Because no one ever tells you. I used to think I was a good person. When I was younger I tried to do things for people, make life a bit easier for them etc but as I’ve got older I’ve thought “Fuck that! What did those dicks ever do for me?!” and that makes me think I’m a bad person. I mean I voted thinking I was against racism, I give to charity, love my family, try not to gossip about others, pay all my bills but I don’t think those things make me a good person. Fred West loved his family, Josef Fritzl really loved his family.
Here’s the problem. You could be a lovely person, help out at your church, bake for your kids’ schools, volunteer at the soup kitchen and read to old people but at the same time you could think gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married because it’s an abomination. Does that make you a bad person? You don’t think so. I think you’re a piece of shit but the old people you read to would defend you and kids would pelt me with freshly baked muffins if I confronted you at their fete, repeatedly asking why your cupcakes had the word “fags” with a big red line through it on them. All of those people will repeatedly tell you that you’re a good person and you’ll believe them.
It’s bothering me a lot. I don’t have a lot of friends so when I do or say something a bit controversial I don’t have a bunch of people backing me up with baked goods or old war stories. I have my family who say “you’re fine, you’re doing a good job, none of us are dead and that’s a big part of being a good dad/husband” but then Hitler had a girlfriend and Trump has his weird family so that can’t be a good measure. I’m not saying I’m pulling on a white hood, burning a cross and getting confused when people aren’t on board I’m just saying that I don’t have a large echo chamber of people who have known me for a while telling me I’m a good person and silencing that little voice in my head, in a weird cockney accent strangely, telling me I’m wrong.
Strangers are worse as a reference point, they don’t know where you’re coming from, they don’t know you’re being ironically racist or you’re sharing a sexist in-joke with your wife. Strangers will take everything at face value and immediately call you on it, especially online. They’ll make you feel like you’re an awful person just for liking cat photos or Christmas so who do we use to measure ourselves against? When did it become a crime to want Christmas to come early? I just love bright knitwear.
If you look to historical examples you’ve got people like Ghandi who took a stand for his country’s freedom but then it turns out he might have been a paedophile, Mother Theresa turned out to be an atheist, Winston Churchill invented concentration camps, Roald Dahl hated Jews. All of these people are seen as being ideological leaders in their fields and yet are so fatally flawed that you couldn’t take them as an example. Did those flaws also make them the great people they were? Were they great because they were hypocrites?
I’m overthinking it all but really at no point in school and through your development is there a moment where someone takes you aside, hands you a list of qualities and says “Just do these things and don’t do these other things and you’ll be a good person, ignore what anyone else says these are the definitive qualities that a good person needs to adhere to”. Hell they don’t even teach you how to raise a child, fix a leaky sink or how to hold a meaningful conversation and those things are the key skills to life. I would have given anything to have had a lesson in school called “How not to fuck up” I can tell you now that would have been so much more useful than how to play the recorder or any amount of trigonometry.
If we had that, just that assurance, maybe we wouldn’t have people gathering to march against people of a different race or sexuality. Maybe we’d have enough space for refugees and enough money for the homeless. Maybe we could have a standard two week holiday for Christmas for everyone? That’s the dream right there.
I think I’m a good person. Maybe.