Extreme, Close Up

Good people are extremists. And, though it is not going to be the subject here, it is worth noting that sentence structure is hugely important for meaning, since it is also the case that extremists are not necessarily good people (those of you with pencils might want to Venn that).

I would say that one’s values don’t matter except insofar as they are discharged with extremity. I might say that one’s values don’t even manifest unless they are equally discharged (apologies for the constant use of ‘discharge’, another word ruined, presumably by the people who took ‘incontinently’ away from us). However I am not sure whether what I am going to say is more about values or the actions springing from them.

I am a relativist, and I feel very glad that such was my ground state inclination, since had I been drawn to absolutism, and so likely some form of theism, I would no doubt be of the tome-thumping, loincloth-wearing, reality-denying, heretic-bothering, diet-proscribing, fashion-dictating, happiness-questioning type. Since I believe that what I believe matters, and that those beliefs need to guide actions and to do so with integrity and a certain amount of force, it is that ground state which dictates what kind of good person I am.

This is not something that most absolutists understand, and I have often been presented with the idea that relativism is relative because it has somehow weak-willedly fallen short of achieving absolutism. But this is not the case. I believe that there is no ultimate ground of, classic example, morality with a force and fury that could unsettle. I hold my right not to place the status of my own beliefs above those of others, except where it’s impractical not to, with colossal conviction. And I will respect the right of others to hold their own beliefs with a sure and unwavering certainty matched only in its magnitude by, typically, the utter lack of respect I have in the specifics of those beliefs.

Of course, there will be self-styled relativists who do not feel this way. As there are people lazily subscribing to an absolutist position without understanding that they have no consistent option not to constantly upend and harass dissenters. But both of these are examples of non-good people. The good people are those with the extremity to inhabit the normativity of their own natures and the shackles of whatever belief system enfolds them.

Which, of course, if nothing else has, shows the utter lack of point of using a word like ‘good’ without defining it first. But in many cases definitions are golden goose eggs. Pay too much attention to acquiring them, and you simply have a dead goose.

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