Neither Good Nor Bad

I love dilemmas.

In logic, dilemma means a difficult situation where someone has to choose either of two unfavorable alternatives. Well, the dilemmas I’m referring to are dilemmas in our mind, like choosing one side from two to stand.

One of the dilemmas I encountered recently is the question whether Oscar Schindler was a good or bad man at the end of the film “Schindler’s List”. Long story short, Oscar Schindler was an ethnic German business man who was also member of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party during World War II; he employed about 1200 Jews, many of whom had been in concentration camps. Schindler’s first factory was in Krakow, Poland, but he later moved the whole factory and the Jew workers to his hometown. At the end of World War II, there were only about 4000 Jews in Poland, so 1200 Jews alive in one factory was an amazing number.

So was Schindler a good man at the end of the film?

Schindler’s initial goal in running a factory was to make money; he employed Jews possibly because Jew workforce was cheaper than Polish workforce, so that he could maximize profit. Maybe it was because after he saw the horrors of concentration camps or the sort that he changed his motive—that he began to save as many as he could.

But I argued that Schindler wasn’t a good man at the end of the film (which was immediately after WWII and after he’d saved so many people).

I don’t mean that he was a bad man. We’re humans, and humans are ambivalent creatures. We cannot be good all our lives, or even remain good for a long time.

Language is tricky that way. “Good” and “bad” are words of extremity and absoluteness and are each at the end of a spectrum. You can’t be an absolute good person, just like the society can’t become Utopia. You can only try to become the absolute good person.

Schindler had good intentions—that I agree—but it doesn’t necessarily mean he was a good man.  Yes, he had done a good thing at the end, but he had also done a lot of things that are considered “not good”. Doing a good thing doesn’t make someone a good person.

As I’d said before, Schindler wasn’t a good man or a bad man; this would remain throughout the film (and his life), and so to answer the question: No, I don’t think Schindler was a good man at the end of the film.

My classmates and I had a heated discussion on this good/bad man topic. Most of them had uniform answers. But whatever the case, I think that even though this question may appear easy and straightforward, it is actually something to think about.

via Uniform

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