Is the world fucked up beyond repair? (aka What would the Greeks' SDMB have contained

Do other dopers believe that there’s a chance of changing the inherent balance of the world re: good v. evil, or does it seem that all gestures & victories are temporary?

My sense of progress (civil rights, PETA, Title IX) is frequently offset by dismay (SUVs, the Bush presidency). As a result…sure…I’ll protest & vote & speak up, but I’m gonna put an equal amount of energy into stupid fun 'cause in the end it won’t matter one whit anyway.

I do think evil is less stable and most people are inherently good. And the world has probably always seemed to be fucked up beyond repair.

I wouldnt view the world in terms of good and evil to start with. Ignorance is the scource of all avoidable suffering.

your idea of evil in the world is SUVs?

Your idea of progress is PETA?

Hmmm…My sense of progress is that members of the human race treat each other and the rest of the planet with respect - at least to the “do unto others” point. Not that that can be entirely proved or disproved by a single issue.

As much as it pisses me off to be cutoff in traffic by some jerkwad who refuses to acknowledge that their merge lane ended long before it became necessary to pass ME - I do figure that chariot drivers were probably complaining about the same thing & it’s unlikely to change. Ever.

So I wonder if the next evolutionary step won’t be a mechanized, predictable world that may or may not include humans. We seem to be working towards perfection-as-uniformity, expecting everything to work exactly the same every day. Isn’t that the essence of every sales pitch - no surprises? Whereas in nature there’s tons of surprises and a real lack of uniformity, of control. I think we’re pulling away from that world into an imaginary one of our own design, where everythings knowable and predictable and controllable, and it’s pretty clear that human beings are the wild card that remains to be tamed.

Bizarre rant, but this is Great Debates, so what the fuck.

What would the Greeks’ SDMB have contained

Was Atalanta just a big cheater?
Fuck Zeus!
Prometheus - right or wrong?
No one wants to see your pecker while you’re wrestling!
Leash your three headed dog!
Icarus was an idiot.

I mean ‘Hippomenes’.

“Will Athens win its war against Sparta in a cakewalk?”



My thoughts exactly.


Well that almost certainly depends on where you stand. There are more pressing things to worry about than the abstract balance of “good” and “evil” in the world. It doesn’t help that conceptualizing the world in terms of binary oppositions often has the effect of over-simplifying the physical problems of existence either. No matter where your point of view might originate there will most assuredly be little agreement about what is good and what is evil anyway, and even less about what should be done.

If PETA’s vision of “good” ever came to pass in this world then I probably wouldn’t be very happy about it. Likewise if we all were forced to live under Sharia Law there would be some very happy Muslim clerics. My personal vision of “good” has more to do with individual liberties and personal responsibility but I’m sure there are a great many collectivists out there waiting to denounce it.

There will always be something “fucked up” about the world to complain about. I suspect that if the “balance” ever tipped too far in the direction of “good” then we would soon find out that it wasn’t nearly as good as we once thought it to be. Examples such as the utopia of conformity and predictability you suggest would certainly bear that out. We need suprises; we need to whine. In other words, to be human is to be disatisfied.

I think that’s a good thing.

Jeez, get over it. Regime change in Carthage has been the stated policy of this city-state since the friggin Pericles administration!

Funny, I look back over the past 100 years, and I’ve seen some pretty dramatic improvement.

  • In the states, people are generally better off than they used to be. There’re more safety nets to catch the stragglers in the Race to Success, and the poorest among us seem better off than the poorest among the society of the early 1900’s.

  • People are more educated nowadays.

  • People are healthier nowadays.

  • Going worldwide, there is far more democracy and less oppression. Germany and Japan, for two notable examples, have improved markedly.

  • The USSR has gone from killing thousands per day as the result of starvation and forced labor camps, into being a fledgling democracy. And it appears that, given time, it’ll probably do well for itself.

  • China, rivaled only by the USSR in terms of raw human suffering over the past decade, is at least making an attempt to abandon communism in favor of capitalism, to the benefit of its citizens.

  • Even the Middle East has started to shift to more free societies, with Turkey and Israel as prime examples (and whatever you may think of Israel and Turkey, the people there overall have it better than in many other ME nations - yes, even the Palestinians).

