume had he tried the hospital, having the power in this situation, would have refused. Terry DID in fact ask Sean why he was moonlighting and learned Sean wanted to make extra money—not that he was starving by any means on his hospital salary. I don’t know if Terry would have felt differently about what Sean was doing if Sean had some potentially morally justifiable reason for moonlighting (making his violating of his contract more wrong than not violating it), but that situation didn’t exist as far as Terry was concerned.

    I’m glad you found “When Everything Seems To Be Going Wrong” encouraging.

    Alex

  • rdp

    :^) I understand.

    Historically, my problem has been being rather quick to stand up to small injustices and slow to engage with the larger, structural ones. Over time, I have come to see that many of the “small wrongs” are consequences of the systems most of us are forced to live in. So I have taken to looking at most issues from the standpoint of whose interests are served—those of the powerless (especially children) or those of people with power and options.

  • Wendy H.

    Let us imagine that “Sean” was working on a patient, and because he was overtired, he made a mistake and the patient died. Perhaps this is a scenario that the insurance companies and the hospital are hoping to avoid through their regulations (and if his actions resulted in a lawsuit against the hospital which resulted in reduced services or closure—all of its potential patients would suffer).

    Certainly, we cannot always prevent employees from being overtired, but Sean had chosen to regularly take on extra duties, and should not the attempt be made in a field as vital as medicine?

    Even if it is not a medical field, there are other issues. I had an older coworker once who regularly stayed out late (often partying) and would arrive at the public service job tired out, and they would skulk in the back drinking coffee and be no help at all. T wo of us were assigned because it was a busy area, and two were needed. I had to do the work of two people regularly. Certainly, it wasn’t a life/death situation, but what irked me was that this was a government funded situation—this employee was in a way stealing from all our hard-earned tax dollars with their behavior, which was purely selfish—they did it only for their own benefit and our user group received poorer service. They also bent regulations by refusing to take lunch each day and then leaving one hour early, leaving us again, short-handed. These regulations may seem fussy and picky, but they are there for a reason. I can relate to Terry’s choice. If you are wondering, this employee was well protected by political/family connections, and was never going to be called on their poor performance.

    I think it was very key in this situation that Terry gave Sean an opportunity to correct his behavior without consequences.

    Wendy: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You emphasize the complex nature of these situations and underscore many of the points I made in the post. I very much appreciate you stopping by.

    Alex

  • ali b

    Mike Lickerman is right. This person is not qualified. It is like a doctor telling you how to vote, or lecturing you on morals. You can get a real philosophy book.

  • Chris

    The Arbinger Institute offers a hypothesis I found interesting. If I understand their point, it is this:

    When we turn away from doing what we know is right, we set up in ourselves a feeling of self-justification that leads to blaming others. This point of view creates self-deception, conflict and self-defeating beliefs and behaviours.

    The institute offers a lot of information that explains their ideas much better than I can. But I found the idea intriguing, particularly since the only person I can change is myself—and I am often the last to know when I am part of the problem.

    So perhaps the problem with our failing to act when we see something we think is wrong is what that failure does to ourselves.

  • [...] a previous post, Evil Triumphs When Good People Do Nothing, I argued that justice exists in the world only because good people stand up against injustice and [...]

