When Bad People Do Good Things: 5/25

evil people doing good, caught being nice, bad people do good, why do bad people do good things, ethics and morals, values, contradictions, ambiguity, multitudes, evil men do, calls for submissionsSometimes, what makes us do evil is easier to understand than the reasons why we choose to do good.

“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”—Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar

“Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”—Unknown

“How do you know a good man? By his acts.”—100 Acts of Male Goodness

Are we at our roots good or evil, or does neither of these capture the truth of our relationship to morality and ethics? Examples abound of individuals who were known for their corruption, and yet also for acts of generosity. The opposite of “whitewashing” or “greenwashing” stories, with no opportunity for snark: these are not bad people (or corporations, who not all agree are people) doing bad things and making them seem good, but genuinely going against type—crossing over to the Light Side.

This is not the conservative politician who campaigns against gay rights until his child comes out to him. And also, this is not about when Good People Do Bad Things, and the challenge this poses to one’s faith. Rather, these are the stories of villains, monsters, and sadists who, in some area of their lives, or just once, behave admirably.

What villain from history or headlines has been reported to have been kind, even just once—even mysteriously so? Why does this example of goodness shine as newsworthy, when committed by a person known for what he has done wrong? Should we be surprised when people who have victimized some people, are also capable of compassion or sacrifice on behalf of others?

What can we learn from a single heroic act in a man’s life, when the preponderance of his choices have been selfish, cowardly, or vengeful?

Can we atone for the evil that we do, without changing our immoral or unethical ways, through good works? Who or what is an example of this possibility?

We are looking for your stories and essays on the subject of When Bad People Do Good Things. Please send your pitch or completed submission (approximately 600-1200 words, plain text/Word/Google doc) to Justin Cascio by email at [email protected] by Saturday, May 25 for consideration. Accepted work will appear in an upcoming series on The Good Life, on The Good Men Project.

Have an idea for a series on The Good Life? Email Justin with your idea.

 

Read more Calls For Submissions.

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Comments

  1. Going by what you are looking for, Mike Tyson does not fit. Why would you use his picture? It’s a disservice to him.

    • Mike Tyson is popularly known for biting another boxer’s ear off, but more seriously, for serving a prison sentence for raping a woman. His image has been tarnished by these highly publicized acts of violence. That he also raises pigeons, otherwise known as doves, a symbol of peace, seemed highly appropriate. Do you have another interpretation of the boxer’s life that goes against this narrative? Maybe it would be a good fit for this call.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        Mike Tyson is a fascinating human being. I don’t know whether he’s a bad guy who did good things, or a good guy who did bad things. I’ve been sort of obsessively following him and learning about him and I’ll tell you what, I don’t know of a more complicated human story.

        If someone is going to write about Tyson, there are two AMAZING interviews with him. First, one from about 2 months ago on NPR’s Forum. It’s available online. The other is from last week on Howard Stern.

      • yessum15 says:

        yup, using mike tyson was a bad idea.

        1) He’s gone through enough abuse as to seriously undermine his use as an example of a ‘bad’ person.

        2) He was severely exploited by the media at a very young age, many people made alot of money painting him as crazy or bad.

        3) He’s clearly demonstrated time and again that he’s a pretty complex and thinking individual.

        4) The ‘ear-biting’ thing has been made too much of by people who don’t understand boxing.

        Biting a dirty fighter’s ear off is not really as wild as it sounds. In the context of what is already a fight, biting isn’t really that much escalation. If I had a cut opened from multiple illegal headbutts I’d also be looking to foul the opponent. I’ve had a guy try to bite me when I wasn’t even doing an illegal move. A number of fighters have resorted to this too. The first one that comes to mind is mixed martial artist Gerard Gordeau who bit Royce Gracie’s ear. And certainly a number of other fighters have done worse with less provocation in the ring. Ever heard of the “goodrich grab”? Or ‘the last white hope’ Andrew Golota? If it wasn’t Mike Tyson and so much wasn’t already invested in making him America’s nightmare, this wouldn’t be that notable.

