What’s So Bad About Doing Good?


(Yes, that’s me pretending to steal a stuffed bear’s hat. It illustrates the point of the post. Almost. Sort of.)

Anyway, yesterday was Doctor Who Magazine day; I bought it of course, because I’m a big geek, and along with it I received a free copy of the Times. It was one of those offers WH Smith often does. As I took it, I noticed the banner above the headline: “The Power of Being Good”.

Now I know what you’re thinking: the Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, and therefore is part of an organisation that is currently considered to be… Well, not as evil as Hitler, but at least he’s been dead for sixty-six years. On the day that the phone hacking scandal reached new lows, what could a News International paper tell us about being good?

Well, the article starts off well, describing Norway’s response to the terrible murders over the weekend and the national concept of being good. Soon after it turned into a discussion about immigration (you’re shocked, aren’t you?), but the key phrase had already lodged itself inside my head: doing good.

Somewhere along the line, 1920’s America if my phone’s dictionary app is right, we decided that ‘do-gooder’ would make an effective insult. I’ve always thought that was strange; I get the idea that it refers to ineffectual or patronising or militant approaches to social improvement, but all the ssme, the words we use have power: has doing good become tarnished by the connotations of Do-Gooder?

(I guess it depends on the nature of the good being done – if you agree with it, it’s nice, if you don’t, it’s interfering do-gooding. Moral relativism on toast.)

I think we need to celebrate doing good a lot more than we do. Look at the news over the last week or so: a massacre in Norway, media/police/government corruption in the UK, US politicians determined to drive the world economy under a bus for no apparent good reason. But, as it’s easier to light a candle than curse the darkness…

  • I follow Edward James Olmos on Twitter because he was fantastic in the Battlestar Galactica remake, and discovered he’s a supporter of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an advocacy group dedicated to preventing the pollution of our waterways. They work through local chapters, so if this has piqued your interest, check them out! Tell them Admiral Adama sent you.
  • Voices for the Library are a group fighting cuts to library services throughout the UK. I naively thought I’d never see the day when public libraries were considered expendable but it’s here and the Voices team are leading the fight against it.
  • The Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for the East African famine is here;I don’t think anything needs adding to this.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, once said:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

I’m not even going to pretend I try to do this as often as I should, but it’s a lot easier to admire those who do than those who sit on the sidelines, eating popcorn and sneering ironically. When a lot of the institutions we once believed were permanent are revealed as corrupt and possibly transient due to the exposure of their malignant hearts, maybe doing good is the best weapon in our arsenal. And I guess this post is acting as an epiphany, because I don’t light candles as often as I want to; let this be the day I start.

And one day, when I’m gone, hopefully far in the future, I hope some nice person can stand up and say I contributed more than I sneered.





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