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G is for the Greater Good

By Galina Krasskova

There is no term I dislike more, and none that gets my proverbial hackles up more than “the greater good.” I hear it a lot in Pagan circles. I hear it a lot in the interfaith circles in which I move and work too. In both cases, it’s used almost inevitably as a universal panacea when the speaker is about to abrogate any sense of personal responsibility. Again and again, I’ve seen it used as a justification for moral cowardice. Again and again I’ve seen it used not only to excuse thoughtlessness or laziness, but to grant such questionable behaviors the moral high ground. Not only do I consider this term nine times out of ten a moral cop-out, but I also consider it an incredibly dangerous sensibility, one that can be used –and historically has been used—to justify incredible cruelties.

We live in a society that does not encourage personal challenge. It does not encourage anyone to live an examined life. Instead, we’re encouraged –by the media, by the Christian dominated culture, by our corporate sponsors (yes I’m being sarcastic) to stay numb and dumb. We live in a culture that raises personal mediocrity to a high art. Worst of all, we live in a culture that, courtesy of the new age movement, fetishizes ‘feeling’ over personal obligations, and un-thought-out pleasure over any sense of personal responsibility. All of this (and more) contributes to the moral laxity that all too often creeps into our communities, so much so that not challenging ourselves to moral excellence has become the norm. I remember years ago, a Heathen man and kindred leader telling me most avidly that it was “ok” to be “mediocre.” He believed it too. I was appalled.

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