The deceptively simple question above was posed over at Ionnis’ place.
Here’s my two cents worth:
I think you are on the right track with your caution to identify root causes before judging the behavior of others.
“Bad” is one of those terms we all use and often assume that other’s understanding of the meaning behind the word is the same as ours. What is “bad” to me may appear otherwise to you.
For example, to someone who values stability and predictability in the societal arena, protesters and groups which disobey the law are “bad”.
Others who value a particular moral, political, or environmental stance may see them as heroes, who are doing brave and “good” things.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder … and so is good and bad, much of the time.
People are not “bad”, but behaviors can be classified along a spectrum of moral, ethical, or legal behavior from one end to another. The undesirable end is called “bad” and the desirable end is “good”.
You still have individual differences of perception based on circumstances, motivations, and previous experience, but we can arrive at a general agreement about many human behaviors. Killing someone without cause is almost always somewhere on the “bad” side of the continuum, for example.
However, we are classifying the behavior, not the person. Members of the inner circle of the Nazi party in Germany toward the end of World War II were generally considered to be “bad” people, but Goebbels is reported to have loved his children, even as he took them with him into suicide.
Behavior can be judged somewhat objectively, but people are too complex for simple assortment ….
Since posting the above, I have had some additional thoughts, but first I would like to hear your response to this question.
Waiting patiently while the rain comes down in the Heartland ….