Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Good And Evil

The Temptation of Christ
(Ary Scheffer - 
1854)
A comment by Juvat on a recent post got me thinking. Here's part of what he said as regards the work of a certain author of popular fiction -
...a little TOO realistic for my taste. Too much like today's reality and I read this genre to escape from that. I want the good guys to annihilate the bad guys and everything to be basically all right with the world in the end. If I wanted reality, I'd only read Instapundit. (I was going to say I'd watch the news, but that's even more fictional.) -- Thus sayeth Juvat
There is much that is evil in the world. Far too much. But what exactly do I mean by "evil"?

Let's turn to Google -

evil

adjective
1. profoundly immoral and malevolent. "his evil deeds"
  • (of a force or spirit) embodying or associated with the forces of the devil. "we have been driven out of the house by this evil spirit"
  • harmful or tending to harm. "the evil effects of high taxes"
  • (of something seen or smelled) extremely unpleasant. "a bathroom with an evil smell"
noun
1. profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force. "the world is stalked by relentless evil"
  • a manifestation of this, especially in people's actions. "the evil that took place last Thursday"
  • something that is harmful or undesirable. "sexism, racism, and all other unpleasant social evils" Source
But to go deeper I went to Wikipedia, here's what it said -
Evil, in a general context, is taken as the absence or complete opposite of that which is ascribed as being good. Often, evil is used to denote profound immorality. In certain religious contexts, evil has been described as a supernatural force. Definitions of evil vary, as does the analysis of its root motives and causes. However, elements that are commonly associated with evil involve unbalanced behavior involving expediency, selfishness, ignorance, or neglect. W
I think that last sentence sums it up nicely as regards human behavior...
  • expediency
  • selfishness
  • ignorance
  • neglect
To that I would add one more, GREED.

Most of that which is wrong with the world is caused by those five factors above.

I fear that things may get worse before they get better. I hope that I am wrong.

Edmund Burke
(Joshua Reynolds - 1771)
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
This is probably the most quoted statement attributed to Burke, and an extraordinary number of variants of it exist, but all without any definite original source.
They closely resemble remarks known to have been made by the Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill, in an address at the University of St. Andrew (1 February 1867) : Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.
The very extensively used remarks attributed to Burke might be based on a paraphrase of some of his ideas, but he is not known to have ever declared them in so succinct a manner in any of his writings. It has been suggested that they may have been adapted from these lines of Burke's in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770): "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
This purported quote also bears resemblance to a quote widely attributed to Plato, that said "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
It also bears resemblance to what Albert Einstein wrote as part of his tribute to Pablo Casals: "The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it." W
We mustn't let the bad guys win.

We cannot look on...

...and do nothing.

Can we?

18 comments:

  1. As long as the general public has their "bread and circuses" then they WILL be indifferent to public affairs thus allowing the potential
    for evil persons to rule. I think too many of today's politicians know and understand this.

    "I fear that things may get worse before they get better. I hope that I am wrong". I tend to agree with you on this but I also hope that I am wrong!!

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    1. Bread and circuses. Definitely a problem these days.

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    2. Slaves today are bought with EBT cards and Obama phones.

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    3. And that, my friend, is a superb analogy.

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    4. I think the Admiral says it well!

      "I do not imply that bread and circuses are evil things in themselves. Man needs material sustenance and he needs recreation. These needs are so basic that they come within the purview of every religion. In every religion there is a harvest festival of thanksgiving for good crops. And as for recreation, we need only recall that our word 'holiday' was originally 'holy day,' a day of religious observance. In fact, the circuses and games of old Rome were religious in origin. The evil was not in bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease. The moral decay of the people was not caused by the doles and the games. These merely provided a measure of their degradation. Things that were originally good had become perverted and, as Shakespeare reminds us, 'Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.'"

      Admiral Ben Moreell

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    5. An interesting point of view, not sure I completely agree. I need to think about it.

      Good quote though.

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    6. I'd never heard of Admiral Moreel, so read his bio in Wikipedia. Very interesting man.

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    7. Same here Juvat. Concur with your assessment.

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  2. And the reason ISIS is growing, in strength, land, and boldness, is because we're just too tired to do anything about it.

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    1. That's part of it. Having lame leadership would be another facet. I won't say which Administration because the correct answer is probably "both" or "all of them" since Washington. Take your pick.

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    2. Oh, I'm squarely placing the blame on our tremendously lame leadership. It was his fatigue that led us to remove every single solitary soldier from Iraq, allowing ISIS to thrive

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    3. That's a pretty good point.

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  3. An interesting topic Sarge and one I'd love to see widely discussed across the land.

    I maintain that evil is an intent, and practiced, so far as I can tell, by humans alone. It is also my belief that people are neither good nor bad nor noble nor evil. Their actions may be judged as such, but of themselves, they are simply people. Some of the things Mother Teresa did meet my criteria for bad and evil. I'd be surprised to find that Jeffrey Dahmer never did anything good or noble.

    The thing that gives the term it's punch is that we're each of us capable of intending and doing evil. In the aftermath of WWII "we" were all shocked to find that "good" Germans had stood mute while evil was perpetrated in the camps. I suspect we all understand that "good" Americans are no different than those "good" Germans, and could certainly find themselves in the same situation.

    Most of our societal discourse on ethics, morality, citizenship and responsibility has become little more than word games or circus acts. Not a hopeful state of affairs IMO.

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    1. Well said Shaun.

      Good point about the "good" Germans. Many times people will "go along to get along" and find themselves with the choice of good versus evil. Choose "correctly" or die is sometimes the hard truth.

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  4. Mush of the cause of evil can be traced to a failure of people adhering to the Golden Rule - a rule that is a tenent in all of the major religions including Islam - "Treat others as you would be treated"

    On the Good Germans vs Bad Germans once Hitler had consolidated power it took extraordinary courage to publicly oppose him. An excellent book on how the Nazis ruled by fear is the book In the Garden of Beasts - describes the family of an American Ambassador in 1933 Berlin.

    If you haven';t heard the story of Sophie Scholl, read up on her and the White Rose movement.

    Most people prefer to keep their head down and hope they aren't noticed by malevolent people.

    Add to all of this - since the 1960s the Left's idea of "relative morality" and here we are today.

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    1. Excellent points William, I am very familiar with die Weiße Rose and the resistance movement within Germany during the Nazi years. It's surprising how many are unfamiliar with that particular topic.

      Keeping one's head down only works for so long. Eventually you must either join them, or make a stand.

      Relative morality is the biggest problem in the world today. I heard on the car radio the other day "well, you can't change that, it's just the way things are nowadays." I nearly had to pull over and vomit. These things only occur if no one stands against them.

      Someday the pendulum will swing the other way, and I fear the backlash.

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    2. One more thought came to me - that of the 20th century's worst despots, most/all thought they were on the side of good. On the belt buckle of every Wehrmacht soldier was the inscription "Gott Mit Uns" (God is with us)

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    3. True. Of course to be fair, that motto been around longer than World War II.

      Interesting article here.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)