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Can Bad People Write Good Things? – Op-Ed Piece


 

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Can Bad People Write Good Things? – Op-Ed Piece


The concept of good and evil has been around since the concept of life itself. It feels as if life started; the first thing that happened was two teams were formed; one for good and one for evil. Now the fun part to this is how different civilizations viewed good vs. evil. Each culture has a story that mirrors the idea of good vs. evil; some are different than others. (which I am not going into detail about here) The most notable is the one between God and The Devil, from The Bible, and is the most prominent example in our society today.

You know the story; God got pissed at Satan, aka The Devil, for trying to be better than him, so he cast him out down here on Earth. Because God gets it, he knows that there is really no worse punishment than to send an angel down to Earth. He also seems to get the concept of assholes. He knows that people are going to be jerks, just for the hell of it, no pun intended. Say what you will of the being, but boy, the guy really understands stuff. He knows that living here would suck, and it kind of does. And he knows that the people down here would be mean to one another, which we are.

Art is a reflection of mankind's ability to interpret the beauty and horror of the world. Many of man's greatest achievements are art, from The David to Shakespeare's plays to the Beatles songs. Mankind often makes art a necessity for our existence. As if we can't live if we don't sing a song, or write a poem, or make a sculpture. Often, the concept of morality is ignored when discussing art, for art is seen as something that should stand on its own.

This leads us to the strange question; does all good work come from those that we determine to be good? In other words, is good art only produced by good people? Does having good morality make one a better artist? Is it possible that someone that many of us would deem to be immoral for a myriad of reasons produces something that many of us would claim is beneficial to our society?


Good people make good art. It should be that simple. But for some reason, it isn't. The explosion of the internet has showcased the complexity of this ethical question. When you read a physical book, or watch a movie on a streaming service, or listen to a song on your phone, you assume that the artist is with it mentally, that they are sane enough to make the art you are enjoying, and also aware enough to give their all for it. You are lured into their world, and you don't mind if they are a little off with their story or character since you are merely there for entertainment. We never assume the worst when we see an artist. We always give the artist the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their character since they are producing something that many of us can't. Why would such a gift be from a bad person? It seems almost cruel of the world to even give us such an opportunity.


Is the story you are reading slightly disturbing? Yes, but that doesn't make the author crazy, right? How about that sick movie you got done with yesterday? Surely that doesn't mean that the actor in it is crazy, right? And what of that song you just finished before reading this, that one with those melancholic lyrics? The singer doesn't need real help, right?

It's all just for entertainment; at least, that is what we tell ourselves.


When I was in a creative writing class as a teenager, I remember the teacher strictly saying that what is in the room stays in the room. Since she knew that many of the kids could only feel comfortable if they don't think there will be consequences for their actions. If you tell kids to write whatever they want, they won't, since they think you will check it later. If you tell a kid that no one will ever read their work, including you, then they will write whatever they want. At the time I took the class, I didn't realize the major philosophical question being raised by the teacher. It is something I still think about. Is the kid who writes of murdering people flexing his creative muscles, or is it a cry for help? Is the girl who writes of a monster talking about an actual monster, or does she really hate herself and who she is? There is no right answer to this, and I am not sure if there will ever be. How can a teacher tell the difference between the kid writing a sick story for the hell of it and the kid crying out for help? Can they? I don't know.

You will see even till this day, many protest the hit book written by a questionable character, or the top song sung of by the criminal, or the movie made by the pedophile, and that is where our problem lies. They aren't protesting the act, although, yeah, the act is bad. They are protesting that the art is even available. No one is arguing that the act committed by the person is right. No one is saying that pedophilia is normal and acceptable, or that rape is justified, or murder allowable, or that any of the hideous acts committed by the clearly disturbed individuals is right. No, if there is any such progress that we have made over the years, it is the growth of our morality as people. You can't go around shooting people. You can't go around mugging people. You can't go around punching people. Why? Because we know that it isn't right. When we hear of the crime, we all think that the criminal should get what they deserve from our legal system. Put them behind bars because they committed an act that is so egregious that we want to shun them from our world. Give them the chair, end their life for they don't deserve to live; no man, no matter how famous or popular, can treat other humans in such a manner and still breathe. This philosophy is one still held by many. I am sure that many of you are more than happy to see the criminal's career get thrown down the drain after you learn of the crime they got away with during their career. They are no longer viewed. No one reads them. No one likes them. Their life is over, and their career isn't that far behind. Yeah, because they murdered someone. They raped someone. They took advantage of a kid. The taking of their career is the least that many would do. I am sure that many of you would even suggest an eye for an eye for this criminal and that you wouldn't be satisfied until they are put through the same hell that their victims went through. Although I admit that I feel this way sometimes, I do hold back my anger because we as a society must be able to restrain ourselves and show that we are better than that. I really feel this way towards those pigs who take advantage of women and children. When I hear that a man violated a woman or lured children into their homes, my first thought is to shoot the bastard. "Kill them," I say. Because you are not a real man if you can't respect a woman and you have no heart if you hurt children. I love women, and I was a child, and I openly get frustrated (I am getting it now, just thinking about it) that someone could hurt them like that, but then I change my mind. "No. I am not a criminal. I am not like them. To kill would be no better than what they did. As the Lord said, those, who live by the sword die by it." And so, I choose peace in my quest for justice. I suggest this method to anyone else who ever feels this way. Don't kill the criminal; treat the next woman or child you see with respect.


