There is a philosophical problem called "concepts and their referents." It's a fancy way of asking if the concepts in our heads refer to anything in reality. If I have the concept "icklesnip" in my head it doesn't refer to anything "out there." That means "icklesnip" is just a ghost in my head.
Let's take two concepts: "good versus evil" and the continuum of "from good to evil." The latter concept can also be turned around as "from evil to good."
The first concept – "good versus evil" – refers to nothing in reality. It's a ghost. A very, very dangerous ghost that we project onto reality. It's probably the most dangerous ghost in the world.
The second concept – the continuum of "from good to evil" – does refer to reality, although I think the word "evil" is incorrect. Even though it seems a paradox, these two concepts are completely opposed to each other.
The evidence is that the concept "good versus evil" is instinctive with us. It's also very primitive. It really means "grandiosity versus non-human," or "all-good versus all-bad," or "human versus not-human." The importance of the word versus cannot be overemphasized. "Versus" always means a fight.
The concept of "good versus evil" meaning "grandiosity versus non-human" is why every tribe in history has called itself "the People," "All Men," or "the Human Beings," relegating everyone else to non-human status. It's also why countries and religions have used terms such as "God and Country," "God's Chosen," "Gott mit uns," and "Holy Mother Russia." It's also why the British defense secretary, Geoff Hoon, recently claimed the coalition armed forces are made up of "men and women who made a free choice to serve their country," whereas Iraqi forces "are motivated either by fear or by hatred." And Jerry Falwell recently wrote, "At this critical time in our nation's history, it is imperative that Christians join together in prayer for our troops who wage war against a merciless enemy."
Obviously, those who not of "the People" are considered inferior, cowardly, envious, backstabbing and untrustworthy. And those are often some of their better traits. Since they become Outsiders who are scapegoated, it becomes okay to kill them, since killing them will remove from the world the unpleasant traits they supposedly represent. There are two novels that best illustrate this: Atlas Shrugged and Jerzy Kosinki's The Painted Bird. This current war demonstrates it, too.
Look at the jokes about the French making the rounds ("French rifle for sale. Never fired, only dropped once."). The same French who saved our hot dogs during the Revolutionary War. If they hadn't the British would have won. But now, we're good, and they're evil, because they won't support our drive to conquer a good-sized chunk of the world. They're not just mistaken for not supporting us; they're evil. The Iraqis who are opposing us are all evil, too. Whenever I click on Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity I count the seconds – not the minutes – until I hear the word "evil" in reference to the Iraqis. Then I turn them off.
Here is a list of people whom I have been told are evil: me, Christians, atheists, Catholics, men, women, Muslims, blacks, whites, Germans, the French, the Russians, Communists, capitalists, Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, polluters, evolutionists, anti-evolutionists, drug users, drug sellers, and, of course, smokers. These groups comprise the entire population of the world, now, in the past and in the future. When the concept of "good versus evil" is used, the definition of "evil" is fluid and ever-changing, meaning anything, applied by anyone to anyone else, for any reason.
I once knew a grandiose man who was convinced his, and only his, interpretation of the Bible was correct. He was convinced beyond all doubt the Catholic Church was evil. He told me, in all seriousness, that the Pope had sent assassins to kill him. He truly believed there were godly gunsels combing the area looking to rub him out. The last time I saw him, by a lake, he was learning to defend himself with a pair of nunchuks, until he bashed himself in the forehead.
This man, obviously, is cracked. But he is a perfect microcosmic example of a macrocosmic problem: I am the Good opposing your Evil. If enough people believe it, scapegoating is brought into the world, followed by mass murder. Usually it starts with ostracism, then ends up with genocide.
If you'll take a look at some of the Prayer Threads on FreeRepublic (click here) you'll see grandiose prayers for God to protect our soldiers from harm, and to kill the evil Iraqis. Read Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" (click here) and you'll find he wrote about the same thing over 100 years ago: please, God, grant us victory, and destroy our enemies. Yet, at the same time, our enemies are praying to God to protect them and destroy us. And all because each is saying, we are the Good versus your Evil.
I guess it's going to come down to a case of might makes right. Of course, we all know the winner is automatically supported by God. I learned that from watching football, when some of the winners thanked God for their victory. I'm waiting for the day one of the losers starts crying on TV and sputters, "It's true! We lost because God hates us! Jesus hates me!"
