Can we have a discussion about…Evil?

The notion that we might discuss evil was given birth in my noggin recently when I’d reflexively blurted out the damning epithet to neighbors who’d stopped by for a visit.  They brought their gorgeous 95-pound fluffy white Great Pyrenees rescue dog, Bella (La Bella Luna) for me to meet, as well.

During the course of conversation, they’d mentioned their current involvement with the Missus of this couple I wrote about long ago in ‘Now Horse, Cut That Out!’  While I tried to portray the couple with sardonic humor, some of their most dark quotes and characters shine through, but by no means all of them.  It’s short, and if you do read it, I hope you enjoy it.

But as they spoke about them, memories of their depraved ugliness came flooding back to me, and “God’s blood, those people are Evil” came zooming out of my mouth.  They both quickly advised me that he was dead, and good riddance (okaaaaay), but that honestly, she’s not that bad.   What a sterling recommendation, no?

But even with the tenor of my embarrassing outburst, they couldn’t stop talking about Missus Orc!  Three estranged sons, one who’d returned to take care of her while perhaps dying of cancer, if he farmed the place, she’d will him some money or other, dooh-dah, doo-dah…  Lost in memories, I’d been listening with half an ear, when Miz neighbor called me back with, “And Wendy, you won’t be surprised to hear that Catherine won’t pay for hospice care!”

Oh, fuck me, this came sailing out of my grande bouche next.  “Yeah, plus they might send a n*gger to help her!”  Blinks all around, of course, maybe some nervous laughter.

They left after a bit, but in the middle-of-the-night, i was plagued with what the Beatles had dubbed ‘the blue meanies’, wherein guilt, shame, or regret could keep one wakeful until morning.

But it caused to muse about considerations like ‘how many evil deeds does it take to make a person Evil?  And how dark was it of me that I’d named them such?  How do bad people in a community pass for ‘good people’?  Some of the most odious monsters in this valley often have the largest turnouts at their funerals, and no, it’s not cuz they want to piss on their graves.  Do they just run good public cons?

Anticipating the creation of this diary, I’d hopped into da Wiki and read a bit of both ‘Evil’ and ‘Good and Evil’. There are a host of definitions and beliefs about Evil, including religious, philosophical (Spinoza, Nietzsche, Plato, Aristotle), psychological (Jung, Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Scott Peck,  The section labeled ‘Theories of the Intrinsically Good’ in ‘Good and Evil’ brings in more philosophers, psychologists, and theories.

Under ‘Usefulness of the term’, this of course caught my eye:

“One school of thought that holds that no person is evil, and that only acts may be properly considered evil. Psychologist and mediator Marshall Rosenberg claims that the root of violence is the very concept of evil or badness. When we label someone as bad or evil, Rosenberg claims, it invokes the desire to punish or inflict pain. It also makes it easy for us to turn off our feelings towards the person we are harming. He cites the use of language in Nazi Germany as being a key to how the German people were able to do things to other human beings that they normally would not do. He links the concept of evil to our judicial system, which seeks to create justice via punishment — punitive justice — punishing acts that are seen as bad or wrong. He contrasts this approach with what he found in cultures where the idea of evil was non-existent. In such cultures, when someone harms another person, they are believed to be out of harmony with themselves and their community, are seen as sick or ill and measures are taken to restore them to a sense of harmonious relations with themselves and others.”

Now I admit that even now I can imagine takin’ a whack at both Missus and Mister Orc even now, but Rosenberg’s speaking in a different sense, isn’t he? But we see that framing of ‘Evil’ as all too common in the Western Imperium, don’t we?  As a corollary example of the ease of ‘manufacturing Evil consent’, this Bill Van Auken essay fairly blew me away with all I hadn’t known about CIA asset Manuel Noriega and the 1989 US invasion of Panama having been a test run of sorts for US militarism around the world, partially as a distraction from abysmal domestic financial strain.

“The 1989 statement by [the predecessor organization of the Socialist Equality Party in the US] noted, “The attack on Panama shows the increasing resort of US imperialism to military force.” It continued: “Far from a sign of strength, the resort to military force is an expression of the weakness and crisis of American capitalism. With its financial system in a shambles, facing escalating trade and budget deficits, and hammered by the competition of more efficient imperialist rivals, especially Japan and West Germany, US imperialism is seeking to assert by force what it no longer has the economic resources to sustain—its domination of the nations of Latin America.”

Noting the increasing influence of European and Japanese investment in a region Washington had long regarded as its “own backyard,” the statement continued: “The US is thus flexing its muscles not merely to chase out Noriega, but to send a warning to its principal economic rivals in Europe and Asia that while in decline economically, the United States still possesses decisive military advantages.”

Evil on the hoof, period.  And still galloping along.

Possibly because I’ve read and liked some of Scott Peck’s work, and have read People of the Lie twice, and find his thinking relevant to both current personal social justice politics (or injustice) as well as the familial sort of scape-goating that too often occurs, his theory also hits the mark of the psychology of the many enthusiastic supporters of barbaric ‘good wars’ and ‘just wars’:

“American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck on the other hand, describes evil as militant ignorance. The original Judeo-Christian concept of sin is as a process that leads one to miss the mark and not achieve perfection. Peck argues that while most people are conscious of this at least on some level, those that are evil actively and militantly refuse this consciousness. Peck describes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness which results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims (often children or other people in relatively powerless positions). Peck considers those he calls evil to be attempting to escape and hide from their own conscience (through self-deception) and views this as being quite distinct from the apparent absence of conscience evident in sociopaths.”  (His Wiki is here.)

Now some cultures and religions believe that Evil is actually a Supernatural entity that must be fought, and while he tried to keep religion out of his science, even Peck noted this in his People of the Lie; from the Wiki:

“Initially he believed, as with ‘99% of psychiatrists and the majority of clergy’, that the devil did not exist; but, after starting to believe in the reality of human evil, he then began to contemplate the reality of spiritual evil. Eventually, after having been referred several possible cases of possession and being involved in two exorcisms, he was converted to a belief in the existence of Satan.”

Similarly, Carl Jung believed that humans were prone to projecting their unacknowledged  shadow selves onto others, the solution being to scrupulously examine one’s inner life.  His Wiki also notes that he believed that some memories were passed down from generation to generation, and that collective unconscious and human archetypes have a profound influence on human psycho-spiritual condition, although I’ve long forgotten how he’d described the mechanism of the archetypal influences.

Now I’m inclined to believe that the universe’s collective unconscious can be changed for the better (see the Institute of Noetic Sciences, for instance), but rather the opposite, as in the more good deeds, generosity towards others, especially by way of creating the best sorts of intentional community…can brighten it up, as it were.  By the way, M. Scott Peck had written a book titled The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace and “started the Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE) to promote the formation of communities, which, he argues, are a first step towards uniting humanity and saving us from self-destruction.”  I wish I’d read it when I could still read dead-tree.

While my own notion of Evil as opposed to Good is quite amorphous, as in not fully gelled, and changeable, I do tend to believe that honestly keeping track of one’s inner life is the key, but also one of the hardest things to do, at least for me. The  Chinese Taoist symbol of black and white, each having a bit of ‘dark’ in the ‘light’, and the opposite, feels only too true. 

What the symbol  is meant to convey in terms of yin, the receptive/yielding, and yang, the creative, active, etc., but having that symbol as a touchstone to remind me that we all have both Dark and Light, Evil and Goodness, yin and yang in us…helps me to confront my own Darkness at times, and engage in gentle battle with it.  Another image I try, but far more often fail to do, is to keep in mind is that Don Juan Matus had advised Carlos Castaneda that Death lives just out of sight over our left shoulders, and the degree to which we remember that can cause is to ask ourselves, in effect ,”Is this the way I want to be acting if Death came for me right now?”

Sigh; I do try to make amends when I’m able, and yes, I called the neighbor and apologized for my rude blunder, and spent some time a few months ago trying to contact folks I’d known I’d harmed in the past and apologized.  Most were kind, and a few even copped to their own parts in the kerfuffles, but certainly not all.  But it’s not up to me to work others’ programs for them, as is often said, but only my own, as full of holes and contradictions as it is.  This guided meditation is one I like, but lately have used all too infrequently.  Most of the ‘voices’ on such videos are irritating; this man’s delivery is smooth as sik.  But given that I’m crap at meditation visualizations, failing to ‘see my fountain of light within’ makes me wonder if ack; I don’t have one.  Just kinda kidding, but still…
Now that I’ve nattered on for far too long, may I ask you about your thoughts and beliefs about Evil?  And may I ask that you to talk to and/or question one another along the way, as in ‘a discussion’, as it suits you.

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69 responses to “Can we have a discussion about…Evil?

  1. Very deep subject, wendye! I happen to be reading a book a friend sent me that is titled “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” and is the life and teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica in Serbia. His main theme is perhaps exemplified in the following excerpt:

    “The Holy Fathers say that unless we humble ourselves, the Lord will not stop humbling us. He will use someone in order to humble us. Someone will provoke our anger and do it until we learn to remain calm and peaceful when provoked. When we can stay calm when someone attacks us from all sides, when we can keep our inner peace in spite of that person’s rudeness, then our soul will become meek and humble and we will live in this life with a full understanding of it. And our neighbors will tell us, ‘You have changed; you used to have a fiery temperament, but now you have somehow become calm and dispassionate.’ But we have not become dispassionate. Rather, this is how the victory over evil manifests itself.”

    I gave that quote because I was struck by what you said that “it’s not up to me to work others’ programs for them, as is often said, but only my own, as full of holes and contradictions as it is.”

    This reminds me somewhat of one of the evening psalms:

    “…my friends and neighbors draw near and confront me
    and my nearest stand afar off.
    Those who seek my life take to violence
    And those who seek to do me wrong discuss evil and imagine deceit all the day long;
    But I am like a deaf man and do not hear
    Like one who is dumb and does not open his mouth;
    I have become like a man among the dead
    And in his mouth there are no reproofs…”

    It’s a chant that somehow brings peace – as perhaps your meditation does as well. We aren’t perfect and we’ll fail, but still a meaningful meditation is food for the soul.

    • ha, i’m of course stuck on the title ‘our thoughts determine our lives’. but along with that elder thaddeus’s imprecation to be humble or god will humble us, even by human agents, until we become meek. as a side note, i have a buddhist quote noting that ‘if one gets angry in argument, one has already lost’. ooof. as well, asian reference for the segmented growth of the bamboo plant, which yields but rarely breaks.

      so this he writes: “But we have not become dispassionate. Rather, this is how the victory over evil manifests itself.” so in his credo is there a time for action that isn’t ‘meek’? jason was trying to examine that word from different angles the other day, remember? but i’m pinging MLK and the militantly non-violent ‘passive resistance’ of the early civil rights movement, but oh, my, was it ‘active’ direct action.

      i have another more personal recent example online in which my yielding led to heightened indecent, racist, and grotesque attacks that left me feeling dirty. well, for now, i need to have some toast and get outside to transplant my glorious basil starts into the garden. ‘they’ say rain’s a-comin’, so now seems to the time. and isn’t it wonderful how much peace and life understanding gardening can bring?

