Have you read “Bleak House”?
To my mind this was Charles Dickens’ very best novel. In fact, to my mind, this is one of the very best works of fiction ever written and possibly the best I have ever read.
Nevertheless, it is far from perfect. Dickens is reported to have treated his wife appallingly, yet his female protagonists are literally better than life. They are so good that they are downright daft, moreover totally implausible. More often than not, they are golden-haired, blue-eyed and have no will of their own. There are several “good” females, all equally unbelievable. True enough, there are also some “good” men, more flawed than their female counterparts, hence slightly more believable.
Bleak House is remarkable not for its portrayal of Good but for its portrayal of Evil, which has not changed much since the late nineteenth century, I see.
The concepts “Good and Evil” are not unique to Christianity, far from it. Even ancient Norse beliefs toyed with them. So did the Nazis. The Islamic religion is devoted to the pursuit of Good as are innumerable NGOs.
But just exactly what are Good and Evil? Well, I guess we all have a pretty fair idea of what is Evil: Greed, lust for power and vanity are the most common traits found in the people we generally consider bad – including many presidents, kings and prime ministers, the ones that enrich themselves – and their friends and families – and impoverish their constituents. In their wake: desolation, droughts, hurricanes and floods. Ahead of them even the flowers wilt, and stars vanish from the sky.
Worse, though, is the fact that such traits are ubiquitous. In many Scandinavian folk tales, if you chop off one of the troll’s heads, he’ll grow two new ones. There will always be somebody to replace the Ns – oops, no names! – of the world.
So what is Good? Why, now that I think of it, I have really no idea. Giving alms to the poor is generally regarded “good”, as is tending the sick (i.e. giving them water to drink, and soothing feverish foreheads). Telling the truth is generally considered a good thing, but not always. Not if you expose the “best country in the world” committing crimes against humanity. Obviously, “the best country in the world” is incapable of committing crimes against humanity since everything it does must necessarily be democratic and just and good. Telling the truth about the “best country in the world” and its equally democratic and just and good best mates in the Middle East may in fact be a very serious criminal offence subject to capital punishment.
Hounding people out of their homes and locking them up on a piece of land generally referred to as the world’s largest prison is considered good by some as it will hasten the return of the Messiah. To put it very plainly, Good is a very bewildering business. Maybe if the Messiah did return, some good would come of it, but I very much doubt it. In fact, he would probably be so disheartened and shocked, he would just sit down and weep,
Can Good only be defined as absence of Evil – absence of greed, vanity and lust for power? That would be a terribly disheartening sort of definition. For one thing: would Good, defined like that, dissipate smog and bring back the stars? Would it stave off floods and droughts and hurricanes? Would it bring back the butterflies? Would it light up the faces of the little children on the Gaza strip? Would it bring the murdered Hondurans, Guatemalans and Mexicans back to life?
Would it even prevent future murdering and future crimes against humanity? It certainly would do nothing of the kind unless the truth about such matters were told! And if the truth is not volunteered – and I ask you, how many callous villains admit having committed their crimes unless they are forced to? – it must be sought, wherever it can be found, and taken. The truth about crimes against humanity must be told!
Let us be very grateful that there are still a few souls who dare reveal the truth, even if they are made to pay a horrible and injust price for doing so.
We allow people from the past to speak the truth – after all, the currrent powers that be were not around then, and everything is different now. Dickens spoke the truth about greed, vanity and lust for powers. See if you don’t recognise a thing or two. The following is a quote from Bleak House about the slum the author calls Tom-All-Alone’s.
Darkness rests upon Tom-All-Alone’s…., and Tom is fast asleep.
Much mighty speech-making there has been, both in and out of Parliament, concerning Tom, and much wrathful disputation how Tom shall be got right. Whether he shall be put into the main road by constables, or by beadles, or by bell-ringing, or by force of figures, or by correct principles of taste, or by high church, or by low church, or by no church; whether he shall be set to splitting trusses of polemical straws with the crooked knife of his mind or whether he shall be put to stone-breaking instead. In the midst of which dust and noise there is but one thing perfectly clear, to wit, that Tom only may and can, or shall and will, be reclaimed according to somebody’s theory but nobody’s practice. And in the hopeful meantime, Tom goes to perdition head foremost in his old determined spirit.
But he has his revenge. Even the winds are his messengers, and they serve him in these hours of darkness. There is not a drop of Tom’s corrupted blood but propagates infection and contagion somewhere. It shall pollute, this very night…. There is not an atom of Tom’s slime, not a cubic inch of any pestilential gas in which he lives, not one obscenity or degradation about him, not an ignorance, not a wickedness, not a brutality of his committing, but shall work its retribution through every order of society up to the proudest of the proud and to the highest of the high. Verily, what with tainting, plundering, and spoiling, Tom has his revenge.