It is the height of grandiosity and hubris (which was Satan's problem) for one group to think God is going to support them just because they are convinced they are so much in the right they can commit mass murder, mass destruction, and mass theft. This is apparently Bush's problem. He appears to truly believe God has appointed him to destroy what he and his advisors have decided is evil. But are their opponents really evil people, or are those in the US administration listening to the ghosts of Good versus Evil that are wandering around in their heads?
Are we really evil, or are bin Laden and militant Muslims listening to the ghosts in their heads? Or are all involved, on both sides, blind and grandiose, reducing their opponents to evil things who should die? Are they just projecting false concepts onto each other? This is what always happens when people believe in the false concept of "good versus evil." It's why I don't believe in that concept anymore. It's a ghost. A very bloodthirsty, murderous ghost. And if enough people believe in the concept of "good versus evil," sooner or later hundreds of millions of people will be defined as evil and then murdered.
The fact that Bush calls himself a "born-again Christian" means absolutely nothing to me, just as it means nothing to me that bin Laden apparently thinks he's the Muslim version of a "born-again." The only way the beliefs of either concern me is because of the effect they have on the world. When people tell me that God put Bush in office (or bin Laden in his position) I suggest maybe it's the Other Fella what done it. They never realize I'm pulling their legs.
Terribly, people project their own imperfect characteristics onto God. And the Devil, for that matter. If we didn't both Bush and bin Laden wouldn't grandiosely believe what they think is identical with what God thinks. If they didn't believe this, neither would be starting World War III. It'd be funny if it weren't a tragedy. I sometimes have this image of each of them watching the other on TV, and shouting at the screen, "Tool of the Devil!" Followed by the hurling of popcorn and the spraying of beer.
When I ask people to name someone evil, these days most say, "Saddam Hussein." They didn't use this name a year ago, which points out how effective propaganda is. If they don't use Hussein's name, they usually say "Hitler." This also shows the effectiveness of propaganda, because Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and Pol Pot were much, much worse than Hitler. Then I ask them if they feel if the person they've named is "no longer human." Usually, once they think about it, they say "yes." They are proving my point: the false concept of good versus evil is overwhelmingly grandiosity versus the non-human, all-good versus all-bad, human versus not-human. This false concept of good versus evil is what creates hate, anger, intolerance, lack of forgiveness and self-righteousness, traits that Dubya is now showing. How are these characteristics "good"? They are certainly related to grandiosity – but "good"? And can anyone find anyone who is "non-human"?
Defining someone as evil always involves dehumanizing and demonizing them. That's the essence of propaganda.
The last article I wrote was titled, "The Fairy Tale of Pure Good and Pure Evil." I've had people tell me they have "evil" in them, meaning, I suppose, a blob of "evil" somewhere in them separate from the "good." If this is true, where's the line in them that separates the two? Can they stand on one side and say, "I'm good," then take a step and say, "Oops, now I've evil"? Can they just step back and forth over this line?
Or are people a mixture of "good" and "evil," as many people think? Imagine you're holding the aforementioned Blob of Evil in your hand. In order for it to be "evil" it has to be "pure" evil. It has to be completely without good. Good has to be completely absent from it, otherwise it wouldn't be "evil" at all. To believe otherwise is to say, "This blob of pure evil in my hand also has pure good in it." That's a nonsensical saying that refers to nothing in reality.
Now imagine that Blob of Pure Evil is a person. The problem with this is there is no one alive, or no one who has ever lived, or will never live, who is "pure" evil. Everybody, no matter how horrible they are, has a little bit of "good" in them. Therefore, there is no "evil."
The universe is not evil, animals are not evil, and people are not "evil," because everyone has some good in them. "Evil" does not exist except as a false concept in our heads, a concept that when we see it as opposed to "good," always leads to scapegoating and genocide, no matter what the definition of evil is.
The concept of "good" is not the problem, although people will always argue about the definition. The concept and definition of "evil" will always be a problem.
The question is now raised: what is Good really? Books have been written about it. I think the archetype of the horror story is useful here. It's generally considered to be about Evil intruding on Good, but actually it's about Chaos intruding on Order.