    • i’m having trouble the context of your evening psalms, and i did try to find it. why are his neighbors seeking him to do violence, and are ‘the nearest’ alluding to ‘false friends’ as davidly had mentioned? one of the most tragic trends in my life has been how easily ‘love’ can turn to hate, not limited to ‘loving’ friendships, but watching marriages erupt in vicious revenge-seeking behaviors. i’ve had theories of why that is, but it’s not relevant perhaps to this thread, but related to ‘unexamined shadow sides’ leading to projections.

      but yes, i do think the man knew or sensed that it wasn’t his burden to show them their inner darkness. now in my own life on the boards, i disregard that to a greater degree, and tend to call out the darkness as i find it, but try hard not to engage in ad hominem attacks, but speak to *trends* of darkness, racism, misogyny, white-rightery, etc. on a thread in general.

      as to the ‘ask for nothing’ meditation, it’s essentially by way of ‘find your own lightness of being and rewards’ by focusing your inner fountain of light out in the world. he mentions prosperity, i’m a bit meh about that, but i do love it, and the images are….whoosh-worthy.

      • Oh, sorry, I should have given the context. I couldn’t access your meditation piece, so I was thinking what would be the closest to meditation poetry that sets the mind at ease in my own experience – I realize it is a different context, but sometimes things that are different strike a common note.

        These are for the most part I think psalms of David, who in the story is writing some of them when he is hiding from the persecution of the then King Saul (whose son Jonathan has been his closest friend.) Others of these poems are written when David himself is king. I would call them soul searches, passing over the parts that don’t pertain to a person at the moment, but having at least for me some lovely wordplay that I realize is translation but again for me a fine use of the English language.

        And yes, in specific to David the friends and neighbors would be as I have said, also ,enemies as well. But in the context of a meditation they can be however they speak to the one repeating them, and if they do not, then it is the cadence of the words alone, moving on. And they can mean in a larger sense if not a personal one – the world stage for example as I become a citizen therein or participate in thought in the sufferings of others. It is a similar context to that of being of help to others by working on one’s own program.

        Sorry if I’m not being clear.

  2. Woops, that last line was unintentional, sorry. As you know, I can’t access your meditation, so that’s why I have given a snatch of one of my own. Another line from it that I love goes:

    “…My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
    and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips…”

    It’s a series of six psalms which when chanted take one ‘down into the pit’ as well as to the heights of the heavens, very calming and beautiful Hebrew phrases rhythmically sung.

    And then there is Marc Anthony in Shakespeare:

    “The evil that men do lives after them;
    the good is of’t interred with their bones.”

    Not sure I go along with that. After all, Marc was a bit of a dissembler, wasn’t he?

  3. Interesting topic with diligently culled and pasted links & excerpts, wendye. You forever outdo y’self.

    As an atheist whose view is that The One, whatever it is, is not a personality — that interpretation humans love because it places them smack in the middle of the universe and hence God’s chosen creatures —, I do not eschew professing the existence of a supernatural. More fairly put, not as much the supernatural as the natural we don’t understand. Nor do I see any reason why I shouldn’t consider the stories of my upbringing and those of others that might contain clues & cues. Perhaps only allegorical, and maybe misconstrued science regarding the nature of light and dark, I find enlightenment in even in the tale of how “a bitch sold the first man down the river” out of Eden. If nothing else, it is instructive just how misogynistic our Origin Musings are at their core. But it was the knowledge of good & evil that Evil in the form of a serpent supposed to be God’s sworn enemy promised to Eve and her old man. Until then they could apparently do whatever they wanted save for achieve that knowledge, and everything would be hunky dory. An era later Jesus-his-own-damned-self told the tale of a tale about how for a meat eater eating meat’s quite okay, but for a vegetarian it’s a sin. It would seem that the conscience is playing a central role in this little game of Abrahamic house of mirrors. Conscience. Guilt. Debt. Whatnot.

    But as modern interpretation oft has it, the truly evil ones are the dastards without conscience. Could it be that the truly evil are free of sin?

    I am reminded of a false friend of the German-English variety. A false friend is terminology in the second language that relates so much like the native speaker’s own, either prima facie or in translation, but means anything but the same thing. In our case here I refer first to “self-conscious”, which Germans a wont to think means “self-confident” because “bewusst” in “selbstbewusst” means “conscious”. What reminded me of this little cross-up was how one who knows nothing of “right & wrong” can commit whatever act, obviously without conscience, but also without knowledge and therefore with unbridled confidence.

    Lest I get to labyrinthine here, suffice it to say, that Jung’s native tongue does not confuse anything: kollektives Unbewusstes and collective unconscious are a pretty straightforward pair. When I think of the archetyp for evil, I think of the likes of Mephistopheles, of whom the would-be evildoer Faust is but barely even a disciple — the lesson always being “be careful because evil will trick your ass”. Real evil, that is. The snake.

    In film, real evil is what even the murderer suddenly realizes he’s confronted with when witnessing the sudden manifestation of its supernatural wiles. In these latter two cases, as well as the aforementioned biblical examples, the truly evil one is not only well-aware of his actions and their consequences, but relishes carrying them out. Fully aware, but seemingly without conscience. Everybody else is just the victim of a scam. I suppose this is another reason why people have a tendency to cut their own politicians slack for evil deeds, the idea being that they are but captive of a contract with the devil — or know not what they do.

    So I wonder, to attribute a person’s actions to evil should be as much a case of shifting responsibility as it is going overboard with semantics: “He didn’t do it. Evil did.” Of course, “He is evil” is another proposition altogether. I do know that if it weren’t for either consciousness or conscience we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Evil is as evil does… or thinks it does. Go and sin no more.

    • far too kind of you, davidly, but i love that you want to have this discussion, and have brought a comment of such depth, breadth, and humor. as to “the tale of how “a bitch sold the first man down the river” out of Eden”, double lol. me, too. this wasn’t the tale i was looking for, but it’ll have to do. it’s long, but a nice and illuminating read.
      ‘The Lost Book of Lilith’ by Rachel S. Havrelock
      “Perhaps it is a seedy story I tell, one that will shock you. Often the people with the loftiest thoughts have formed them in shadows. Descendants, however, like to think of their ancestors as clean, so some things are left out of history. Should I dispel the myth? Come out from my guises and admit that creation is not as easy as you would believe? Are you prepared to entertain more than the idea of one man and one woman?” the parts where lilith is in agony that adam ‘wants to name everything’ thus divide everything’ are great.

      but sure, the brilliant notion of One God (‘He’, and authoritarian, to boot, until Jesus was known as god on earth) was in aid thwarting spiritual religious rule by goddesses who could actually…give birth. and of course, many of the indigenous creation stories feature and honor female deities. as for “Could it be that the truly evil are free of sin?” i’m not familiar w/ sin per se (and i now realie i’f forgotten to click into that ink in scott peck’s beliefs), save for the concept that ‘humans are born in sin’, which credo i find repugnant as hell. ooopsie, didn’t mean to pun.

      but i do remember scanning a belief system on one of those wikis that spoke to “how one who knows nothing of “right & wrong” can commit whatever act, obviously without conscience, but also without knowledge and therefore with unbridled confidence.” oh, the sieve brained-wonder of wd! i can readily see mephistopheles as an evil archetype; do you happen to remember how jung said they shape our thoughts? more, say, in the subconscious and dream worlds? i’m pretty sure i gave away my copy of ‘man and his symbols’. i’d tried to get into a jungian dream class, but it cost for too much for me, although….no wait, here is a bit about it!

      more in a bit; i’ve got a few major messes to tend to here.

      • I love Carl Gustav, but like so many scientists of things unquantifiable, I have issues with his disciples’ (Lilithian irony alert) naming of things. I would go so far as to say that even his universal symbols are more personal than is posited. That is, the fact that we are all capable of interpreting our dreams when properly discussing/considering them is enough for me, and while considering past definitions might be a helpful guide, I reserve the right to remain in denial about them. That last bit’s a joke. Sort of.

        I find Jungian ideas interesting in the expression of art, of which I find potential in any terrestrially found writings, would-be non-fiction and fiction alike. So I cannot speak to any theory of Jung’s that differs from the standard manifestations via the subconscious, as far as how archetypes shape our thoughts.

        • lol on ‘(Lilithian irony alert)’. i almost wish i had that book to look at the many symbols, and i reckon they’d be easy enough to find in some pdf, but i’m too…lay, i guess. some were essentially mandalas, which art form i find intriguing and universal. but yeah, avid dreamers (not: ‘a bit of undigested potato’ formula) can borrow theories, but in the end, find their own meanings in dreams. ‘wish fulfillment’ is far too simplistic, and online dream interpretations are so…creepy, imo. (i’d poked about when i was having dream series of both ice and broken glass vases galore). i did try to learn lucid dreaming, but have failed for so long that i’ve just let it go. last night i dreamed (wish fulfillment irony alert) that iran and two other…groups (fuzzy to me now) were making a monumental effort to create a lasting world peace.

          but oh, my, did jung’s body of work influence art, literature, and film. his wiki notes that herman hesse (a past fave) was one.

    • “I do not eschew professing the existence of a supernatural. More fairly put, not as much the supernatural as the natural we don’t understand.” i’ll agree whole-heartedly. for just one example, mr. wd and i were privileged to see the hopi actually make it rain just before they closed the dances to ‘white people’. there’s utterly no way to explain it without resorting to metaphysical terminology, and even then i wouldn’t know the language of that.

      i once took some classes with a fellah named itzak bentov who’d been meditating half of forever, and he described visiting various ‘planes of existence’ i think he called them. he described the inhabitants as ‘far out of the ordinary’ beings, though whether or not human-like i’ve forgotten after so many decades. he further believed that if enough people prayed to some rock or other, eventually the nature of the rock would reflect the power it was given.

      as to ‘Evil as a supernatural entity’, and i assume ‘monolithic, Satan’, scott peck’s cases in which he’d participated in exorcisms gave me the shivers, even though i’m not a believer, so i don’t believe in heaven, hell, or Satan. his wiki reminded me of a case he couldn’t cure, and that was of a young woman who was unable to empathize, which is akin to not having a conscience. now that was back in the day before attachment theory had been birthed. mr. wd and i were all too familiar w/ it, and researched it on our own, speaking to people across the US who the etiology clearly. even now that it’s attained some amount of credibility as a diagnosis, it’s poorly understood by therapists, shrinks, yada yada. i won’t honk on about the other malignant qualities and characteristics, but i just had some horrid experiences on the boards w/ a former friend who reverted to an unbonded state when i told him i needed to take a few days away from him to get my shit together. bang: he unspooled, and now i’m Evil incarnate. and he of course projects his unacknowledged dark side onto me.

      but sure, the masters of war, for instance, and those who torture, seem to enjoy their ‘work’, as we’ve seen at abu ghraib and gitmo, for instance. were they born w/o consciences, robbed of them, or what? no matter, they shouldn’t be able to walk free among us. but Our Rulers decide who is Evil (the other) and that they aren’t. jason had said that fucking zbig was celebrated in the media after he died. guess they’ll applaud henry kissinger, as well, yes?

