I was confused for a long time by the notion that the character of society did not reflect the characters of the people I had met in my life. I assumed that I was lucky to be surrounded by mostly virtuous folk and that, as I journeyed beyond my hometown, I would come to find these bad seeds who were staining the fabric of society with their spilled over greed and corruption.
I never did. Sure, I’ve met a few sociopaths who don’t understand how selfish they are. But I have never met anyone intent on simply destroying the splendor of human community. So how is it that society is so treacherous yet individuals are generally good?
There is a disconnect. There is a point at which the average person does not concretely conceive the consequences of his or her actions, and therefore his or her basic goodness is not expressed. I do not know precisely where this point is, but it lies somewhere between lending your neighbor a stick of butter and the BP oil disaster.
If we can find that point and organize our activities around it, then we should see our communities beginning to more directly reflect the basic goodness of the average person. And that is our task: not to change individuals, but to rearrange society so that their basic goodness can be more easily expressed.