We are generally good, and we know that bad people are found not only in films and politics, but also among us. We also know that all normal people are not saints. We are generally positive and due to our positivism, we take people for granted for their goodness. One view is that we are naturally endowed to lead a moral life. There is another view that says that we aren’t born with a fixed moral sense. Some people think that moral judgments are rational, while some think these are emotional. Jonathan Haidt says that we make moral judgments intuitively and then construct justifications after the fact. The belief that ‘people are generally saints’ is a worrisome matter for Karl Sabbagh. He says, if we can get away after committing the crime, we will. Sabbagh asks, “Isn’t it time we took the opposite view and look into why some people, perhaps not many, are ‘good’?” He thinks it is more important to understand ‘how to make people good’ rather than ‘trying to understand what makes people bad’.
We are generally right, and we feel good when we are right, but we can’t be right all the time. Sometimes, it is difficult to walk the straight line. We often do wrong things. We don’t like the idea of getting caught while doing the wrong things. We easily become defensive, when someone points out our mistakes. Dealing with mistakes is an art, writes Kathryn Schulz. This art teaches us to deal with one’s own and others mistakes more openly and fairly. It is important for us to ask ourselves questions like — Why am I wrong? What if I am wrong?
We often do the wrong things because we lack interest and are inattentive while doing that thing. It could be due to our poor preparation to deal with the things. It could also be due to our timidity, emotional imbalances, prejudices, and aggressive instincts. We do wrong things due to our social, intellectual and moral failings. We feel ashamed when we get caught, as we feel our failings are exposed to the outside world. Schulz looks at ‘wrongness’ little differently. She thinks that doing wrong is not a moral flaw but part of the learning process. She is obviously not talking about deliberate wrong-doers. We can’t ignore the fact that we also make deliberate mistakes in the hope that such mistakes have good chances of becoming profitable. In fact, deliberate mistakes can turn out to be profitable. It is difficult to draw the line between error and wrongdoing. Very often, there is a very thin line between fair criticism and fault-finding, between hazarding a guess and making a reasonable estimate, between a bonafide error and a deliberate mistake.
There is nothing wrong in saying ‘I was wrong’. We must recognise that ‘going wrong’ is an inevitable part of our lives, and we must acknowledge and redress our errors, rather than ignoring or denying them. We are all fallible, and so, it is good to accept our fallibility, and try to rectify it at the earliest opportunity. Once we recognise that, we can liberate ourselves from the burden of trying to be permanently right, and can respond to mistakes with empathy and generosity.
We often watch the world with closed eyes. We go wrong and let others go wrong, because we have an unconscious tendency to simplify the world. We don’t want to confront problems that are likely to create further problems for us. Our approach to solve our problems is different than the approach we follow to solve the problems of others. When we see things from a distance, they are different than when we see them from close quarters. We often can’t see things when we look at them from within the system. Often, we have to go out of the system to see things in a proper perspective. Often, we don’t see things we should have seen. In all languages, there is a saying - Wiser we become once the thieves are gone. After everything falls apart, the failure to act becomes obvious.
Why do we go against our beliefs and wishes? Why do we let things go the wrong way? It is because we are afraid of being misunderstood. We don’t like to be scrutinised by others, nor do we like to scrutinise others, particularly if those people are powerful. We are good at keeping our eyes closed as per our convenience. We are good at transferring our responsibilities to others, by convincing ourselves, that it was not our job. We easily convince ourselves that any kind of intervention was not needed to solve the problem, and the problem would resolve by itself.