My Blog__ Being Good Without Morals

January 25, 2012 | By

Being good isn’t necessarily something that I strive for on a day to day basis. There are other values that seem to take precedence often, like being strong, being smart, being provocative, being happy. All of those things don’t always amount to goodness.  Not that being good and being smart or happy are mutually exclusive all the time—but sometimes they are. And I think it is fair to say that there is a general aversion to any conception of a static morality for our generation. Morality comes to be associated with Judeo-Christian values—the nuclear family, the church, and other modes of collective responsibility that the fierce subjectivity of our youth deplore.  Morality becomes tied to the police state, to institutions, to purity. These are not bodies or traits we want to be associated with. And being commanded into goodness by another is infuriating.

It’s that sense of supremacy when someone tells you that they’d never do what you did—that right there is the diseased essence of morality. You can hear it in the tone of their voice when they tell you that you know better, that you are better than that. I guess in many ways Nietzsche laid it out—the shame tied to morality and the sense of indebtedness for wrongdoing is the most damaging, violent pathway to self hatred there is.  You owe yourself more than fucking that guy who treats you like a two cent whore. You owe your family more than getting drunk all the time and not pulling your weight to take care of one another. Being shamed for damaging behavior magnifies damage—nothing else. Using guilt to remit goodness is its own form of violence and it generally backfires. Your bad behavior usually doesn’t come from a place of pure selfishness, and if it does, you are probably so isolated that no one tries to shame you anymore anyways. Bad behavior, self damaging behavior, and selfish behavior usually come from a place of pain. You have to heal that with love, not shame.  Most importantly, I know that guilt-ridden love is not something I ever want to give. And it’s not the kind of love I want to receive.  I hate being reprimanded and it pushes me away more than anything—but  there has to be some recourse for goodness. I do want to be good. I want to try every day to be good.

Goodness without morality is a precarious zone to enter.  Lacking a coherent set of moral guidelines can lead to confusion, considering the interactive nature of morality itself. I suppose morality is the way a person chooses to behave in relation to themselves and other people.  So how can I be good without being moral? I’ve tried to think of referents for modes of goodness that aren’t directed by the standard moral compass.  It might be a function of my investment in mob culture over the course of the last few weeks, but I think these guys really have it right. I’m talking about gangster goodness. I mean what can we really learn from Jimmy Conway? From Tony Soprano? From the mob wives? It comes down to loyalty. You choose a family—a pack of people who you are bound to stand by no matter what.  You never rat on them, you never cut them off, you never judge them for their downfalls or preach to them.  You stand by them from a distance and when they fall down, you pick them up quietly without a scene. It’s not a performative loyalty, and there should be no spectacle of the genuine nature of your relationship. It is unspoken and not to be betrayed. Ever.

Gangster goodness means that when your friends fuck up, you don’t punish them. You go to your mom’s, kiss her on the cheek, pick up a shovel, bury the dead, and then make your friend a full bodied Pomodoro to set everything straight and keep them well fed.  Feeding the people around you is always a direct way to be good—I mean this literally. Loyalty is a goodness that I can adopt. Being a feeder is a goodness that I can adopt. And the next time one of the members of my chosen family fucks up, I’m going to pick up a shovel, bury the body, and put sauce on to keep them fed.

__Share this post