Battle Against Evil? Or Turn Your Attention Elsewhere?

Warren Kinston 5. June 2012 10:00

Must we battle against evil?  Evil certainly poses an issue: What to do about it.   "Doing" is a practical question, so it can be handled by THEE.

fight against evil courtesy Ghost of Khuji Light & Dark

And then there is the «problem of evil»: why a God that is absolute goodness can allow suffering and cruelty to exist.  This is a philosophical question.  Most of us don’t live inside a philosophical world, although judging by blogs and websites the number of amateur philosophers seems to be exploding.    Still, we live in a real world that has a place for philosophers, especially as they mostly cause little harm.

In that real world, there is definitely pain.  There is loss.  There is catastrophe.  There is war.  There is disappointment.  There is illness.  There is death—which sounds more like a merciful relief given these horrors.  So, at a human level, I respond and sense that I or we have to do something about this.

In looking at so-called evils, two features stand out: Pain and Destruction.

We can quickly exclude Pain as an evil because pain is as necessary for life as any emotion.  People who lack the capacity for pain don’t last long.  It’s a warning signal.  So an attack on pain is shooting the messenger who has come to help you.  That’s plain stupid.

What about Destruction?  That too is part of life.  Anything new destroys part of the old.  That is what evolution was about.  That is what everyday life is about.  You want to get a new job: you have to abandon your old job.  You want a car, to get around more quickly and easily: you are going to put a lot of blacksmiths out of work.  Creative destruction or, as I would prefer to say, destruction-in-service-of-creation, is simply part of life.  Something that is part of life is just another challenge—or another problem if you don't feel up to challenges.

Perhaps the problem is that people are rejecting life.  Any attack on evil is, on close scrutiny, an attack on life itself.  That must be evil.
Cool. The solution is the problem.

But perhaps I am being slightly unfair.  There is pain and then there is cruel infliction of unnecessary pain—justified as necessary to be on the safe side.  There is destruction and there is wanton destruction—justified as necessary to make clear where power lies.  We can’t refer to earthquakes or the plague as unnecessary.  But we might regard many fraudulent or corrupt political, managerial, commercial and other choices as unnecessarily harmful and wantonly destructive.  Suddenly human intention and self-interest enter the story.  When decisions are hidden behind a farrago of lies and egocentric motivations are evident—the grasping for power and wealth—the human source of evil becomes more evident.

So evil, insofar as it exists as something inherently objectionable, is a property of human beings.  It flows from the unmitigated, corrupt exercise of power.  As power corrupts, we can remove the tautology and say that it flows from the exercise of power. 

Where is this power?  It is all around in every personal relationship and every social group.  At its most extreme and therefore its most evil, it lies in the hands of governments and leaders of big organizations and institutions like churches.  Those who seek leadership positions are either vulnerable or licking their chops at the thought of how they will control and dominate you—for your own good, or the good of others, or at least the 'greater' good.

The great contemplative texts are unambiguous: you should not do battle with evil.  Instead, you should pursue what is good.  Easy to say, and pursuit of good is fine as far as it goes.  But what do we do about the callous power-centred political-financial elites in most countries, who spread a fog of lies to cover their unrestrained desires for control and personal wealth?

My answer comes in the next blog.

It may please, surprise or disappoint you.

Meanwhile, offer your answer below.



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Warren Kinston is the creator of the THEE-Online website as an open forum for the further discovery and development of THEE. He writes this blog as an escape valve for the excitement and frustrations of the work. More info here.

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