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, et.al.) 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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