"He is free who knows how to keep in his own hands the power to decide at each step, the course of his life, and who lives in a society which does not block the exercise of that power." ~ Salvador De Madariaga
Luciferian Good and Evil
Oh boy. There's just no telling where my thoughts will lead me. Sometimes, to very odd places.
Let's take the concepts of Good and Evil. Just what are they? In reality, I think Good can be defined as harmony and wholeness (which is related to words "health" and "holy"). That means "evil" is the exact opposite -- lack of harmony, lack of wholeness (or "unholiness").
True "good" and "evil" are a continuum, with harmony and wholeness at one end, and disharmony and unwholeness at the other. I think we all intuitively understand this -- thus the distinctions between "ease" and "dis-ease" (which are themselves a continuum).
Now, here's where things get really weird. There is another kind of false Good and Evil which is based on black-or-white thinking -- something is either all good or all bad, with nothing in between. It's very dangerous stuff -- Satanic, actually, if you want to use religious and mythological terms.
For the sake of simplicity, I'll call the false Good and Evil Luciferian Good and Evil. You'll understand why once I explain. But let's just say Lucifer only thinks in black or white, only in terms of pure Good or pure Evil.
Humanity tends to mix both kinds of good and evil together, or to think they are the same thing. But they're not. They need to be separated. Unfortunately, it seems to be instinctive for humans to divvy up the world into these neat but false categories of good and evil.
Let's take George Bush as an example. He spoke of the "Axis of Evil." Implicit is that America is Good. Pure Good, actually, or as I've heard many times, "The greatest force for good in the world today."
Bush is also implying he's a good man, which I find odd, considering the fact that when a woman called Jesus good, he answered, of all things, "Why did you call me good? No one is good but God."
What kind of dangerous traits does Bush show, in greater or lesser degree? Here is a list:
Hubris (infantile grandiosity)
Dehumanization of enemies
Scapegoating (Your fault, not mine)
These traits are good? They're the exact opposite of harmony and wholeness! Yet people often think the aforementioned traits lead to harmony, or are harmony itself. They think those traits lead to peace and happiness.
What? Those above traits, all of which are an inherent part of war, lead to peace, wholeness and happiness? No wonder religious geniuses throughout history have said many people can't tell the difference between God and the Devil. After all, look at the things Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson say. And they call themselves Christians?
Let's look at the story of the Garden of Eden. One interpretation is that evil is brought into the world through scapegoating, which is denial of self-responsibility and projecting your problems onto others. Adam blames Eve for his transgressions; Eve blames the serpent. In some versions, that's why they get kicked out. As the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck noticed, "Scapegoating is the genesis of human evil." In the 20th century, the Communists and the Nazis were the best-known scapegoaters: get rid of those people and Utopia shall reign!
Implicit in that myth is the black-or-white thinking of both Adam and Eve. Both deny their responsibility ("I am good"); each projects it elsewhere ("You are bad"). It's not spelled out, but it's there. Adam and Eve, in some degree, would show the above traits.
Curiously, when God accuses them -- puts them under a little pressure -- they instantly start acting like children and pointing fingers. The greater the stress, the more liable people are to act like children, deny their own responsibility, engage in black-or-white thinking, and scapegoat others. Isn't that what always happens during war and other upheavals?
That black-or-white thinking is also implicit in the myth of Satan. The story is almost a clinical description of a psychopath, all of whom are afflicted with the worst hubris possible. Satan wants to be God ("I am good"); anyone who gets in his way is . . . you guessed it: bad. Satan, too, in greater or lesser degree, would also show the above traits.
The Greeks had a few myths about black-or-white thinking. Again, it's not explicit, but it's there. The best known is that of Narcissus, who wasted away absorbed in his own reflection in a pool of water. A narcissist is a less extreme version of a psychopath, who also can see only himself. Both narcissists and psychopaths engage in black-or-white thinking: I am Good, everyone else is nothing, because they are dehumanized.
The scariest myth the Greeks had was Hubris followed by Nemesis. Hubris is seeing only yourself and thinking you're a god. The sequence they outlined was Koros (stability) to Hubris (arrogance) to Ate (a madness in which evil appears as good) to Nemesis (destruction). Those afflicted with hubris always see things as either black or white. Currently, Bush is an example. He did say, "Either you are for us, or you are against us." A simple-minded and very dangerous splitting of the whole world into either Good or Evil.
These myths are all related. All of them are about hubris and the attendant traits, and what happens to those afflicted with them. All are about the black-or-white thinking, the categorization into all-good or all-bad, inherent in hubris, in Narcissus, in Adam and Eve, in Lucifer. In all of us.
Countries can be afflicted with hubris, too, especially when they become empires. Every country denies the bad it has done, sees itself as good, and blames its problems on others. Bush and his supporters are claiming the US was attacked because we are Good, and our attackers are Evil. Somehow, lost was the fact the US has been supporting dictators in the Mideast for 50 years, no matter what horrible things they did to their citizens. Lost were the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed as a result of a decade-long blockade. Lost were our attacks on a country that did not attack us. Lost was our support of Israel , no matter how it abused Palestinians it had displaced off of their land.
All that, lost. Instead, we were attacked because we are "good," and they are "evil." Black or white thinking, with nothing in between. A simplistic and dangerous view, in the extreme.
Tribes, races, ethnic groups, religions . . . all do the same thing. "Our problems are not our fault. It's somebody else's fault. We're good; they're bad." The aforementioned traits are worse when groups exhibit them. Individuals can think; groups cannot. Groups absolutely will not admit responsibility for their problems unless they are forced to.
Tribes have almost variably throughout history called themselves "the People" or "the Humans," relegating everyone outside the tribe to less-than-human status. Since they are non-people and non-human, again we have that black-or-white split: the tribe is Good, the chosen of God, with all its problems projected onto those outside of the tribe.
When people, or nations, engage in the black-or-white thinking, since they always call themselves Good, they always scapegoat everyone outside of the tribe. They always deny their own badness, and deceive themselves about it, and become paranoid because they think the "bad" is always out to get them.
Because it is so familiar to libertarians, the novel I use to explain black-or-white thinking is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. She splits nearly all of her characters, indeed the whole world, into either all-good or all-bad. In her case, it's either her Galtian heroes or her "looters" and "parasites."
Her god-like, chosen of God Galtian heroes withdraw into their little Utopia, relegating everyone outside of it to the Randian version of Hades. Everyone in the world is either grandiose or devalued.
Her bizarrely idealistic novel is not the way things would work in real life, since she splits everyone into either pure Good or Evil. In life, things would be like they really are: a paranoid, grandiose, self-deceptive tribe engaging in magical thinking, scapegoating and blaming all of its problems on those outside of the tribe. That definition of what tribes do to each other is probably what causes most of the problems in the world. It's about what nearly all tribes say to each other: "We are the chosen, and you are not."
Where does this simplistic, dangerous, Luciferian either black-or-white thinking invariably lead? Exactly to where the Greeks noticed: nemesis.
So, in a general way, I can predict the future. Because of the current US administration's belief in either black-or-white thinking, with its magical, self-deceptive view of itself as Good and everyone else as Evil, with the scapegoating of other counties, I can predict this "War on Terrorism" will not work. For one thing, it encourages the other side to behave toward us as we behave toward them. Black-or-white thinking always leads to extremes on both sides. As we judge them, they judge us. As we sow, so we will reap. As the other side sows, so they will reap.
It would help greatly if the administration and those in it stopped their splitting of the world into pure Good and pure Evil. But, I don't expect this to happen anytime soon.