  • Europe is pretty much entirely democratic now. The nations there no longer war amongst themselves. Eastern Europe has been freed from the shadow of the USSR, and is slowly building itself into a respectable democratic force in the world.

  • South America is seeing more and more democracy.

  • Africa has seen the fall of Apahrteid (yeah, that’s probably misspelled), and a few democracies are slowly poking out hither and yon.
    There’s still plenty of misery in the world, but we’re doing pretty well. And this is just over the past hundred years. Civilization is pretty damned old, and you’d have to be a fool to insist that there was more justice in, say, ancient Rome than there is in the average Western democracy. Ask yourself this: would the average citizen from any era previous to ours rather live in their time, or in our time? I would bet dollars to donuts that most everyone would rather live in today.

Honestly, if your best examples of “evil” are SUVs and GWB, yours is a pretty shoddy argument.

D’oh! That should’ve read:

“- China, rivaled only by the USSR in terms of raw human suffering over the past century, is at least making an attempt to abandon communism in favor of capitalism, to the benefit of its citizens.”


Zwaldd: Very good! I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Fessie: Your idea to spend at least as much time enjoying your life as you do trying to “make things better” is a wise decision. There are always going to be MANY people doing things you think are stupid (and sometimes even evil). If you make that the focus of your life, you will be a miserable person.

A great quandary on this point (certainly for me, who loves the wildness of nature yet likes seeing people and other creatures treated humanely) is that nature itself is the state that is farthest from such respect.

Nature doesn’t respect its members, or strive for some mysterious “balance.” Nature is cruel and callous and vicious (and yet beautiful) and is all about killing everything else you need to (in other species and in your own) in order to win. The only balance we see in nature is one akin to the cold-war MAD nuclear balance we saw between the USA and the USSR. The balance is there because no one could get a stronger foothold to crush everyone else.

We humans just happen to have rapidly accumulated power beyond the reckoning of all other species, and are now in a position to dominate the planet completely. Yet, at the same time, many of us have developed an attachment for the “wild” state of nature, and are doing our best to preserve the current standoff–so long as it doesn’t kill us, of course.

That’s a tricky proposition.

You guys are great, I really enjoy your posts - esp. the way they run the gamut from humorous to concrete to abstract.

I love your examples, Jeff, and will use them in my next “gee, Hon, it’s not so bad” argument w/hubby (who’s actually the true pessimist of the household). As an American female I’m always aware that my lot in life is far, far better than other women/places/times.

However I also accept your challenge re: my argument.

It seems to me that our capacity for making intelligent choices vis-a-vis national policies is just barely keeping pace with our increased ability to impact the world. Esp. w/regard to environmental destruction. So I worry that while we’ve increased our enlightenment, our pollution and consumption have grown to disastrous levels - hence the lack of a net gain, in the overall abstract picture.

It also bugs the hell out of me that our country is so two-faced, not only supporting dictators but also allowing companies to do things overseas that they wouldn’t DARE try to get away with here, both in pollution and in exploiting workers. Yeah, we’ve gotten rid of some despicable behavior towards our own citizens, but it seems much of it was merely exported. Here’s an example a friend sent me just the other day:

“I’ve also been researching the computer materials and waste situation–what goes into them and where they go when we dispose of them! Basically, we send them (and TVs, stereos, phones) to third world countries, illegally in some cases, and really poor people make a livelihood of picking them apart for recyclable metal, after which they burn the plastic, which pollutes their air and water and is making everyone ill and giving kids birth defects.”

(I wasn’t really relying on SUVs as my only example of evil, it was just the first thing that came to mind, w/all they represent - if you lived in Chicago, you’d understand; they’re EVERYWHERE)

I also wonder if people really want all the freedom - consider how few vote, or educate themselves on the issues. Or take a stand on their own. In terms of satisfaction with life, I betcha huge numbers would have been just as happy following the orders of a rational dictator, since that’s what they let society act as anyway (i.e., we’re all supposed to follow the same trends).