  4. Overnight I was eager to re-read your Orc tale, wendye, as I hadn’t got to it on first musings, and ah it is a lovely one for sure, right down to your final comment there. And I wonder, what were we all thinking upon back then that something else occupied our minds? Well, for me, looking at the November ’13 date, it was scarce two months since rushing in the front door I’d slipped on leftover rain, crashed on one side of my pelvis and broked that wee bone that swivels in the left hip socket – oy, you’ve no doubt seen those commercials; there I was on the floor with no safety button strategically hanging around my neck (people actually DO that?)

    Fortunately, however, my safety button was sleeping, or had been sleeping on the couch after his double shift – and speedily awakening informed me several times we’d have to call our town help. On about the fifth of these sage comments I finally agreed, and help was got. Of course, when the ambulance and fire rescue crews jammed into our little culdesac and set the neighbors all atizzy, for them to wheel in a gurney or whatever it’s called was sheer impossible due to my alley being festooned with veggie tubs…but it’s a long story. Suffice it to say I was a tad under the weather still in November, and the months did roll on.

    Back to now. My overnight reflection was that in Orthodoxy the main difference in the saying of the ‘Our Father’ is when it comes to the final phrase – ‘deliver us from evil’. That is rendered ‘deliver us from the evil one.’ I’d always assumed that meant Satan, but as your horse piece suggests, and davidly points out, it could also mean a person seemingly incorporating evil. I’ve never knowingly encountered Satan, though I suppose there’s always a first time and some of those fathers and monks seem to have had a direct experience – makes one wonder if the intensity of their concentration on the quest for individual perfection rather invites the experience.

    However that may be, the biblical tradition has this positive element, that being created in the image of God is a goodness, and evil comes from the outside, not from man’s nature. It’s what I don’t like about ‘original sin’ because that wasn’t in the design, though one could say ‘original incompleteness’ and be accurate, at least in the Christian tradition.

    I’ll just finish by returning to your MLK quote and the lovely shining waterlilies – the biblical creation story begins with ‘Let there be light’, God saying that – so the darkness, along with having an evil connotation later on, is primordial, already there, the nothingness if you like. So, is evil merely that?

    Dostoievski seems to imply it is, with Ivan’s devil visitation, an uninvited and tormenting Mephistopheles who in spite of himself is doing good whilst intending evil. Not there when his brother, Alyosha awakens him.

    As the angel in the Apocalypse says to one of the churches: “It is better to be hot or cold than lukewarm”. Following davidly’s description of an evil person who no longer seems to have wendye’s conscience, my interpretation is that evil person has become “lukewarm”, a darkness that is nothingness, a non-being…which only God can stir into being-ness. (Stavrogin is that individual in “The Devils” – but in “The Brothers Karamazov” there is only Ivan’s devil and the fictional Grand Inquisitor. Fictions created by fictional characters – non non-beings!)

    I’d better quit, but it’s not because I’m ahead! ;)

    • I should have said “lesser non-beings”, not wishing to imply a positive double negative. :(

      • meat is for assholes!!!!!

        it’s actually Paul, in 1 Corinthians. and it’s about eating food, generally but not always meat, offered to the gods in temples in Corinth, not vegetarianism per se. an interesting example of the use of something (food in the rigamorole of the state religion) not negating the thing’s value (it’s still food. eat up, Judah Ben Hur.)

        • hey, meat is assholes!!!!; some of my best friends are chicken mcNuggets! but what means this? “an interesting example of the use of something (food in the rigamorole of the state religion) not negating the thing’s value (it’s still food. eat up, Judah Ben Hur.)”

          • when I replied, I was thinking about technology vs its use. there was no alchemy going on in that sacrifice. the nature of the flesh of the animal is not magically changed cuz someone waves a wand over it that someone else happens not to like.

            or is it? how else is one gonna take a bite out of satan?

    • “An era later Jesus-his-own-damned-self told the tale of a tale about how for a meat eater eating meat’s quite okay, but for a vegetarian it’s a sin. ”

      Could you elaborate, davidly? All I’m remembering is that he said “It’s not what goes in a man’s mouth but what comes out of it” – or words of that nature, the emphasis being slightly different.

      • Sorry, juliana, I’m not well-, uh, versed enough to cite the precise passage. meat is for assholes!!!!! reference notwithstanding, I’d swear I heard in a reading in one of the over one-thousand masses I’d attended before I was eighteen Jesus’ retelling a parable involving meat eating. My recollection tells me that he was explicit that meat was an analogy. As is too often the case, I could very well be mistaken.

    • i’m so glad you were tickled by ‘horse’, juliania. you won’t be surprised that i’d forgotten how i’d closed it, but nope, ain’t no atheists in foxholes! the orcs were also cruel to their horses, human beings, but oh, tasing that gorgeous giant airdale to make it mean! evil, imo.

      on edit: back in the tpm café days, i’d written a whole series on our webber canyon neighbors. kinda fun.

      has it really been that long since you’d slipped and broken your hip? i live in a time warp, but i never would have imagined it was that long ago. more later in a needed response, cuz oh, do ‘i need a west!’ (h/t lili von shtupp). but i’m fairly sure that they’re actually stylized lotuses, being sent w/ small candles down a river…to light the way of the dead/transitioning/crossed-over.

      a lotus.

      out in the wind this a.m in the garden, o did i wish i were bamboo!

    • my stars. i’d looked up mephistopheles and faust, and there are so many versions of the story. and legend or first-person reportage says that mississippi blues man robert johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads. he died in 1938 at the age of 27, fueling the ‘legend’, lol. but dayum, could he play the delta blues!

      i did want to correct one misapprehension about my conscience. in many ways, i’d put it down to the fact that i’ve carried so much guilt and shame all my life that folks used to tease that i mustta had a jewish mother. but i was the family scapegoat (acting out the family emotions and contradictions as second-born), ne’er do well, even to my toxic paternal grandparents.. what that also meant was that i simply wasn’t an okay person just sitting on a chair, so i had to almost kill myself being helpful to others, especially our old neighbors here. i tried to keep it up after the chirren came, but…nope. once i’d gotten ill i’d had to do some serious soul-searching to discover that truth, and i stopped. heh, the local priest (a friend) called me one day and read me the riot act about it. but cripes, even now, i wonder if my tithing food and all are still underpinned by that failure to feel ‘good enough’. yanno?

      i’m not quite grasping the ‘lukewarm’ but it does strike me as funny (as in ha-ha). ;-)

  5. Well, some comments and answers got a bit scrambled above, and my meditation on evil as non-being may have got lost in the shuffle, but I was trying to focus on that in my long bit that began with the Orc tale. I think it goes together with creation stories of any culture.

    I’m rather puzzled why the Christian perspective is so difficult to bear, but I’ll chalk it up to unhappy childhoods with authorities as bad examples of the faith, and that’s a great pity, and nobody’s fault but the entities that saw fit to teach badly. It does however mean that we aren’t getting to the heart of the matter of actually discussing the concept of evil, which I was attempting to do.

    I much honor your sensitivities as expressed – you gave your all, wendye, more than your all from the sound of things. Nobody, not even a priest, should be telling you what to do and how to do it, after you have attempted so much. I think you’ve done more than I have ever dreamed of doing, so there’s nothing to fault you in that respect, nor would I.

    Saint Isaac the Syrian (!) says “Make peace with yourself, and heaven and earth will make peace with you.” My priest, who was the best human being I have ever known, said simply “Don’t be too hard on yourself.” And I say, there’s plenty of evil in the world; let’s have a little joy!

    Beautiful lotus.

    • I don’t find the Christian perspective, per se, difficult to bear. When we’re discussing the texts, however, the ideas expressed in them have been rendered so heavily with translation, interpretation and outright redaction — whether done arbitrary or for theological, political or just plain paranoid reasons make it difficult to determine how seriously to take any particular collection as oeuvre, let alone divine revelation. That the foremost perspective being the latter is what I think most people who have an issue with it object to. And for far-too many faithful, the metaphorical interpretation is apostasy.

      I interpret the human origin myth in Genesis to be that evil is in the eye of the beholder. The only question that remains, it seems to me, is how literally to take the presence of physical, liminal, or otherworldly angels and demons and if taken quite literally, how to define them.

      “It does however mean that we aren’t getting to the heart of the matter of actually discussing the concept of evil, which I was attempting to do.”

      I think you took care of it pretty well, juliana. Moreover, with this one sentence you said more than a mind-full: it’s a concept. At the end of the day, that may be the best we can do.

      • It’s true, davidly – there are so many perspectives on the texts, many years having passed since they were composed – but we need to take the texts themselves and think about them as they stand. Then go read where we are mindful to go, rejecting or affirming, and take it from there. I was blessed to have a liberal education which being non-churched had Biblical literature as one among many other literary works – I wish everyone could be able to do that. I’d come out of two years in a Catholic high school whose theological classes had rather turned me away from Christianity than otherwise – I couldn’t think that divine things could be so expressly knowable in Aquinas’ terms, put in a box as it were by logical minds – had to be more unknowable than that was my instinct. So, going back to the ancient philosophies and setting those scriptures in among many was a very good approach for me. And it sounds as if it is for you as well.

