What’s counterproductive about “making the world a better place”

October 14, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog

I commented on a post on another board that expanded on my earlier post “What’s wrong with ‘making the world a better place‘”, referring to this post:

I understand the goals of the ethic, but I’d suggest a change to one part.

“World improvement” sounds noble, but every sane person believes they are making the world a better place — whether dictators, telemarketers, soldiers, marketers of sugary beverages to children, or anyone. I guarantee not a single one of them, or anyone else, believes they are making the world a better place.

You might believe they are making the world worse, but then you’re evaluating them by your standards. Since they have different standards, they’ll view you as making the world worse too since you don’t live up to their standards.

Personally I find the whole concept of making the world a better place or “world improvement” provincial and judgmental. Provincial because it assumes your standards apply to others (maybe self-important would be a more appropriate term). Judgmental because you are judging yourself and others — “better” and “improvement” means more good, which judges.

Most insidiously, because the view makes you feel right, as opposed to humble, it motivates you to act instead of soliciting others’ feedback. That is, it motivates you toward self-righteousness.

As an alternative, I would propose “do what you think is right” and “respect others”. These two goals contradict each other and lead to internal conflict, but so does interacting with people.

Anyway, I blogged about this concept once at greater length than this post in case anyone wants to read more — http://joshuaspodek.com/whats-wrong-making-world-place

Looking now at the word “wrong” in the title of my old post, I don’t like how it evaluates and judges. So I revised the title for this post.

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