On the other hand, I think this may be the year I finally get around to flashing my tits - I missed that whole “girls gone wild phase” (too busy reading Sartre). So, yeah, life is good.

Fessie: Please DO NOT let the current world situation get in the way of flashing your tits.


If my post keeps you or your husband from leaping off a bridge whilst mired in a pit of despair at the miserable state of the planet, then I consider that my small contribution to world betterment.

All kidding aside, I respect your position, though I do disagree with it. Your argument seems to be, “Yes, people the world over are happier, but look at the environment!” Yes, people dump much more pollution into Mother Nature than we did in eras past, but there’s a solution to that: modernization. Pre-industrialized nations are far worse polluters than post-industrialized nations today. A third-world nation just beginning to embrace idustrialization is likely too poor to be able to care about how much ash its pouring into the atmosphere. The people are more concerned with more immediate things - like, “do we have food?” or “I hope I can find some medicine to cure my horrible disease”. Once a society reaches the state represented by Modern Western Democracies, they’ve overcome those basic problems, and they can start to worry about less immeidate problems, like Spotted Owls and such. So the best way to curb environmental hazards is to help nations in the process of industrialization to modernize as quickly as possible.

Moreover, I’m part of the crowd that believes that the Earth is far hardier than self-described environmentalists typically give it credit for. I think we would have to put some serious effort into doing any long-term damage to this place. Hell, even if we nuked ourselves into oblivion, it would only be a matter of time before the environment recovered, and something evolved that was less likely to blow itself up. Recall that the Great Environmental Cataclysm that supposedly wiped out the dinos was only a few tens of millions of years ago, which is trivial on the geologic scale.

So even if we are doing large-scale serious harm to our planet (a premise I don’t buy, by the way, but will concede for the sake of this argument), it’s nothing that can’t be fixed when we reach the Great Enlightenment, even if the only solution is time, and lots of it.

In short: Buck up, li’l lady, it ain’t so bad!

And to address a few of your specific points:

I would wager that even if the people there knew all of the hazards - assuming they don’t - they would shrug and go back to work. A 10% increase in your chances of getting cancer isn’t quite the immediate threat that starvation is, given that these monitors at least provide them with work and, by extension, money and food.

You may have a valid point if “rational dictator” was something that actually existed outside of theory. In practice, dictators are almost invariably evil, horrific people, and the people would be better off with something that offers them more control over their own destinies.

Also, the fact that so few people vote speaks well of the societies in question - many people just feel that things are going well enough that there’s no real need to get involved. The government stays out of their day-to-day affairs, which is the way things should be.

Quasimodal enters the fray

ElJeffe, I think you have some valid points but on some I must agree with Fessie.

Sure our environment can recover from major disasters, but if such a scenario were to occur, that does not omit the fact that a major disaster has occured. For instance fresh water is slowly becoming a premium. Sure our environment would eventually recover from a fresh water catastrophe (as in a lack of fresh water) but only after a long recovery process (with of course no further damaging effects by humans), during which many lives would be lost. Prevention is the best cure of course.

They may shrug yes and go back to work, but I doubt they would be very thankful for their job (would anyone?) Yes maybe working an unsafe job is helping them in the short term, but should it not be the responsibilty of a more educated (and well off) nation to protect those who are less fortunate, not merely take advantage of them? The same could of been said for slave labor (as a dramatic comparision). Sure slaves may have a terrible working environment but they had food and shelter. Better than starving I suppose.

Of course I don’t think the world is THAT depressing. I believe modernization is the key, but it should be Educated Modernization. And yes I think people today are better off in many ways than in previous ages. I think though there is still QUITE a long ways to go till we have an uplifting planet to live on. Here’s hoping it’s in my lifetime.

My two cents


Our government being hypocritical and supporting dictators of convenience does grate on me as well. It is a bit depressing sometimes to look at the labels on the clothing and wonder about the conditions that those who manufactured it might be living under. Was it made with prison labor? In a sweat shop? But… exploitation in the third world was a hell of a lot worse under outright colonialism, or for that matter under the Greeks of antiquity.

I’d also chime in and agree with other posters that viewing the world in something as clean cut as good and evil is, in my opinion, going to lead to more problems than it will solve.