    • juliania, you’ve written: “I’m rather puzzled why the Christian perspective is so difficult to bear, but I’ll chalk it up to unhappy childhoods with authorities as bad examples of the faith, and that’s a great pity, and nobody’s fault but the entities that saw fit to teach badly. It does however mean that we aren’t getting to the heart of the matter of actually discussing the concept of evil, which I was attempting to do.”

      there’s a lot to unpack there. first, i’m puzzled that you believe if we find the christian perspective so hard to bear that we’re not ‘getting to heart of the matter’. yes, i honor you and your beliefs as a christian, especially as one of the best exemplars therein. but you’d also written:
      “ interpretation is that evil person has become “lukewarm”, a darkness that is nothingness, a non-being…which only God can stir into being-ness.”

      now it being the case that there are many religions that are non-theist, polytheist, and/or pantheist, i’ve always been uncomfortable with biblical quotes such as “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” ‘the father’ being the kingdom of god, if i understand it. One God belief simply jettisons the many among us who believe that behaviors, actions, and displayed attitudes are most important, quite apart from simply god or god’s word, god’s light, and so on. more akin to a spiritual path aided by self-questioning and perhaps choosing which teachings among the many prophets will serve to create a ‘higher self’ inside, as do the unitarian universalists. many religions believe that Evil is simply the absence of goodness, and believe that desire is the root of all bad behaviors.

      sure, it may be that as i grew up christianity was exposed to me by the worst sorts of ‘teachers’, but most of the avidly and loudly self-identified christians and ministers engaged in such hypocritical, anti-loving, classist behaviors that i finally even quit the church i’d joined just so i could sing in their choir.
      maybe all of that is exactly why i find the MLK quote above so to the point, esp. “only love can drive out hate”. i just hadn’t seen it much…

      that said, even as a teen i read a whale of a lotta books that i’d hoped my lead me to finding my own ‘road less traveled’. i’m so glad you’re participating in this discussion, juliania, even if i disagree w/ you somewhat.

      • I was trying to say politely, wendye, that even if much of biblical language can’t be viewed as literally as it sounds – for instance in a native person’s beliefs and rituals you would not be finding what they feel is important something to be, well, I’ll use the term ‘denigrating’. I know it’s your way to make everything into a joke and I don’t hold that against you – it’s just difficult to handle for me, and that’s of course my problem not yours. I say difficult but not impossible, as I do believe the fanatic wing of Islam goes far to far in taking offense at ridicule of the prophet. It is after all a fundamental aspect of faith to be able to grin and bear it.

        But never mind that, I did find something you might disagree with but I’l put it out there. I was in awe of your going to folk to apologize for your offenses in person and becoming so overwhelmed by that onerous duty it simply showed itself to have been overkill for your own peace of mind. I was in awe because I’ve never done that myself, and heaven knows I give offense constantly. (If I’ve interpreted that wrongly, I apologize.)

        Too much to bear, in other words, and at least you didn’t feel that was the way you could in good health be. Going back to the little Serbian Father Thaddeus (and some of what he says I take as his own life-living interpretation, not mine) his concept of the power of thought is what appeals to me. He says quite directly that what you think about a person is enough and words are not needed. (I know, this reminds us of Jimmy Carter and his thoughts, but never mind!) In fact, he extends that to animals and plants as well. That they too need, physically need, our good thoughts. And this I know from all your expressions of it on this site, you give in abundance.

        It makes sense to me because through thoughts after all is one meaningful way we connect with our spirituality, be they dark thoughts or the lightfilled thoughts you were speaking about earlier. So, if it is so important to our own wellbeing, it has to, in essence, pervade the universe, because we are part of that, if only an infinitesmal part. And anyway, as a Jewish person would say, it can’t hurt!

        • “…I know it’s your way to make everything into a joke” what a curious thing to say, juliania. i did search upstream to see if i could see what you’d meant. wd: ““It is better to be hot or cold than lukewarm:, i find it ha ha funny, having pinged ‘which side are you on, boys’, and old union song. i’d blown right by your own interpretation, but i still don’t find ‘only god can stir into being’…etc. did i mention the indigenous ‘feeling’? i’ve forgotten, but if i had, and many other non-theists, etc. might say that they seek wisdom in side, feel/sense that they can tell good from Evil in their hearts. for many indigenous, that’s what drumbeats are: heartbeats.

          but no, i reckon thoughts aren’t always more reliable as consciences, dreams, gads, i hate to say it, but an inner knowingness of how to direct one’s future actions and deeds in life, some say ‘finding what is sacred’ apart from any conventional outside credos or societal morés (or lack thereof). think how many people’s thoughts are affected by background noise, as in pollution, war and greed, mis-education, etc. yes, but gut instinct and hearts and instructive dreams…may be more trustworthy to some of us.

      • “One God belief simply jettisons the many among us who believe that behaviors, actions, and displayed attitudes are most important, quite apart from simply god or god’s word, god’s light, and so on. more akin to a spiritual path aided by self-questioning and perhaps choosing which teachings among the many prophets will serve to create a ‘higher self’ inside, as do the unitarian universalists. many religions believe that Evil is simply the absence of goodness, and believe that desire is the root of all bad behaviors.”

        Here I’m a bit reminded of a friend’s description of a conversation her father had with one of his students. She was complaining that to be a person of Christian belief one would have to not independently think, reason, conclude – and these were things she as a student could not give up – she would have to choose (and this is the argument of many) either faith or reason. My friend’s father looked at her over his glasses and said ” Why choose? Why not have both?” All those things you mentioned are indeed what should never be set aside, and self-questioning is a major one because we are definitely creatures both of habit and of self-delusion.

        I would differ from believing that desire is the root of all bad behaviors, because for me desire is at the root of spirituality, considered as soulful longing or yearning. I suppose that makes us take one path or the other faithwise, but the supression of desire always felt to me like Lamaze theory for childbirth – I have a cousin who practised Lamaze so successfully she was unable to go properly into labor. I never could, so it was helpful to a certain extent for me, but after a bit I just ‘went with the flow’ and let it happen.

        “She has loved much, so her sins which are many are forgiven” has always made wonderful sense to me.

        • i’d short handed the ‘desire is the root of all evil’, sorry. and yes, our desires can be beneficial and quite worthy. but this may help.

          “What is evil? Killing is evil, lying is evil, slandering is evil, abuse is evil, gossip is evil: envy is evil, hatred is evil, to cling to false doctrine is evil; all these things are evil. And what is the root of evil? Desire is the root of evil, illusion is the root of evil.”

          ~ Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

          earlier i’d forgotten to address this you’d said, and i do remember saying i’d written this some time ago on another thread. many of of course, agreed with your take.

          “I say difficult but not impossible, as I do believe the fanatic wing of Islam goes far to far in taking offense at ridicule of the prophet. It is after all a fundamental aspect of faith to be able to grin and bear it.”

          Abu Ghraib and the Hebdo Cartoons’, 06 Feb 2015 wendydavis

          for me, after all we had discovered by then about the Evils committed by the Imperium ‘in our collective name’ at abu ghraib, the gitmo, on and on, to me it was akkin to spitting on the survivors of the concentration camps at dachau, treblinka, auschwitz, bergen-belsen, etc., many of whom were tortured called ‘experimentation’, starved, beaten, seen their family members sent to the ‘other camps’; how many wished they had been exterminated instead? but to me, seriously Not Funny.

          but yes, most of the western world agreed with you: “We are Charlie Hebdo!” i could almost believe there may have been a bit of modern holy wars in that reaction, mysownself.

  6. Also, the seven deadly sins are a great view into that which makes the human tick, tick, tick…

  7. what’s on the griddle this a.m.? evil, pure evil. infernal piping hot, like a mama feeding its baby birds, straight from satan’s maw to your breakfast plate.

    so what’s google homepage’s ad today? be a wonder woman! with computer code! wait, satan must have had a rough night if he’s barfing up that nonsense, cuz it only gets worse.

    I mean, if the world is coming to end b/c vampire Trump sucked all the blood out of the Paris accords (snort), might we need a few women (and all of us) to be a bit more wonderful right here on goddam planet earth? and not in goog’s cyberimperium?

    anyway, it’s like that rolling stones’ song, you start me up, I never stop. so of course the NYT is freaking the eff out about the Paris accords thing and surely it’s not a good thing what Trump did. but there was never any enforcement mechanism & the US congress was never ever going to sign on, so why is everyone in such an uproar? David freakin’ Brooks can now strut & prance & go thru a whole routine posing as some kind of eco-warrior. the nobly laureled conscience of liberalism Dr. Krugglesmith can protest the loss of the achievements of the fracking king & british petroleum’s whore, and how the push for clean coal, clean nuclear, clean n. gas will be hindered and we’ll be behind the Chinese and big fucking snooze. (question Dr. Kruggles: if the world is dying, does it matter if we beat the Chinese, you moron?)

    the simple fact is that for the people who matter in the US, “global warming,” “climate change”, whatev, are nothing more than marketing scams, a business opportunity, and another great chance to ramp up state intrusion into our lives. Obama only signed off on Paris cuz he knew it was DOA in the US. another chance to be the hero. Many of these people at the top, like Rex Tillerson, know way more about climate change than most of us, and he could care less. (and so any notions smacking of “reparations” for anything are laughed out of hearing.) and nobody wants to do anything that will change the dynamics of power w/in our society or among the nations of this planet. you can be against global warming all you want as long as it doesn’t change anything.

    wait it gets worse. the opinion-makers at the top, like the editorial board of the NYT, they all know everything I just said is true. their job is to contain & direct social discontent arising from elite policies, to keep people like trumpbama from the guillotine.
    in the dream, he alone is responsible for the evil in the world b/c he taught the Edenic innocent inhabitants to lie. the story more than implies that the narrator, and by extension the reader, is the cause of evil, his fall from grace causes the world to fall.

    so it’s all my fault huh? i’m sure people find that notion offensive (not only is there “original sin,” but i’m the origin of it? do I deserve that much credit?) anyway, the precipitating event to our suicidal, despairing, hero-narrator’s dream is him brushing casually, thoughtlessly past a lost street urchin. after he awakes, the child he neglected haunts his memories.

    their own children, the trumps, obamas, tillersons, Clintons, bezoses, etc., etc., their own children need them to stop casually brushing aside them & the world they will live in. but they can’t, blinded by wealth, proximity to power, fame, etc. and so each, of them anyway, each is guilty of ALL.

    Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles. as the good book says, go & do likewise.

    I hear the train’d soprano (what work with hers is this?)
    The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
    It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess’d them,
    It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick’d by the indolent waves,
    I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
    Steep’d amid honey’d morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death,
    At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
    And that we call Being.

