The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The right thing

There is quite a difference between the right thing, legally right, and believing that it’s the right thing.

Most human beings would say that they are doing the right thing or that their intention is in doing the right thing. It’s close to them. That’s what makes discussions about “this is the right thing” so emotional.

As difficult as it may be to believe, but the mob that stormed into the capitol building most certainly did it because for them it was the right thing to do. For some, it might have been to make people’s voice count. For others, it might have been a sense of having been wronged. The voice of reason may bring up that they were focusing on their own voice, or that they were confusing what they want with what should happen. But that is not accessible to someone who is invested in doing the right thing and is being told that he “doesn’t understand what’s right”.

Most of the people in the mob will have known that their action wasn’t legal. But they put it aside. They either assumed that their success would prove them right or felt they had exhausted all available options. The reward they were betting on was higher than the perceived risk.

What they all did, was put themselves outside of what the law defined as the right thing. Consequently, they’ll earn the reward defined by the legal system. However, their punishment will depend on the one choosing it within the legal possibilities. Not everyone will find it to be the right one.

The fact that there is no unanimity belongs to democracy. It indicates a gap between existing opinions on what is right and what the given law describes as right. However, the more the gap grows, the more society has become disconnected from its underlying principles.

A reason this gap widens is a lack of accountability. It’s letting things happen.

The events have shown how large that gap has become. How easy it has been to look away in the last years. But also that there is a majority that continues to believe in the principles.

It’s a situation in which fixing the law or seeking to persuade people of one’s opinion inevitably fails. What’s needed in such a case is to find a way to reestablish shared principles. Sometimes it’s about going back to the values, most often it is recreating a safe space where standing up to those values is invited as well as asked for.


As I learned from a kind reader, there is a rock in this swiss lake. It is there to symbolize the “Swiss origin story”. The story talks about the oath taken at this place: “We want to be a single nation of brothers, and never separate us in adversity or danger”.


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