I’ve mentioned my neighbor, the state cop, before. We know one another; I’ve been over to his house – and he to mine. He has an old bike – and we’ve hung out in our respective garages talking bikes (and cars). He seems to be a nice guy and probably is a nice guy … on this level. And yet, it is a near certainty he spends his workday committing numerous acts of petty and not so petty violence, “enforcing the law” without much caring – much less thinking about – whether these laws are moral.
Or so I must assume.
After all, he continues to enforce these laws – and does not appear to have doubts or second thoughts about having done so.
The same mentality, in other words, as a German NCO in the Waffen SS who spent his workdays enforcing another era’s laws. Who went home afterwards to his wife and kids, whom he loved. Who had hobbies, waved to his neighbors. This disconnect is entirely common throughout the ages.
Like the German NCO, my neighbor is probably not a sadist who delights in his work. But he is very much a mindless automaton, just following orders.
He has told me so – openly.
I don’t write the laws, I just enforce them.
Or words to that effect. He said them with a shrug of indifference; just part of his day’s work.
This is one facet of the problem we face, which I’ll get into some more in a moment.
Also, I suspect that as regards some orders, my neighbor the cop strongly supports enforcement. Not in the sadistic sense. In the righteous sense. For example, while I doubt he’s a teetotaler with regard to the (currently) legal “drug” (alcohol) I am very confident (based on things he’s said to me) that he fully supports arresting and caging people at gunpoint, confiscating their assets and so on, who merely possess/imbibe/peacefully sell and exchange various currently not-legal “drugs.”
Und so weiter.
Remember Morpheus’ speech in the original Matrix?
Most people are not evil in the conscious sense. They are unconscious of their evil. They believe the matrix (i.e., the system, “the law”) is moral – and will stridently (violently, if need be) defend it. They believe they are doing the right thing. Cops, especially, have an almost religious order fervor about them – and “religious” is precisely the right word. Blind obedience to authority – because it is authority.
It is interesting to note that the public is being conditioned to regard them in a religious sense as well. To worship the state’s uniformed corps (both civilian law enforcement and military). When one “falls” in the “line of duty,” North Korean-style funerary rites ensue. Comrade Ogilvy from Orwell’s 1984 comes to mind.
Most people regard “evil” in an almost cartoonish way. Funny costumes, odd haircuts and quirky mannerisms. Superficialities.
But it is much more subtle. It masquerades as good.
Very few people – cops in particular – consider themselves or their work to be evil. Even history’s great psychopaths – Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler – were not mmmuuuhahhaha! evil men, rubbing their hands together in orgiastic delight at the thought of the suffering and mayhem they caused.
Both men – and most such men – honestly appear to believe they are doing good.
A “greater good,” certainly (the Thousand Year Reich for Hitler; world communism for Stalin), however many eggs it was necessary to break in order to make their respective omelettes.
But good “omelettes” (as they saw it) nonetheless.
It’s a very important thing to understand.
We are not fighting evil. We are fighting a warped, misdirected sense of good.
It manifests in countless ways. The liberal who honestly regards himself as the great benefactor of mankind, notwithstanding the violence he directs toward actual flesh and blood men. The conservative who honestly believes he is opposed to “big government” yet approves – often passionately – government interferences with the freely made choices of other people when he disapproves of those choices, even when no harm is caused him or any other plausibly actual flesh and blood victim .. not comprehending that by refusing to defend everyone’s freedom he has destroyed the only viable basis for defending anyone’s freedom.
Good – and evil – must therefore be redefined.
What then is good? It is the rejection of aggressive violence. A refusal to inflict harm. To accept that the only real good we can do in this world is the good that we do ourselves. With our own hands, our own resources – freely given. To accept that others may not see things our way and – so long as they are not doing us (or others) actual harm – to willingly leave them be.
Evil thus becomes self-evident.
It is aggressive violence. Inflicting harm. Causing pain. Imposing your “values” – and greater goods – on those weaker than yourself, using force. In sum, denying others their equivalent humanity. To place yourself in the superior position. To presume – to arrogate unto oneself – a kind of divine authority to rule.
It does not matter whether you are a “big king” or a “little king.” Evil consists in asserting kingship over others – whether wrapped in “divine right” or the ballot box.
My wish this Christmas is that people take a moment to reflect on the nature of good – and evil – and consider whether their actions comport with the former or the latter.
I believe that most people think themselves good; want to do the right thing. Are trying to to be good.
Here’s to hoping they succeed, someday.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
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