    • wait, once more, it gets worse: it’s difficult for any of us to admit that our relative material prosperity here in the US, Europe, Japan, the “west”, comes from destroying the planet, esp. those parts of the planet inhabited by someone else. the computer I type on was put together by slave labor somewhere no doubt right beside a now mercury-sodden toxic sludge of a river. one sticking point in the Paris accords is the notion of “reparations”, that the rich owe the poor some kind of something for screwing over their world. nope. money matters more. capitalism=nihilism. maintaining scarcity of money, something that doesn’t actually exist, is the key to control. as long as the trumps of the world balk at giving Fiji billions for destroying their island, for so long we’ll know we are all screwed. and on that cheery note…

      • J, a friend gave me a subscription of National Geographic, which I was happy to accept remembering my father’s amazing collection of stories of cultures and beauties from around the world. Well, there’s maybe a smidgeon of that still, in enticing ads and an article or two – but this month’s blaring cover is “WHY WE LIE” and inside is a ‘scientific’ article with a photograph of a poor wee kid whose head is an array of tubes and probes – my heavens! What are we doing to our children?

        Now science is unassailably welcome when it is curing our illnesses and creating alternatives to fossil fuels and probing the secrets of the universe (good luck with that) but leave our kids alone!

        [My rant]

    • whoosh, what an emotional roller coaster ride, j. well done of the newest climate warriors krugglestein and brooks brothers empty suits. “(question Dr. Kruggles: if the world is dying, does it matter if we beat the Chinese, you moron?)” and “you can be against global warming all you want as long as it doesn’t change anything.” brilliant, both.

      but how convenient is it that trump’s just ramped up many of the de facto policies and exec orders O handed him is never acknowledged? i mean his budget his Evil, but may not pass. what version of it will pass with D ‘agonized’ complicity.

      but that’s exactly the reasons that the Big Greens cohort are funded by big capital. thanks for the laughs; i needed them. but now we segue to ‘the dream..’, and more parody re: the reader being by extension…the cause of pride> murder> wars> inability to feel.

      but the pathos and glory of the music! translation: ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.’ God, then?

      and bless you, but i’d had to go looking to discover the source of your walt whitman poem, a section from ‘song of myself’. thank you, j. “being, the puzzle of puzzles”

      • from the song of mary, the magnificat. yes, he=god. the music is just so very…written about 1610, vespers of the blessed virgin mary. “all adoration is of the divine feminine” Goethe (? I think he said that…)

        • it was a magnificent tonic to so much thinking and contemplating Evil.

          as to: “…our relative material prosperity here in the US, Europe, Japan, the “west”, comes from destroying the planet, esp. those parts of the planet inhabited by someone else.” aren’t a lot of the coup attempts in africa’s lake district about grabbing the rare minerals required for high-tech gizmos? and the #fake solutions of carbon trading and the dark REDD are just destructive capitalist cons In the case of REDD, mainly the indigenous who don’t matter).
          mr. wd and i were discussing the many new reports of whoopee! more jobs are now in ‘renewable energy’ than fossil fuel energy! there used to be some folks who’d parse ‘renewable’ from ‘sustainable’, yes? maybe the arch druid and alternative sites, but so many of the ‘renewables’ seem to have pretty high carbon footprint externalities. i wonder how many rare earth minerals, etc. they require?

          but further, the privatization schemes of water is the place a hella lot of Evil is afoot. sorry to steal your quantified by statute water rights, but we have more attorneys than you do! see you in court, spuds!

          • you commie hippie pothead you! what could be a better use of rare earth metals than sticking them in hybrid car batteries???? elon musk is not gonna go all x files on us & fight the future if we just allow the natives to waste the sweet preciousness beneath their feet. god gave us the earth to pave over & by gum we ain’t stoppin’ just cuz oil is bad. run the cars on electric & everything’ll be all right. and I don’t want to hear anything about where electric comes from. harshing my buzz w/such quibbles.

            thanks for the redd site. who knew so many eco schemes are scams? me for one. it starts w/the assumption that there is something gone wrong w/the processes of mother nature. something we have to fix. exert even more control to set it all straight. and all the eco damage was not a problem, not even considered, until it started coming back upon the peoples who caused it. oh, so now it’s a crisis? pardon me while I call bullshit on such faux concern.

            I’ve said to a couple of nice earnest lib friends who if they are religious about anything it is recycling, the sacred liturgy of collecting the divine garbage to be placed in the properly colored bins. taking stuff home w/them from large social gatherings. to recycle. and resolve absolution. and indulgences. lots of indulgences. so being a smartacre (that means wiseass, right?) I says, so how come our urban area’s carbon emissions keep going up up up year after year if recycling is so damn important? the few remaining crickets meekly chirped…I do note that the recycling bins in Charlotte NC helpfully contain the Coca Cola logo all over them. They are big time into recycling.

            I have only broached the subject of hybrid vehicles with one person, a close friend. sent him off the edge in a rainbow sparkled cloud burst of invective about what a cynical & pessimistic person I am.

            • gurgle, choke, guffaw! now i may not have been on solid ground for some my…assertions. although when our internet went back live after a medium hiccup, i found that essentially renewable = sustainable without further digging. yes, recycle plastic into park benches, it’s all good! place corporate logos on then = even better!

              but i had a lot of thoughts on chrsitian holy wars, modern day holy wars that i might have brought, may yet, but trying to ‘help’ mr. wd in the garden flippin’ wore me to a frazzle. may i beg off for now by saying that i’ve been watching all this for some time, including ‘Green Capitalism and the ‘Peoples Summit’ at Rio+20’, 14 Jun 2012, wendydavis, then my.fdl

              but srsly, it was the indigenous who first had taught me the Evils of capitalism, and how GM food was thought even more Evil to them as not only agriculturalists, but living beings w/ scores of varieties of (now) heirloom crops.

              sleep well, my friend, dream well if ya gottem. “life is but a dream…”

              on edit, and p.s “sacred liturgy of collecting the divine garbage” reminded me that i’d seen a thing at RT that some pastafarian had won the right to have his DL photo include a colander hat on his head. it reminded me that i’ve long goofed around about that church schisms in this valley and elsewhere over arcane interpretations of biblical law or whatever orthodoxy. dunno how many churches this wee valley has by now. so i’d pennedPastafarian Tribulations and Smokey’s Divine Light’, 23 Jul 201l. yeah, not big on organized religion, gasp.

              • i’ll take a look. and if the paris accords meant something, it would have been the indigenous & the like writing all the rules. crazy talk, I know.

                I meant to convey that recycling conveys for some people absolution & indulgence for other eco crimes (peccadillos in their book).

                and then you get like the arch cardinal (or arch angel?) of no nothing lib do-goodery the prius (or leaf, 100% electric!) driving, solar abode dwelling recycling Torquemada. “you have to cut those 6 pack holders up or fish get caught in them!” only the stupid ones, you lion-hearted eco warrior you.

          • Apropos Paris, from the link, December 2015:

            But because the latest version of the annual United Nations climate talks has three kinds of spin-doctors, the extent of damage may not be well understood. The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) generated reactions ranging from smug denialism to righteous fury. The first reaction is ‘from above’ (the Establishment) and is self-satisfied; the second is from the middle (‘Climate Action’) and is semi-satisfied; the third, from below (‘Climate Justice’), is justifiably outraged.

            Evil is. Maybe.

            • had to dig a bit for the right essay from dec. 2015, but ay yi yi. a pretty decent indictment of amerika’s part in the empty glass of it. hard for me to read stuff no paragraph breaks, but i noted the creep avaaz got blasted for its/their clicktivist approving role. “spend more money on fixes!” but yanno, who stands in those closed door meetings and says ‘if ya want to get serious, end factory farming, promote sustainable agriculture, no mono-cropping, and end war, as the military has the highest carbon footprint of all.’ oh, and encourage people not to buy so much shit! (cue reverend billy and the stop-shopping choir.) nice job over yonder, by the by.

              oh, and how killing was it to see st. obomba hailed for ‘taking the lead on climate change’? pfffft. and i read a thing this morning explaining how gore and clinton subverted the kyoto protocols.

        • Just to clarify on the Magnificat – Mary is human, a human being. That’s the glory of it. :)

  8. What at post, what a thread, and where to begin?

    Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy seems a good place to start.

    It dodges the problem of evil in an infinitely good universe or the question of the existence of evil as a meaningful category to talk about life, the universe, or everything. It focuses on the use of “evil” as the ultimate condemnation of the actions of moral agents. So the questions become “what is a moral agent?” and “what merits the ultimate condemnation in categorization as evil?”

    The helpful part of this encyclopedia entry is its discussion of how the Holocaust has affected the discussion of evil, especially through the analysis of Hannah Arendt.

    ” For Arendt, radical evil involves making human beings as human beings superfluous. This is accomplished when human beings are made into living corpses who lack any spontaneity or freedom. According to Arendt a distinctive feature of radical evil is that it isn’t done for humanly understandable motives such as self-interest, but merely to reinforce totalitarian control and the idea that everything is possible.”

    That everything is possible is to say that nothing is beyond the totalitarian control of the dictator or state. There is no alternative.

    “In Eichmann in Jerusalem, she argues that “desk murderers” such as Eichmann were not motivated by demonic or monstrous motives. Instead, “It was sheer thoughtlessness—something by no means identical with stupidity—that predisposed [Eichmann] to become one of the greatest criminals of that period” (Arendt 1963, 287–288). According to Arendt, Eichmann’s motives and character were banal rather than monstrous. She described him as a “terrifyingly normal” human being who simply did not think very deeply about what he was doing.”

    A terrifyingly normal human being who simply did not think very deeply about what he was doing.

    Compare and contrast that with Dietrich Bonhoeffer on stupidity:
    “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgement simply need not be believed–in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical–and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison, 43)”

    For those of us born midcentury in the 20th century, the Holocaust is the archetypal reality of evil, social evil committed by moral, good men and women–or how it seemed looking before and after. Reinhold Nieburhr’s “Moral Man and Immoral Society” certainly took the view that somehow personal and social ethics operated in different ways.

    Are issues of evil characteristically focuses mostly of Western thought?

    In Western thought, highminded and underground, evil is thought to be a presence in the universe or a deceptive, accusative, individually independent and personal entity. Are those universal perceptions?

    In Christian theology, the unforgivable sin is the refusal of grace, the refusal of forgiveness (almost a tautology) and the reciprocal duty of repentance. And that is is often equated to evil.

    Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Moral Man and Immoral Society” and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” are critical of how liberal framing of the issue allows repentanceless illusions of forgiveness. Niebuhr also reminds his readers that social action involves the use of power and coercion, which opens social action to inevitable immorality and evil.

    One question keeps coming to mind as a discuss this. Why the question of evil? And why is this issue salient now? (Aside from your recent neighborly chat) That is indeed one question.

    • Good catch. The Banality of Evil should have been the first thing the thread title reminded me of. I was talking here not to many years ago to some post-boomer, well-educated local Germans and brought up Arendt’s coined phrase and not a one of them knew it, which surprised me.

