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A few years ago when the famous Ward Churchill essay hit the fan, I read it with mixed feelings. Anytime really bad things happen in this world, there is one point that I’m reminded of in particular in which Ward seemed to question the concept of “evil.” That part went like this:

“…Insanity is a condition readily associable with the very American idea that one – or one’s country – holds what amounts to a “divine right” to commit genocide, and thus to forever do so with impunity… Sanity itself, in this frame of reference, might be defined by a willingness to try and destroy the perpetrators and/or the sources of their ability to commit their crimes. Which takes us to official characterizations of the combat teams as an embodiment of “evil.” Evil – for those inclined to embrace the banality of such a concept…”

I never graduated from college, and I have only a HS diploma from an Oklahoma public school to show for my little brain. Certainly this guy- a professor at the University of Colorado might be qualified to suggest that “evil” is an old, outdated concept that only makes sense to the likes of George W. Bush. What a liberating thought that is. Is he saying that evil only exists because the few remaining red-neck neo-cons with “end of times” agendas still cling to it? And now thanks to new progressive higher thinking, it’s about to become extinct? I like that, because I have a kid and another on the way, and I’m glad the world they’re about to inherit will soon be rid of evil altogether. So let’s just keep it in the monster movies and heavy metal music where it truly belongs.

Ward’s essay really got me thinking. Could it be that simple? Does evil really exist, or is it nothing more than an archaic old superstition, or religious (not your religion, but someone else’s) concept? I’d like to see it that way, because then evil could simply go away by our own choosing. And I would definitely choose to just blink it out of existance. We just need to evolve a teensy weensy bit more, that’s all.

But then these news stories keep coming in. This guy in Pennsylvania who kills 5 young girls in an Amish school house, equipped with items such as a long board with eyehooks every few feet, items used to tie the girls up, and a tube of KY jelly. That’s right- a tube of KY jelly. It’s not hard to imagine where that was headed. To me, whatever force motivated such a carefully premeditated act seems pretty darn “evil.” Am I naïve and Bush-like for thinking so? Sure, many of us get angry, and imagine committing horrific acts of revenge from time to time. But to actually follow through with it… and to inflict that wrath on totally innocent kids that weren’t even alive when that bad thing happened to you… is that not evil? Insane yes, but Salvador Dali was also insane and he never killed anybody.

What about the sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay. Being the spoilt rotten children of the grand ruler of the country with unlimited wealth and personal servants, they used it to their full advantage. While they could have used their power to make Iraq a better place, they chose to rape and kill dozens of women and young girls, and torture Olympic athletes and football players with power drills. They killed people by feeding them into wood chippers and drowning them in acid baths. What motivated them to do this?

Those examples of evil seem pretty hardcore, but the most common form is much more mundane. Evil is in the way the music industry cares about marketing and fashion and ignores talent, artistic substance and merit. Evil is in the dumbing down of our culture, and the belief that being “politically correct” is more important than being truthful. Evil hiked the gas prices all summer long when it wasn’t even remotely necessary to do so. Evil is the desire to hurt thousands of others just to benefit yourself- as in Enron. Evil pays $200 for a “TMX Tickle Me Elmo” on Ebay, just so some spoilt brat can have this Christmas season’s trendy hot new toy.

Here’s my point- if I have one: In this world it’s easy to debate WHAT evil is, if it’s simply a human trait, a secular concept or the careful manipulations of SATAN himself. It’s easy to debate what the examples of evil are. But to debate whether or not evil actually does exist… to look around at this world and say “anyone willing to embrace the banality of such a concept…” that seems pretty DAMN naïve to me.

Now certainly I don’t mean that my idea of evil is the same as Bush’s, or the neo-cons, or the fundamentalists of any sort. I’ve never been a Bush fan and I won’t start that now. Anytime a politician uses the term “evil,” it is most likely for the purpose of your manipulation. But I would say that George and I both agree that evil, in whatever form it really exists- does in fact exist. Recognizing that is probably a pretty smart thing to do. Understanding the nature of evil is a requirement for anyone that desires to live a life of good. We all want to be good, right? But as sure as I am that evil exists, I’m also sure that it thrives within America just as easily as it does anywhere else. If anything, maybe we’re just better at hiding it. And we’re also better at marketing it, packaging it and selling it too.

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1 comment

  1. JC Shakespeare

    Nice post, great topic.

    I wonder about this one a lot. I consider myself a Christian, but the idea of some entity named Satan that’s out to trip up all of God’s children seems as inane and archaic as the image of God as an old dude with a white beard keeping score on some throne in the clouds.

    I believe, first of all, that human nature is fundamentally good. However, when we turn away from our True Selves and believe the lie that we are not all connected, or that we don’t really have a spiritual dimension, then we are capable of all sorts of inhuman acts, ranging from flipping off another driver to acts of inconceivable brutality like murder and torture.

    I’m glad there are other ponderers out there! Visit my blog Peace Meme for more invigorating discussions! (I’m adding a link to Austindaze, btw.