  2. Tyson is someone who grew up in a broken home and really bad neighborhood. The only man who was ever a father figure for him, Cus D’Amato, died a pivotal moment in his life (right before he gained most of his stardom). After that it was easy for unscrupulous people and hangers on to take advantage of the under educated Tyson. He had no one looking out for him and was surrounded by people who saw him as a paycheck. So the guy was dealt a bad hand (which isn’t an excuse for the spousal abuse or any of his other violent outbreaks). I will say I never believed he raped that woman, and still to this day do not believe her version of events.

    In recent years Tyson was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, which would explain how he could do horrible things yet show such love and care for pigeons. And while I don’t think eating meat is some horrible pathway to a violent life Tyson himself seems to believe that his vegan diet has changed his demeanor. He’s a guy who’s basically been a good guy for three years. I’m not a Tyson apologist but I don’t think we should be brushing an apparently rehabilitated person with a broad stoke of “bad but has inexplicably done one good thing”. Four to five years ago I would have agreed with the using him in the picture.

    • That’s a fascinating story. I didn’t know that Tyson has become a vegan.
      Would you be interested in writing about any aspect of Tyson’s life? Not to be an apologist, as you don’t seem to be, but to take something positive in his life and examine it against the backdrop of what else he has done?

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        On Howard Stern last week, Tyson came out as a big supporter of LGBT rights, too!

      • J. Jordan-Green says:

        Mike Tyson is indeed fascinating but I also want to echo Jimbos concern but for a totally different reason: race, and the perpetual villianization of Black men by mainstream and alternative, usually liberal media. I read through the omments before I decided to reply, and I m also not an apologist for Mike Tyson, especially considering before he raped a woman, he brutalized and abused Robin Gibbons, an actress for several years while they were married. I also consider myself, at a foundational level, a feminist as well.

        But I also consider myself anti-racist, and I draw serious reservations with using Mike Tyson here because it further adds to the meta-narrative that Black. Men are violent, and this specific article implies that Mike Tyson is inherently evil–which, in ligh of the revelation of his bi-polar disorder, seems a bit more callous and further stigmatizing of people with mental health disorders than seems o be comfortable. Indeed, Hitler’s picture here, while more provocative, would have been more suited for the prompt that you just laid out: since everyone can agree that Hitler was one of the most evil people on the planet.

        While Chris Brown is constantly propped up as a poster child for violence toward women, Robert Downy Jr. is seen as a classic Hollywood success story, but he also has had a history of violence and terrible acts toward women. While Mike Tyson is seen as somewhat of an eccentric, Charlie Sheen has been seen in a similar light, but Sheen still has an acting career, and I have yet to seen an article implying his inherent moral character, even though he far more reknowned for intoxicated violence toward everyone; a similar argument could be made for Mel Gibson.

        Blow for blow, the majority of men who we can list as violent, in the public eye will appear to Americans as white, yet Gibson, Sheen, and Downey are allowed one thing that Tyson and Brown are not: the ability to be seen as possible of redemption by omission from articles such as these. There are dozens of public figures, well known and obscure, with hundreds of photos that would have exemplified your point, but the choice here, whether intentional or not still adds to the stereotype that is so easily accessible and salient in most Westerners minds about Black men.

      • I appreciate it Justin, but I’m no Tyson expert, and I already don’t devote time to writing about the things I should be writing about.

  3. Well Hitler was a vegetarian and loved dogs.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Comparing Mike Tyson to Adolf Hitler is a stretch.

      Give Mike Tyson an afternoon of your day. I’m a pretty fervent feminist, and I still don’t hate Mike Tyson or think he’s anything like Hitler. Super complicated story of his life.

      Just because we think a person may not be evil to the core doesn’t remove the bad things he’s done.

  4. Joanna pls don’t put words in my mouth-

    My comment is not indented as a reply to the Tyson thread…

  5. This is interesting. We always heard how good people can do bad things such as rape, but this is the only time I heard an article about how bad people can do good things. In my country ( in East Asia, not India ), there is a huge talk about death penalty for a rapist. Many people support it, men and women. While many of my friends support it and said its a fair punishment for a man who do such an evil acts, I still cannot accept it, although I agree rape is a horrible crime .

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