      On refusal of forgiveness: there’s a cheesy film with Mimi Rogers called The Rapture that nevertheless has a poignant denouement, which I reproduce here as a spoiler: long story short: She’s a swinger who gets born again and dedicates herself to the goodness and genuine godly humanity of it all. Yet because of some horrid injustice that occurs to her along the way, at the moment of truth out of the sheer will of spite she refuses to go to be with God’s chosen raptured because she cannot bear to forgive God for having allowed her life to play out the way it did, which is clearly perceived as unfathomably cruel, especially in spite of her chosen devotion to Him. She has a little daughter who she insists goes in all the high drama (out of love, of course, because not letting her go would be cruel as well). Roll credits.

    • thanks for all this, thd. i actually had meant to include arendt, but: a) i’d forgotten, and b) i’m not sure that the term ‘stupidity’ really hits the mark, perhaps ‘willful ignorance’ in a group ethos in a particular zeitgeist might. but: c) i’d read a few critiques of arendt herself being anti-semitic. the ‘controversy’ section of the wiki compares and contrasts rebuttals to her thesis, but david cesanari’s quotes give one pause, at the very least, at least for me.

      i hadn’t known what you’ve written about christian theology was quite so universal, but i may not be understanding what you mean. but: “how liberal framing of the issue allows repentanceless illusions of forgiveness”…the thing that may reminds me of is that i’ve read that in judaism, the belief is that one needs to ask for forgiveness and make amends, even if financial, ahead of the day of atonement. i’d heard it expressed as ‘don’t show up at the wailing wall until you’ve made amends!’

      now as to why the discussion of Evil now…is a longer consideration, but for now i need to eat some toast and get outside to transplant more starts from the greenhouse. ;-)

      • I’ll reply here and try to be short. A little etymological investigation, bearing in mind that Bonhoeffer (on stupidity) was writing in German.

        “Stupid retained its association with stupor and its overtones of “stunned by surprise, grief, etc.” into mid-18c. The difference between stupid and the less opprobrious foolish roughly parallels that of German töricht vs. dumm but does not exist in most European languages.”

        Organizations, especially those in authoritarian regimes, go to extreme lengths to stun those lower down on the hierarchy so as to reduce rebellion and gain complacency. If everyone down to the mining company janitor KNOWS what is happening to Borneo, they also have been stunned into the notion that there is no alternative; they cannot DO anything about it in anyway helpful. The can just follow orders. That kind of stupid. Learned foolishness.

        The civil rights movement is an excellent example of repentanceless forgiveness. Not those advocating but the moderate liberals not wanting to rock the boat by actually calling out racism and segregation as evil and holding those who held power to persist in those practices to account. Where there isn’t accountability, there can’t be absolution. Grace becomes license. It’s Bill Clinton’s “God of second chances” without the confession and repentance. Liberal theology of the turn of the 1900s was often that generous and as a consequence turned a blind eye on imperialism and the necessity for unions (forget revoluntion) while being spot on for charity for inner cities and labor. In Protestant theology, neo-orthodoxy was a critique of that, mostly coming out of Germany of 1900s-1930s, and German exiles in the US from 1930s through 1960s. Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” comes down hard on “cheap grace”.

        What liberal theology was arguing against was “works righteousness”, the idea that one can through good works attain salvation (another slippery Christian theological concept for non-Christians) — that one can have one’s being justified as worthy based on one’s actions. The problem here is the self-justification, not the actions.

        Context, but far afield of the main topic.

        • i’m w/you. I can dig it all. if I remember my EiJ, and one of the things I like about arendt, is that she didn’t let people off b/c of supposed necessities they lived under. maybe very idealistic, but she doesn’t let the janitor hide behind being just a janitor. iirc, at times those fires and the smoke has seriously disrupted trade & other activity around Borneo? huge, huge deal. sure many of us are so psychologically or physically damaged (or complicit or both) so much that, as intended, our own agency is warped. no doubt. on that note, I should stop, b/c as, um repeated often in the bibbel, by your own words you’ll be judged. anyway, risking hell & damnation, the forest fires (like fukushima & other things) were so big that they might puncture holes in complacency.

          and now who’s being idealistic? anyway, isn’t Protestantism with its desacralized world & its slave-mentality work ethic, its disdain of pleasure…it fits right in. it’s the religion for our capitalist time & place.

          • Of course it is. Who do you think sat on the layman committees that handled the financial and secular legal aspects of running the religious institutions? Merchants, lawyers, bankers, and planters in the US South (manorial estate gentry in England). The ideas and boldness have always been limited by the reality that someone else pays the clergy, builds the buildings, and supports the scriptoriums (or the printing presses). Capitalism is not just an economic system; it is a logic of a civilization that commodifies everything, including preachers, buildings, and publications — marketed and monetized.

            Billy Sunday would be proud.

        • phooey, i just lost my comment. (i’d fallen asleep, blush). but are you saying that arendt had used a similar german construction for her ‘stupid’ meme, then? i can get bonhoeffer’s ‘stupified/ stunned is a preferable construction, but i’m out of my depth here as far as liberal theology:

          “arguing against “works righteousness”, the idea that one can through good works attain salvation (another slippery Christian theological concept for non-Christians) — that one can have one’s being justified as worthy based on one’s actions. The problem here is the self-justification, not the actions.”

          not grokking at all the difference between neo-orthodoxy and liberal theology, i went hunting and found what may be an exceptional single page on his (oh, my stars) history and round up of his written beliefs and arguments. but one paragraph says:

          He believed that mankind had become of age and no longer needed religion, which was only a deceptive garment of true faith; he suggested the need for a “religionless Christianity.” To Bonhoeffer, “the Christian is identified not by his beliefs, but by actions, by his participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world” (Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, p. 163). Thus, Bonhoeffer’s final writings have given impulse to Marxist theologians sponsoring “liberation theology” and to others wishing to promote a worldly social gospel.” and at the top says he was indeed neo-orthodox, and also ‘in reality a practical atheist and a religious humanist who denied virtually every cardinal doctrine of the historic Christian faith.’

          at 39 he was hanged by the Nazis at Flossenburg on April 9, 1945 for smuggling 14 jews to switzerland. ooof and whooosh. but he did seem to hold some seemingly contradictory beliefs, which some say is the product of a great mind.

          • If some of Bonhoeffer’s quotations weren’t so quotable against others, Bonhoeffer would effectively be excommunicated from religious discussion. He was a good Lutheran pastor who was radicalized (in unpredictable ways) by the rise of Nazism, imprisoned with his relatives for a plot against Hitler, and had enough time in prison to write and have his writings smuggled out by Eberhard Bethge.

            Religionless would likely mean de-mythologized and iconoclastic in the ideological sense. His theology was mostly philosophical and existential, which explains his attraction to the more secular.

            Likely he would be more interested in Christian doing and how Jesus Christ in fact be’d (to use a neo-hippie formulation) in secular society and in prophetic conflict with the religious authorities.

            Postwar, had he survived, it is difficult to understand how he would have followed the thread of religionless Christianity. There are people who have tried to follow that thread of secular-religion or religious-secularity within the Christian tradition. The transformation in the understanding of mythology and how it works, a product of the postwar period and writers like Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell sort of make “religionless” have a different meaning now than the scientistic tone of the early 1900s. We are more comfortable in this century with the separation of science and religion, just as we are with religion and states (but not politics apparently).

            And think of your understanding of these question when you were 39. The maturity of his work is as striking as the originality of his approach.

            • i hadn’t intended any disrespect to bonhoeffer, nor his evolving seeming contradictions. for me, as a religious outsider, it’s been interesting to see how many rules there are in ‘getting to heaven’ in christianity, or blocking such, more especially. so…whether or not good and moral acts (social gospel, catholic workers, as the focus of liberation theology can or can’t is fascinating to me. now i have no idea what ‘other’ requirements that theology encompasses, although clearly there are many versions.

              how many simple twists of fate can keep an unbaptized babby or even adult out of heaven? oh hell, never mind the list. but did you know that the only way an unmarried mormon woman can get to ‘sit on god’s knee’ and ask him questions…is to baptize enough dead people into the mormon church? shudder. but it’s likely a key reason that the LDS church built their huge genealogy library. anyhoo, yeah, discovering the eschatologies of religion seems to be a quick overview of ‘the rules’. fundie Xtians requiring a new ‘i am saved’ conversion/baptism, iirc, etc.

              thanks for reminding me of joseph campbell. long ago a friend gave us a multi-part video series of his talks; wonderful man. sadly, we don’t have a tape player any more.

              oh, and yeah, okay, i keep thing of john prine’s song lyrics:

              ‘now jesus don’t like killing…no matter what the reason’s for
              your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore’

              • Yes. This.

                Campbell’s books are just as good. The Historical Atlas of World Mythology (sadly unfinished) in its first two volumes is stunning. The rationale of the full opus was:
                Per Wikipedia:

                The Way of the Animal Powers
                Hunting and gathering societies

                At this stage of evolution religion was animistic, as all of nature was seen as being infused with a spirit or divine presence. At center stage was the main hunting animal of that culture, whether the buffalo for Native Americans or the eland for South African tribes, and a large part of religion focused on dealing with the psychological tension that came from the reality of the necessity to kill versus the divinity of the animal. This was done by presenting the animals as springing from an eternal archetypal source and coming to this world as willing victims, with the understanding that their lives would be returned to the soil or to the Mother through a ritual of restoration.[37] The act of slaughter then becomes a ritual where both parties, animal and mankind, are equal participants.

                In Mythos and The Power of Myth,[38] Campbell recounts the story he calls “The Buffalo’s Wife” as told by the Blackfoot tribe of North America. The story tells of a time when the buffalos stopped coming to the hunting plains, leaving the tribe to starve. The chief’s daughter promises to marry the buffalo chief in return for their reappearance, but is eventually spared and taught the buffalo dance by the animals themselves, through which the spirits of their dead will return to their eternal life source. Indeed, Campbell taught that throughout history mankind has held a belief that all life comes from and returns to another dimension which transcends temporality, but which can be reached through ritual.

                The Way of the Seeded Earth
                Early agrarian societies

                Beginning in the fertile grasslands of the Levant and the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia in the Bronze Age and moving to Europe, the practice of agriculture spread along with a new way of understanding mankind’s relationship to the world. At this time the earth was seen as the Mother, and the myths focused around Her life-giving powers. The plant and cultivation cycle was mirrored in religious rituals which often included human sacrifice, symbolic or literal.[39] The main figures of this system were a female Great Goddess, Mother Earth, and her ever-dying and ever-resurrected son/consort, a male God. At this time the focus was to participate in the repetitive rhythm the world moved in expressed as the four seasons, the birth and death of crops and the phases of the moon. At the center of this motion was the Mother Goddess from whom all life springs and to whom all life returns. This often gave Her a dual aspect as both mother and destroyer.

