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Metastasis: the curse of good or the greatest enemy of good is not evil (by Tomáš Sedláček)

It is often said - and believed - that evil is the opposite of good; evil lies at the opposite pole of good.  In an extremely vulgar conception, which however is very widespread, evil is a type of good with a negative sign. Here we are already approaching an accounting of good and evil, in which good and evil are equal in absolute value.  This is the mythical computation of good and evil deeds, theology at the level of nursery school, which nevertheless is used by many also in adulthood. However, also for those who are aware of these things, our civilization somehow automatically believes that the greatest enemy of good is evil.  What if the greatest enemy of the good is not evil itself, but the idea of something better?  May the biggest enemy of good be an idea of something more good?

This opposite view is actually much more intuitive in a lot of ways involving the idea that something better immediately turns something good into evil. We are fine, but the Austrians are better off than we, so logically we must be having a bad time. We are not able to perceive good in its absolute form, when you have no pain, one almost never notices it. Naturally, we do not perceive the absence of pain, perhaps except after a suffered pain, or in rare (especially for the contemporary man) moments of gratitude and satisfaction.

Nevertheless, now, back to the relationship between good and evil. The greatest atrocities have happened for some greater good, whether personal, national, or cultural (such as the Cultural Revolution in China). But there is similarity in the case of theology too; think about the story of the creation of human. The Garden of Eden was good, it was a paradise, but somehow it was not good enough for Adam and Eve: the cause of their fall from grace was not the desire for evil, but for something better. But back to business, after all, we hear it as part of almost every New Year's speech from professional superiors or some "motivational speaker." This year has been good, very good, but (!) but (!) you know that the greatest enemy of the best is just good? So you have to work more, better, harder, more efficiently, and so on. In English the saying goes, "Good is the biggest enemy of the best" and if it is like that, then it is just natural that good and "better" are in an adversarial relationship to each other.

The External Existence

When a man begins to feel satisfied with what he is, this feelling evokes fear, an anxiety in us ( to maximize dissatisfaction of  the “me level“ there is ethics again – whether it takes the traditionally religious form or maybe the modern dissatisfaction with body and moral qualms about eating food ) . Perhaps because of that there was the name of God, an acronym that should not be said aloud (so be careful!) I am who I am; namely we are those, who we are not the ones, which we are. We are constantly dislocated, still in transformation, on the road from somewhere to somewhere, our self is exposed to the outside of the world, which already suggests the external existence of something beyond; outside.

The magnetism of evil

Standing up to evil and not contrarily to good, but metastases is also one of the ancient problems of ethics and philosophy. I mean, what is the magnetism of evil? Why is evil is so tempting, if it is the opposite of good? Why would people do it then? Just by a mistake , an error, a lack of reason, according to Aquinas ? This is the answer that could satisfy only in some simple cases? Is evil created by untamed emotions ? Hitler did it very well. And so on. But if evil is not opposed to good, but in the idea of something better, then its magnetism is naturally and easily understandable.

Especially not to rest on our laurels!

It is simply the idea of something better what whips us out of the bed on a Monday morning. This is what torments us during this crisis of growth capitalism, which perhaps might not grow, and that it will not be a few percent in average better per capita every year.

And what does it mean? Should man give up trying to improve himself and the world around him? Should we be indifferent while other countries overtake us? No way, better is by definition better. Nevertheless, what I wanted to say here is that, this is a place where evil lurks, where its secret source is located. And civilization, which has harnessed the discontent as the main excited engine of progress, must not be surprised that can be satisfied hardly. After all, when a man gets laurels, he discovers finds very quickly, that sleeping on laurels is a terrible wrong.

I do not know who invented this silly proverb.  After all, what is the reason of running, if man no longer needs to be that runner after the destination is reached?


About the Author: Tomáš Sedláček (1977) is a Chief Macro-economic Strategist at ČSOB. He served as a non-political expert advisor to the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Czech Republic, with special responsibility over fiscal consolidation and the reform of the tax, pension, and healthcare systems. He also served as an economic advisor then-president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. (www.tomassedlacek.cz