I have yet to hear any, in any corner, from the loudmouths who believe that a debate is won by the loudest in the room, to the boring, who put me to sleep as they talk about anything, try to justify the act by the criminal artists, because that is not our problem with them. No one argues that the criminal may have had a point in his crime. If that argument is even made, it is certainly rejected by the majority of commoners who would most likely end the person's life if not for the law.

We are all confused by how one person so twisted in the head, so warped in the mind, so low in their mentality, can produce a work of art that has no traces of such wickedness. How is it possible that a person that we are all asking for their head make a poem that inspires us all, or a song that we all love, or a movie that we all watch? That shouldn't be.

Good people make good art, right? Then explain to me why we all accepted that criminal into our hearts before his conviction. Were we all conned by this man? Is he some sort of criminal mastermind that The Joker would envy as he played us all for fools? That fantastic work of art was nothing more than a ruse to keep us distracted from the hideous things he did behind closed doors. His awful ways have finally caught up to him.

But what of those that don't claim to be con-men and that never tried to trick us. Are we all ready to say that every messed-up person who made a great work of art created it as a distraction? What of those who actually believed in their art as they produced it? That's uncomfortable. The man is a monster, yet when he was inspired put together a beautiful piece of art.

I think of two men specifically when this topic of inspiration comes up.

  • Michael Jackson – How can someone so weird and strange and, yes, a criminal (he named his home Neverland, for God's sake) produce a song like Man In The Mirror, a song that is meant to make the listener look inside themselves to change? I grew up listening to that song, seeing its meaning as inspiration for the message that it gave. And yet, a weirdo like Michael Jackson made it. That song has more soul in it than most gospel songs, so how can a man who is fine taking advantage of children and therefore have no soul produce such art? How? How is that possible?

  • R. Kelly – How can a man who pissed on an underage girl and, from other recent reports I have heard, had a sex cult thing going on be responsible for one of music's most inspiring songs, I Believe I Can Fly. I grew up listening to that song, often being uplifted by its positive message, yet a criminal like R. Kelly made it. The song is a gospel tribute about a man dreaming of being better, of being his all, and yet that very man is an absolute weirdo and criminal who did something that should get him behind bars. How? How is that possible?


As I listened to those songs, and I admit I still like them today, I didn't hear any signs or red flags that would lead me to think differently of the men. I enjoyed the songs and felt inspired by their messages. Even after all the messed-up stuff I learned of the men; the songs seem to have a life of their own, one that the message still conveys.

By all accounts, these men should not have ever been in the position to even make such works of art. And yet, here we are. You can still listen to the two men, and I am sure that there are some other artists in literature, movies, or music that you feel the same way as I do about Michael Jackson and R. Kelly. I feel betrayed and confused by everyone. I loved those songs. But I also know what they did was wrong, and they should get what they deserve. It is justice to see them suffer. So why is it that I felt a connection to those songs once in my life?

Why does this happen? And how can this happen?

My only reason, and this is a stretch, is that the men were inspired at the time of composing their art. They were not themselves when they made the songs. Okay, I mean, yeah, they were, but the art that went through them onto the page was not there by their own making. They felt a burst of inspiration that almost neglected the bad behavior that they did. Perhaps they were so overcome with inspiration that the good in them, whatever little that there is, actually came through. For the brief moments, the inspiration of the song came to them, like a dream, and once it was down on paper, all they had to do was go through the proper procedure to complete the song. Both men were professionals in their craft, so that step was easy.


After all, these criminals are people. They have feelings, and they hurt like the rest of us. So even though they should be hanged outside the courtroom doesn't mean that they can't give us a work of art.

I don't know the answer to this, unfortunately. I am really disturbed by this idea, if I am honest with you. This is like a miracle, in that it shouldn't exist, but yet it does. Time and time again, we will experience art and then learn that the person responsible is questionable, and in some cases, worse.

We are then put in the uncomfortable position that I spoke of about a long time ago on this blog. Is it possible that a person's art outweighs someone's life? I mean, no, right? It can't. Yet, how many of us can name the victim of the artist? And how many of us know the lyrics to his songs?


As I said, I really don't like this question, but yet it is one that keeps getting brought up.


Good people make good art, right?

 

 

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Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.

 

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