                The Way of the Celestial Lights, The first high civilizations
                As the first agricultural societies evolved into the high civilisations of Mesopotamia and Babylonia, the observation of the stars inspired them with the idea that life on earth must also follow a similar mathematically predetermined pattern in which individual beings are but mere participants in an eternal cosmic play. The king was symbolised by the Sun with the golden crown as its main metaphor, while his court were the orbiting planets. The Mother Goddess remained, but her powers were now fixed within the rigid framework of a clockwork universe.
                However, two barbarian incursions changed that. As the Indo-European (Aryan) people descended from the north and the Semites swept up from the Arabian desert, they carried with them a male dominated mythology with a warrior god whose symbol was the thunder. As they conquered, mainly due to the superior technology of iron smithing, their mythology blended with and subjugated the previous system of the Earth Goddess. Many mythologies of the ancient world, such as those of Greece, India, and Persia, are a result of that fusion with gods retaining some of their original traits and character but now belonging to a single system. Figures such as Zeus and Indra are thunder gods who now interact with Demeter and Dionysus, whose ritual sacrifice and rebirth, bearing testament to his pre-Indo-European roots, were still enacted in classical Greece. But for the most part, the focus heavily shifted toward the masculine, with Zeus ascending the throne of the gods and Dionysus demoted to a mere demi-god.

                This demotion was very profound in the case of the Biblical imagery where the female elements were marginalized to an extreme. Campbell believed that Eve and the snake that tempted her were once fertility gods worshiped in their own rights with the tree of knowledge being the Tree of Life.[40] He also found significance in the biblical story of Cain and Abel, with Cain being a farmer whose agrarian offering is not accepted by God, while herder Abel’s animal sacrifice is.

                In the lecture series of Mythos, Campbell speaks of the Mysteries of Eleusis in Ancient Greece, where Demeter’s journey in the underworld was enacted for young men and women of the time. There he observed that wheat was presented as the ultimate mystery with wine being a symbol of Dionysus, much like in the Christian mysteries where bread and wine are considered to incarnate the body and blood of Jesus. Both religions carry the same “seeded earth” cosmology in different forms while retaining an image of the ever-dying, ever-resurrected God.

                The Way of Man, Medieval mythology, romantic love, and the birth of the modern spirit’,
                Campbell recognized that the poetic form of courtly love, carried through medieval Europe by the traveling troubadours, contained a complete mythology in its own right.[41] In The Power of Myth as well as the “Occidental Mythology” volume of The Masks of God, Campbell describes the emergence of a new kind of erotic experience as a “person to person” affair, in contrast with the purely physical definition given to Eros in the ancient world and the communal agape found in the Christian religion. An archetypal story of this kind is the legend of Tristan and Isolde which, apart from its mystical function, shows the transition from an arranged-marriage society as practiced in the Middle Ages and sanctified by the church, into the form of marriage by “falling in love” with another person that we recognize today. So what essentially started from a mythological theme has since become a social reality, mainly due to a change in perception brought about by a new mythology—and represents a central foundational manifestation of Campbell’s overriding interpretive message, “Follow your bliss.”

                Campbell believed that in the modern world the function served by formal, traditional mythological systems has been taken on by individual creators such as artists and philosophers.[42] In the works of some of his favorites, such as Thomas Mann, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce, he saw mythological themes that could serve the same life-giving purpose that mythology had once played. Accordingly, Campbell believed the religions of the world to be the various culturally influenced “masks” of the same fundamental, transcendent truths. All religions can bring one to an elevated awareness above and beyond a dualistic conception of reality, or idea of “pairs of opposites” such as being and non-being, or right and wrong. Indeed, he quotes from the Rigveda in the preface to The Hero with a Thousand Faces: “Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.

                • hope you don’t mind my bolding a few things. thank you. i’d thought i’d read at least one of his books, but the titles and descriptions haven’t rung any bells. somehow or other, i thought i’d used his ‘hero journey’ mythology to encourage our chirren to write (or speak or draw) themselves into ‘heroes’, but having asked mr. wd, he can’t really remember. no matter, perhaps i’ll dream of it tonight.

                  but how stellar! “Indeed, he quotes from the Rigveda in the preface to The Hero with a Thousand Faces: “Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.“ guess that’s a bit like what i was trying to express in my having said, close to: ‘so many prophets whose lives, examples, and words there are to use as spiritual models’.

    • Thanks for taking us further into the complexities of the discussion of evil, THD. The theological concept of the unforgiveable sin, that of the refusal of grace and necessity of repentance, etc. is not the whole enchilada. In the scriptural story of the prodigal son’s return, admittedly he’s thinking repentant thoughts as he comes home, but it is his father joyfully running to meet him that strikes me – before he’s even got the words out of his mouth. And Christ asks forgiveness for his persecutors not knowing what they do, doesn’t add ‘if they repent’ on that occasion. “Forgive as we forgive” is the important element of his example of prayer. John the Baptist, the forerunner, emphasized repentance, and I’m reminded of Putin saying to the west in general, “Do you know what you have done?” I suppose that’s why we are thinking about evil. We’re seeing a lot of it happening.

      I don’t think there is unforgiveable sin, (and by sin I simply mean at the least ‘mistakes’ and at the greatest ‘crimes’). This Christian understanding, is expressed in “The Brothers Karamazov” where Father Zosima reflects that perhaps at the great extent of his sufferings deprived of being in the presence of Love, eons on, even the Devil himself, that fallen light, might finally be reconciled.

      And in contemplating the ills and evils heaping up as mankind moves through time, there is also this:

      “Eschatologically speaking, an event of the past can be caused by what happens in the present, or even by what has not yet taken place.”

      Some theologians would take the event of the past to be the crucifixion of Christ, a timeless entry into time stretching both back and forward, addressing evil present in all time now and ever and unto ages of ages. It’s an abstraction of thought anticipating Einstein’s abstractions about time, if not coming to the same conclusions, being based on theological, not mathematical ideas.

      • Good points. Grace is unmerited. That means that it comes as very offensive to the one being reconciled; the father’s joy comes to the son as accountability the he accepts and allows for reconciliation. If the son had rejected his father’s actions, had another agenda in mind for his return, there are a novel’s variety of evils that the son could do in the face of reconciliation. Grace comes as an offense; acceptance of grace must happen before reconcilation can occur. Refusal of grace perpetuates the rupture, the sin remains unforgivable despite the offer. Reconcilation cannot happen.

        Putin asks the US (or the West generally) “Do you see what you have done?” However intended, the US is offended, and Putin is put off as evil. In that situation, the US and Russia cannot reconcile, cannot discuss reduction of strategic arms, cannot even test out Putin’s rhetoric as a start to a new relationship, if it was intended to be such. Hillary Clinton, personally, is likewise stuck.

        What we come to see about the physical universe through scientific observations, experiment, theory, and controversy is striking in that it aligns enough with the way we think that we sense that we can understand, but is so different from the way we think that understanding is a matter of grasped metaphors and imagination. And those have to be rechecked again and we find something more mysterious.

        The caveat “eschatologically speaking” in the Manoussakis quote automatically both requires a Christian context of thought and flips one out of any parallel scientific discourse. It will take a while for the contemporary physical theories of time (Einstein’s is approaching a century ago) to be thought about in terms of the “singularity” before time and the singularity after time and to figure out what “before” and “after” actually mean physically. At the moment mutual agnosticism between Christian theology and science would be a helpful position. They intend to solve separate human problems. Abstraction soon becomes a hall of mirrors that clarifies little.

        Are the ills and evils really heaping up on mankind as time passes? One can argue this proposition either way with the evidence.

        Thanks for the Orthodox view.

        • Thanks for your meditations also, Tarheel Dem. I hadn’t thought about the ‘what if’ prodigal son scenario, but I can see how it applies. Still wishing Obama could have been more the penitent and less audacious- after all, he must have been aware, tight as he was with the corporate nasties, of how blatantly had so recently occurred the rape of Russia agonistes by its ‘partner’. ‘Do you realize what you have done?’ applies, though I don’t think any Russian has pointed that out – not that I have read anyway.

          I tend to be more hopeful than oppressed in considering the eschatological approach towards accumulated evil – that is if an all-knowing absolute Goodness already went ahead with a self-sacrifice having seen all there would be, maybe we have a chance to come out of it all okay, bad as it is, and the worst it will be. If I tell myself that a little bit of good outweighs a ton of evil in these latter days, maybe our courageous forbears will help tip the scale. One of those is St. Exupéry – someone hunted up the German who’d unknowingly shot him down in WWI, discovered that German was a fan and had a shelf full of the author’s writings. So yes, either a hall of mirrors or a reciprocal relationship, or both.

  9. I woke up this morning & tho’t i’d died & gone to hell. I fell asleep last night thinking about art (or “art”) and evil (or “evil”) and woke up w/hell’s anthem in my head for some reason.


    I tho’t Arendt’s EiJ was great when I read it many Sabbaths ago. there is a lot more in there than just the maybe faulty examination of Eichmann.

    got me thinking about maybe a limitation in the whole “banality” concept on the practical, performative side: white collar evil vs. blue collar evil. I was trying to think of some more elegant division of labor & couldn’t. white collar guys (& now gals. hurray, progress) have had varying degrees of physical distance from what’s going on, unlike the prison guard.

    Andre Ulchek’s piece at CP on the devastation of Borneo, mostly from mining. the crime is so vast…I google-ized some photos this a.m. of mining ops there. what can you say? the biz is directed out of Seoul & Jakarta & the so the white collar types of the middling, upper-middling variety might feign some ignorance of what’s going. the people at the top know it all, they know fully what’s going on. the blue collar types may plead economic necessity & all that, but they also see first hand what they are doing.

    despite the division of labor, nobody is ignorant of what’s really going on. nobody. even the janitors at corporate HQ know about the forest fires from mining etc. can’t not know about it. it’s a great chain, a web, of organized evil, from top to bottom. so no more Clydes the orangutan giving the audience the finger & drinking Lone Star & PBR in awful Clint Eastwood movies. I remember nature…we used to swim there w/the chipmunks, right?

    the word “repentance” in the Hebrew writings of the bible just means to turn around & go back, to return, to go backwards. teshuvah. useful concept. very. in the middle of the dark woods, on the edge of the grimpen looking in, what else is there to do? plow ahead? is there a thread to lead us out of this labyrinth, some guide? we can’t even know unless we do first the one thing we must never, both the simplest & the hardest thing of all, to stop. we must not be allowed to have even the time to bend our minds backwards, to reflect. to stop, be still and look around.

