From Stephen Jay Gould
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The patterns of human history mix decency and depravity in equal
measure. We often assume, therefore, that such a fine balance of re-
sults must emerge from societies made of decent and depraved people
in equal numbers. But we need to expose and celebrate the fallacy of
this conclusion so that, in this moment of crisis, we may reaffirm an
essential truth too easily forgotten, and regain some crucial comfort
too readily forgone. Good and kind people outnumber all others by
thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous
potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency
of evil people. Complex systems can be built only step by step, where-
as destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the
Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced
by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the “or-
dinary” efforts of a vast majority.
We have a duty, almost a holy responsibility, to record and honor
the victorious weight of these innumerable little kindnesses, when an
unprecedented act of evil so threatens to distort our perception of or-
dinary human behavior.
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