Recently, over a couple of beers, hanba came across the following discussion between two of her friends. We can call them Ada and Bob.
Ada was having trouble finding reasons to keep on living. Not that she necessarily wanted to die either. The world was filled with jerks and going towards ecological destruction; Ada didn’t feel like being a part of saving it. The discussion was about to turn uncomfortable, until Bob asked: “If you died, what difference would that make to the world?”
Startled, Ada replied: “Nothing whatsoever, that is the whole point.”
Bob: “So you intend to leave the earth to the jerks?”
Ada: “To care about the fate of the world involves a certain degree of involvement in it, empathy towards it – a prerequisite to stick around to save it is that you care. And I do not care any more. We get what we deserve, I embrace the ecological doom.”
Bob: “Throughout history, doomsday has been near several times. It has not yet occurred, though. I am reminded of a quote I once heard; ‘1 percent of the people are good, 1 percent bad, and the rest are neutral, sheep-like. They follow whomever. ‘ If the good ones give up, then the bad ones remain, and the sheep flock towards the bad.”
Ada: “Are you implying I should stick around, since I am one of the good ones? Who said I belong to the good ones? Who appointed me for that? I am a jerk just like the rest of us.”
Bob: “And who says you aren’t one of the good ones?!”
Then followed a short discussion where Ada took a libertarian perspective, giving each individual a subjective possibility to define what is good and what is bad. It is not possible to find a universal definition of good and bad, it is all relative. What matters most is to leave everyone else be, let the people mind their own business. Ada: “Since, if I believe I belong to the good one and attempt to change others, then perhaps I violate others’ liberty. Just take certain religious sects that ring at people’s doorbells. They certainly believe they’re the good ones, salvaging the sheep. But I find this intrusive!” In Ada’s world people should respect each other and not try to change others, out of respect for them.
Bob, however, is of the belief that it is possible to change others all the while respecting their liberty. Bob goes as far as to claim that trying to convince the sheep gives him enough meaning in life to keep going. “It is possible to act on your values and make a difference. On a small scale”, Bob says.
I do not know what to say. I believe Bob lives a more fulfilling life than Ada. Not sure how to get there, though, seeing as Ada’s point of view seems more realistic at a first glance. I mean, make a difference does sound pretty utopistic! I was really fascinated by the discussion, though!