  • Gloria

    I have an “unjustice claim” that was purged against me from my ex-husband after 38 years. In fact, he claimed that I owed him back-child-support of 28 years and he claimed 58K. Knowing this was a result of his retirement monies which I won a judgment back in 2003. So to reverse this claim he (now a retired deputy sheriff) took me back to court and the monies starting with back-child-support of $400.00 a month, plus $798.00 which he thereafter filed a quadro, claiming it was an “error.” Just because he worked in the court years ago it turned out in his favor. He also bought out my attorney and had him sexually harass me in public. I just can’t understand the court system; it had plagued me with this outcome of losing every time I tried to come into court on an OSC. The judge made a lot of excuses for not having the paperwork in front of him, when I paid an attorney to file this in court, but turned out in my ex-husband’s favor again. I was cheated out of the monies, and I can’t go back into court because of fear of being mistreated and made a mockery of in front of his attorney, in which my ex-husband didn’t have to show in court to prove anything, his attorney did all the work. Not to mention that his attorney would call me up and each time ask me for the name of my attorneys and then none of my attorneys ever showed up in court on time or didn’t want to show up or had an excuse not to represent me thereafter. Each time I paid, something would happen to me in court or outside of court. Can you please tell me what is happening to me and why I can’t retrieve these monies on an OSC? Not to mention during those 28 years years my ex-husband sat on this, claiming a legal document for back-child-support was never certified copy or was a patsy because he knew people in the court system to get away with it, but also this commissioner which he claimed signed this order was deceased. The judge thereafter in 2009 was “indicted” for “bribery” so this also makes me feel again why I am so jilted again. I would like to know why this wasn’t presented properly in this. Not to mention my former attorney was being sued by other clients for misconduct and demanded I pay him 8 thousand for his services rendered for sexual harassment. What should I do in this case, since he and my ex-husband did what they did to use me against him in court as it was told his attorney past that he was doing the same to the opposite parties in his other clients in the past.

    Sincerely yours,

    Gloria

    Gloria: I’m so sorry but I can’t sort out the details of what happened to you well enough to render any meaningful advice. It’s clear to me you feel wronged and the victim of an injustice, however, which never feels good.

    Alex

  • Chris

    When someone has a complaint about unethical behavior by a lawyer or a judge, the state bar association will investigate. If Gloria thinks her lawyer violated ethical rules in the course of representing her, she can request an investigation by the bar association who licenses the lawyer.

  • Rick

    Of all the injustice in the world, I think that telling on someone for moonlighting is, well, “How Great They Are.” Unless the moonlighting has interfered in anyway with the person’s other duties (lack of sleep, sick time). And I’ve always thought less of people who tell on people for doing something that is not harmful. Some things take care of themselves. But I’m human, I make mistakes, I’m not worthy of being so righteous. If I see a wrong that is hurtful to others, I speak up and do what I can to interfere, but if I watch for everyone around me to stumble, I think I will be unable to see and help the ones who are in need.

  • FreedomFlora

    “Whether or not we agree drug use is morally wrong or harmful, there’s little question that it perpetuates murder.”

    What perpetuates murder is Prohibition of any kind.

    What was gained by the Prohibition of alcohol? Rise in violence. Rise in organized crime. Once Prohibition was revoked, the black market for these products disappeared.

    You ASSUME that government makes benign laws and not laws that benefit special interests and privileged individuals. It is ironic that there was no drug problem in America prior to the 20th century, when there were no Prohibitions.

    Note also that many of the so-called illegal substances are natural products, created by God and easily cultivated.

    Do some research and try to look at matters from other perspectives before you accuse people of abetting evil. Especially when the evil is a product of government’s own policies.

  • markjuliansmith

    “Evil happens and prospers when good people do nothing.”

    No. “Evil happens and prospers when the ‘good’—’moderate’-’evil’ people within a cultural behavioral variance, of exactly the same cultural codex utilize culturally developed counter-argument, clearly contained within their codex, to blame either Other or symptoms of their own codex, ‘radicals,’ and due to culturally developed bias cannot, will not see it is their core ‘artifacts, rituals and text’ which are always the ‘root,’ the ‘origin’ cause, and delete it or amend it.”

    “Evil happens and prospers when good people do nothing” is simply another method to put the onus on Other for the diabolical actions derived from another culture rather than hold the culture and its cultural codex to account and change or delete it from the Public Square.

    Attacking the symptoms of a culture, ‘doing something in the same way,’ simply has not worked. Surely as Einstein advised, trying another method of dealing with the problem is clearly required.

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