Saturday, January 5, 2008

Evil But Incompetent Geniuses

Of all the characters in the Austin Powers movies, Dr. Evil is my favorite. He's not evil. He only appears that way. In reality he's stupid and incompetent. God knows how he got into his position. In many ways he is an illustration of the saying, (which I had heard attributed to both Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson): "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity."

Because of the human race's inborn narcissism, we have an unconscious tendency to split everything into "all-good" versus "all-bad." For a while there was a religion based on this – Manichaeism. St. Augustine was originally a Manichee, until he realized it was a heresy.

Manichaeism was based on the belief that Good and Evil were two exactly equal principles in the universe. Manichee believed they would have remained at peace with each other except the Evil principle decided to invade the Good. Even though he never realized it, this is exactly the archetype of the horror story: Evil invading Good, or Chaos intruding onto Order.

Even today, many of us are unconsciously Manichees. We tend to see Good and Evil as equal. Worse, we tend to see Evil as smarter than Good. You can easily see this archetype in cartoon characters such as Lex Luther, the Brain (of Pinky and the Brain), and Simon Bar Sinister of the old Underdog Show. Or, Dr. Evil.

These concepts that we project onto reality – either Good or Evil (with nothing in between), and Evil as smarter than Good – explain some things happening today. I have lost track of the articles I've read that suggested: the planes that flew into the WTC were remote-controlled; Dubya and his administration set up the attacks on the WTC; or, Israel set up the attacks to draw the US into destroying its enemies.

Of course, the people who believe in these theories have to see the perpetrators not only as Evil, but Evil Geniuses. The world is being run by a shadowy cabal of Evil Geniuses! Dubya an Evil Genius? BWAHAHAHA! Here I go on the floor! An ex-drunk, possibly brain-damaged, party animal, who often can't put together a coherent sentence, and he's so brilliant, and yes, EVIL, that he and the other EVIL GENIUSES in his administration pulled off the attack on the WTC, covered it up completely, and blamed it on Osama bin Laden!

I tell you, I'm impressed!

For that matter, look at how many people saw Osama bin Laden as an Evil Genius.

In reality, these people are neither Geniuses nor Evil. They're stupid and incompetent. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda simply had no clue how weak the Islamic world is and how strong the US is. They thought they could draw the US into a guerilla war, like Vietnam, and defeat us that way. Those days are over. Like everyone else, he underestimated the US. The man's not Evil; he's Stupid. Let's put it this way: here's a man living in a cave who thinks Islam can take over the world.

Yet, at the same time, the people in the US administration fell into bin Laden's trap. Now we are going to spend a decade fighting a guerilla war in every country they conquer. It won't be anything like Vietnam, though. After spending hundreds of billions of dollars, and losing a few thousand soldiers, in the long run we'll withdraw, the Islamic world will fall back into the totalitarianism that is its birthright, and nothing will have changed. The people in the administration aren't Evil...they're just Stupid.

It all reminds me of a funny little film called Spaced Invaders. In it, a bunch of midget Martians try to invade the earth. They make friends with a little girl who defends them by saying, "They're not really evil. They're just...stupid."

Scratch someone who's "evil," and underneath you'll always find stupidity, ignorance, blindness, stubbornness and hubris.

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