    • hard song to have in your head, but eggzacly on point as to one of the incentives to bring this discussion. i’m watching ‘fortune’s war, emma thompson, kenneth branagh, at one point they were singin’ ‘it’s a long way to tip-a-rarie’, remember the old shaggy dog story?

      yeah, more there than the faulty examination of eichman, but i’d meant ‘In a letter to the noted German philosopher Karl Jaspers’ quotes, but…jealousy as some claimed, in the eye of the beholder, all that. who knows?

      i appreciate your defining what jews mean by ‘repentance’/teshuvah, and it is indeed a good metaphor, isn’t it? silly of me, but i’ve always liked that their ‘sins’ aren’t moral absolutes, as in “it’s okay to break a commandment to save a life”.

      oopsie, more later; mr. wd just got home from ‘da city’ w/ groceries.

    • Brilliant. Yes.

    • i like your class analysis a lot, j. and the version at dissident voice does have photos, if it helps others to see the wanton destruction and save hunting them down on their own. yes, a great Web of Evil. and it suits my alternate take on not so much stupid as far as middle management and the laborers, as ‘willful ignorance’ in a group ethos in a particular zeitgeist.’ where does personal choice and ‘being stupefied’ begin and end as far as carrying out Evil?

      soon to come: hauling uranium from the south rim of the grand canyon to the white mesa mill on the WM ute rez? do they have any idea how death-dealing uranium mining and milling have been for the indigenous of the southwest? many tens of thousands have died of it. do they not want to know? tough questions, no?

      ack, on edit: i’d meant to bring this one, as well, as i sense we all might be on the same page: ‘In praise of Trump pulling out of the Paris climate pact’ By Ken Ward at the

  10. “where does personal choice and ‘being stupefied’ begin and end as far as carrying out Evil?”

    That is a question that can be one of accountability, one of justification, or one of personal awareness about one’s own situation. Or a search for a political club to beat a class of people over the head with either metaphorically or literally.

    Pulling out of the Paris agreement was intended to stun the environmental movement into impotence, sabotage the deployment of new renewable energy infrastructure, and ensure that fossil fuels have massive subsidized profits until the well finally runs completely and unsalvageably dry.

    People who understand the real consequences of rising climate temperature have an ethical decision about whether they see that as positive or negative. They have to weigh up the expected consequences, judge solutions, decide what they themselves can do, and act (even as not-do). The consequences judge whether their actions turned out to be evil.

    One wakes up or one doesn’t. One does or one does not. The shit happens or it doesn’t. One interprets the consequences or one ignores them. But the consequences stand in judgement of all who acted to bring them about.

    No slam-dunk good moral vibes one way or the other, just more information for more ethical decisions.

    Trump’s action has the happy result of awaken people from their complacency only if they are indeed awakened in fact and do something to offset global climate change in fact. But they are still subject to the limits on climate knowledge as to how fact the temperatures stop going up and start returning to a more benevolent range.

    If global exercise of individual human will deals with climate change, there is the possibility that other thorny issues (weapons of mass destruction, or war itself) can also be dealt with. Otherwise we muddle along with these issues the best we can.

    It is also the case that a solution to global climate change in taking into account the carrying capacity of the environment requires a different civilization that capitalism, one that can limit its claims on resources and labor. One that focuses on livingry instead of weaponry.

    • yes, i should have said that ‘several of us here’ would concur’ with ward, not ‘all’. his theme that herr T just blew away the fig leaf covering O’s, al gore’s, bubba clinto’s ‘climate leadership’ and failures to put any sort of teeth in it, esp. for the US, all because: amerikan bidness lobbying and jobs! and:

      “Staying in was also favored by Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Peabody coal, eBay, HP, General Mills, Kellogg, Tesla and other multinationals the Trump administration would have preferred to keep happy. But let’s face it, they won’t be all that mad the U.S. is pulling out, and the political impact won’t be all that great.”

      no, they won’t be mad, their support was another fig leaf in that they knew that only lip service was necessary.

      but for me, and although it doesn’t have the rock ’em sock ’em pizazz really needed, this:
      “It’s also true that withdrawal from Paris deprives mainstream environmental organizations and the foundations and funders that guide them of a key deliverable, and that could risk eroding support for them. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Many of them have pursued an utterly bankrupt strategy of understating the climate problem, negotiating with the fossil fuel industry, and cherry-picking small victories to showcase organizational accomplishments at the expense of a functional movement strategy.” see: saint bill mckibben, naomi klein,

      current co2 global level is a 410 ppm. yes, IF there is any way back off the sixth extinction event cliff, it will require a wholly different anti-capitalist system. more soon, chores.

      but his ‘pullout’ has made new #fake eco-heroes of frau frumpy, macron, and gag me wid a spoon: narenda modi. really in the end, it’s all about bidness, but he has rearranged the deck chairs on the global titanic. so there’s that. oh, and modi is trying to tank OBOR, as his puppet masters prefer.

      on edit: ‘France, Germany seize upon US withdrawal from climate pact to push geopolitical interests‘,

      “Behind their melodramatic declarations, Merkel and Macron are exploiting the rift with America and Britain’s exit from the European Union to build up the EU into a great power capable of competing with the US for global markets, investment opportunities and strategic influence.

      Following the US withdrawal, Europe has drawn closer together. Germany, France and Italy rejected Trump’s call for a renegotiation of the climate targets in a joint statement. British Prime Minister Theresa May refused to sign the statement but also declared her “disappointment” with Trump’s decision.

      As Trump announced the US exit from the climate change agreement in Washington, Merkel first welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Berlin. The centrepiece of each visit was a declaration of commitment to the climate deal, while business deals worth billions were sealed behind the scenes.

      After Modi’s visit, Merkel praised India for being “very intensively engaged in implementing the climate deal.” Modi answered in German via Twitter: “I am sure that this visit will result in advantageous results and deepen the German-Indian friendship.”

      the snips from Spiegel Online are noteworthy as well.

      Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement: The socialist solution to climate change‘ 3 June 2017,

    • hmmm…I didn’t know kurt cobain was a gilda ratner fan? tee hee.

      do I speak for Judaism???? I just think it’s a useful idea. how “repentance” applies to nation states, I don’t know. but it’d start w/some truth telling. no truth about e.g. Vietnam may be told b/c Vietnam never ended. and perhaps the notion only has value at the level of the nation as a tool to expose current lies. e.g., I know they are lying about Iraq etc cuz all they ever did and do is lie about Vietnam.

      I don’t mean to paint everyone w/the same guilty brush working in these complex imperial factories of waste & death. the designers & architects at the top pay the weaponized enforcers at the bottom, terrorizing workers into submission. and i’d bet all my life’s pennies there’s far more resistance coming from the bottom of the pyramid than the top.

      when I have stol’n upon these ceo’s,
      Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill! (thanks lear, impotent rage, nicely phrased).

      “If global exercise of individual human will deals with climate change, there is the possibility that other thorny issues (weapons of mass destruction, or war itself) can also be dealt with. Otherwise we muddle along with these issues the best we can.” I think, thd, in your next paragraph, you state the source of the problem: capitalism. as awful as the prospect of nuclear war is, as awful as the worsening reality of eco-collapse today is, I think the wsws gang is right in their analysis. these issues are symptoms of the crisis of capitalism, whose overthrow is the first task.

      keep on the sunny side!

  11. hey you bleeping café babylon ingrates! did any of you take note of the hint at the bottom of my OP?:

    (If you like what I write, and would like to contribute or subscribe, click here.) jeebus, folks, no one seems to have, and i’d made it sooooo affordable that even i could afford it if i didn’t have to pay the tariff for creating/maintaining the site and its additional bells and whistles (tweaking banners and css codes, video sizes, and all that rot. please do click in to see how affordable i’ve made supporting my writing and the site is!

    and after a bit of a rest after gardening (poor, poor mr. wd for accepting my ‘help’) and other many weekend chores i may stick up a new schadenfreude diary re: ‘Dems’ alt climate change solutions’ and saint bill mckibben.

  12. Ché Pasa sent me an e-mail from a friend of his in california that he’d reckoned was appropriate to our discussion of Evil. his amigo lives in a rough part of a CA city, and is seeing poor people being pushed out of their abodes by the slow death of upscale gentrification as we see so often in poor, black, and brown inner-city neighborhoods. Ché reckons the message was by way of his amigo’s coming 77th birthday message. you’ll note a couple errors, but let them not lessen the poignancy of his musings and prayers. (my bolds)

    “i live in a dump so to speak. i know the neighbors. the contraptions where humans sleep on the street, people who have not had a bath in months if not years, many. the contraptions constructed by good willed americansm neighbors is nice, but it takes away from peace of mind. people need to be cared for, loved, meals nicely prepared, meaning in their life until the final curtain closes in on all of us. we know that the nature of life has no meaning, thus we make it up daily, we grow from ourselves, a gift from god, circumstances, greatly culturally induced, rape is a whore. therefore if any man be in christ; fully developed, evolving, making it up. the universe is a wonder. soon we will be with Eternity. looking back with few regrets is a blessing indeed. cleanliness of spirit. he becomes the spirit, a new creature. behold, all things are become new. we own a big debt to paul who had to be knocked to the ground in order for him to see and understand. until we are able to see the past whore. i only have love. i am lowly, small, of no consequence. at the moment, our president is a whore.”

    When I Would do Good, Evil is Always Present

    (the last line, i’d discovered, turns out to be Romans 7:19-21)

    i wasn’t quite sure what to make of his amigo’s email at first blush, but given that i’d had recently had occasion to find john donne’s ‘Holy sonnets: Death be not proud’ anew, i’d remembered seeing on the sidebar that donne had been paying homage to the apostle paul in 1 Corinthians 15:26, ‘The last enemy to be destroyed is death.’

    ‘Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
    For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
    Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
    Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee do go,
    Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
    Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
    And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
    And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
    One short sleep past, we wake eternally
    And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.’

    just fancy how his friend is blessedly transitioning from this life to another, and that as a chimera shimmering in between, he’s full of love, wonder, and has no regrets, and is ready for his next journey. my.stars.

    sleep well, dream of flying.

    for Ché’s amigo and for all of us, and rest in power, john trudell.

    • A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
      How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

      What do you think has become of the young and old men?
      And what do you think has become of the women and children?

      They are alive and well somewhere,
      The smallest sprout shows there is really no death…leaves of grass

      • lovely on the whitman, j; ché’s amigo would appreciate the hell outta it, i reckon. but mebbe he’d long ago internalized it. “we know that the nature of life has no meaning, thus we make it up daily, we grow from ourselves, a gift from god, circumstances.”

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