Everybody has stories in their heads they use to explain reality. Sometimes, when the stories are good, they conform to reality. The bad ones, like George Bush's belief that God chose him to be President, and also advised him to start two wars, are fantasies completely unhinged from the real world. Mostly, our stories are a mixture: parts of them conform, other parts don't.
But in no cases are the stories in our heads the same as reality itself. The most famous saying about that truth is, "The map is not the terrain." The maps in our heads are not the terrain outside. Our stories are not reality.
Not that most people believe this truth. They think their stories are reality. And there's the rub.
Here's a story made the rounds: four American contractors delivering food were ambushed, murdered, burned and dismembered by evil terrorists. Another story is those ambushed were $1000-a-day ex-American Green Beret and SEAL mercenaries training some Iraqis to oppress others. Which story is true?
Both, probably. No one is all good or bad. Probably the murdered were doing both: delivering food and training other mercenaries.
Not only are there stories, there are stories behind the stories. And there are stories behind those stories. In fact, as Alexei Panshin has written, it's stories all the way down
Here's what I mean: some Americans want to completely level two or three Iraqi cities because of the murder of those four Americans. Yet, these same Americans ignore the fact the US government has twice attacked Iraq when the country never attacked America, murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more through a blockade (called "sanctions"), lied about non-existent "weapons of mass destruction," and then conquered the country. Why is there such outrage over those four murders, as brutal as they may be, and little concern over the genocide the American government has perpetrated upon Iraq?
Because behind those stories lies another story. This one is called the Tribe and the Outsider.
Every tribe throughout history has called itself "the People" or "the Humans." Anyone outside the tribe was non-People and non-Human. And each one of those tribes has always thought God was on its side.
Modern nations, which are just tribes writ large, are no different from those primitive tribes. Anyone outside the tribe is an Outsider. Not quite human, and certainly not as human as those inside the Tribe. That's why some Americans are outraged over the murder of four Americans, and pay no attention to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. They're just not quite human. They're just "collateral damage."
It also why there was dancing in the streets in Arab countries when those planes were flown into the WTC and the Pentagon. The people in those buildings were outside their tribe.
Most of the time the Outcast is also the Scapegoat. Get rid of the scapegoat, who is the cause of evil, and goodness shall reign. Saddam Hussein was made into a scapegoat. Many cheered when he was dragged out of his hidey-hole, mistakenly thinking it would make a difference. It didn't.
Why? Because the story of the Tribe and the Outcast/Scapegoat is a bad story. It's one that never has a good ending. "Ideas have consequences," wrote Richard Weaver in the book of the same name. "As you sow, so you will reap," said another man who never wrote any books.
There are even stories behind the story of the Tribe and the Outsider. Those stories are supposed to explain the why of the Tribe and the Outsider. Some of those stories are supplied by psychology and some by religion. What all have in common is what Russell Kirk called "the monstrous ego," which he said is "the source of all evil."
It is that monstrous ego which animates tribes and nations. "Our tribe is chosen by God...yours isn't. We're human...you're not. We're good...you're evil. So it's okay to kill you." Then goodness shall reign, through murder and theft and destruction.
I don't think it's off the mark at all to say that all States are just monstrous egos. That makes all of them evil. They certainly do a lot of evil. In fact, they're the main cause of evil in the world, and always have been.
It is that monstrous ego that thinks it is chosen by God. Indeed, it usually thinks it is God. In the West, the best-known story about the monstrous ego is the one about Satan, who wanted to be God.
Is there a story behind the monstrous ego? Oh, yes. It's what the Greeks called hubris, and the Bible, "pride." They're the same thing, and both are about the only true crime there is, the one that is the basis for all others: Man thinking he is God, with the power to do God-like things, such as destroying countries and foolishly attempting – and always failing – to rebuild them in Man's image.
There is a story that always goes with hubris. It's called nemesis, destruction. It's what always happens when Man thinks he is God, instead of realizing his many imperfections.
I don't know the specific ending about the hubris displayed by the American Empire. But I know the general ending of the story, and unless there is a change – a repentance and an atonement – it's not going to be a good one. It will be the same story that happens to every Empire that thinks it is God-like: the complete and utter failure, like Satan, to rule everything.