Aspects of Good include wholeness (the word is related to "healthy"), ease, harmony and order. The "opposite" is disorder, chaos, lack of harmony, sickness (dis-ease). In reality the word "versus" is absent. It's not one against the other; it's a continuum. That's why I put quotes around "opposite." I don't know anyone who is "perfectly" healthy or "perfectly" diseased (unless they're perfectly dead). It's a continuum.
For society, war is disorder, chaos, lack of harmony, sickness. In a person, a heart attack and cancer, for example, fit the same criteria. A heart attack is chaos because the cells no longer beat in harmony. Cancer is when the cells grow chaotically. The free market is an example of spontaneous order. Contrary to the delusion of leftists, socialism is nothing but chaos and disorder.
Think of the concept "beauty versus ugliness," or "Brad Pitt versus Madeleine Albright." Is it either/or, one or the other, or is it a continuum from beauty to ugliness? Is there such a thing as "pure" beauty or "pure" ugliness? Does that concept "beauty versus ugliness" refer to anything in reality? It doesn't, no more than the concept "good versus evil" does.
I am as free-market as they come, but it's not "capitalism versus socialism." It's a continuum from capitalism on the "right" to socialism on the "left." The fact we saw it as "versus" is what cost the lives of 58,000 Americans and a few million Vietnamese, made even more ironic by the fact we are not totally "capitalist" or "free." We claimed we were "good" and they were "evil," then used our partly socialized/fascist economy/society (including the draft) to try to destroy their version of socialism/fascism. It wasn't "good versus evil." It was one screw-up against another.
The word "right" means "correct." The word "left" means "sinister." Politically, the Right has always prided itself on an understanding of human nature, i.e., it is fallen, or imperfect, neither "good" nor "evil." The Left, far more narcissistic and immature than the Right, has always split things into "good versus evil." That's the main reason for the genocide of the Left. Erik von Keuhnelt-Leddihn pointed out the Left's attitude toward people is, "They're cockroaches! Rub them out!" Human versus not-human.
Since the neo-cons are Leftists masquerading as Rightists, they are going to split things into "good versus evil." That's what they're doing right now, and that's the main reason we are at war.
There is a curious episode in the Bible which puzzled me for years. When a woman calls Jesus "good rabbi" he instantly interrupts her; he doesn't even let her finish. He says, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God." His answer to her makes sense if he realized what the false human concept of "good versus evil" would create throughout history, including in his name. What these concepts are currently creating is Holy World War I, even though neither side, in reality, is good or evil. Although in their heads the leaders, and many of their followers, believe they are the Good opposing their opponents' Evil.
The false concepts in our heads tell us it's Good versus. Evil. To repeat, those concepts mean Grandiosity versus Non-human. But in reality it's a continuum of Good to less Good, from Order to Chaos, Harmony to Disharmony, Health to Sickness. The true concept is the continuum of "from good to evil," except for the fact that at the opposite end of the continuum there really is no "evil." This is why I have ceased to believe in "evil." There's sickness, disharmony, chaos, less good. But evil? Again I ask: come up with a definition of evil that will never lead to scapegoating and mass murder. You can't do it. No one can.
I was taken to task by a well-known psychiatrist concerning my belief in the opposite of Good being Sickness. He has a point. I've thought about it and have decided the paragraph above is more accurate. In reality, it's not "versus," but a continuum. The "versus" exists only in our heads.
But no matter how many ways I look at it, I cannot find "evil" except as a false concept in our heads that we project onto reality. I can't find it anywhere in reality.
What this means is that the people in the US administration – Bush, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, all of them – are grandiose fools attempting to destroy an "evil" that exists no where save in their heads. Richard Perle, for one example, said future generations will "sing songs" about him because of his belief the US should conquer the Islamic world and drag it into the 20th century. He exemplifies the grandiosity of Satan, which is why his nickname is "Prince of Darkness." It should be "Prince of Blindness and Stupidity." It's not surprising this sneaky, devious, vile coward – a son of Satan if there ever was one – has quit his position in order to distance himself from the fact the war in Iraq – of which he is one of the main authors – is not going as planned.
As for the administration's opponents on the other side of the world? Both sides are actually bringing into the world chaos, disease, sickness. They don't believe it, though. People like them never do. That's what the phrase, "the blind leading the blind" means.
But let's wait a few years, when everyone finds that history always repeats itself. The administration still won't change its mind, but the public will wake up, the way they did about Vietnam after five years had passed.