Friday, January 30, 2015

Good and Evil in Our Time

“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.” ― George Bernard Shaw

History serves as a reliable witness to tragedies which put to rest any philosophical or rhetorical back and forth about whether there is in fact good and evil in our world. The tracks left by the presence of these essentially opposite forces throughout the course of our experience are indelibly impressed on our consciousness and on battlefields all over the globe. The substance of those impressions is an unmistakably gruesome mix of the blood, sweat, tears and brutalized flesh of warring factions.

The spilled guts, broken bones, and the haunting screams of mutilated souls deny us any retreat into some specious academic comfort zone regarding this matter. The massacre of innocents will not allow it. The body bags from battlefields near and far containing the remains of our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and their children, rankles our convenient stoicism. Those who would resort to their rhetorical acumen to deny the existence of these opposing forces are rudely aroused, and kept awake by the cacophony of war and its foul stench.

The heroes we celebrate in our individual and corporate lives are usually those who stood in firm opposition to the forces of evil. Those who have represented the expression of evil must bear the eternal rebuke reserved for them. There are those among us who even now would salute Hitler; but they are in reality a fringe trying to survive against the moral tide of History. There are those who would resurrect the fascism of Mussolini; but they inevitably find themselves marginalized and eventually swept aside by the thrust toward a more equal society and a better world. The putrid stench of slavery lingers in the air we breathe. The Ku Klux Klan still has its disciples, but they appropriately still hide their faces... In shame?

The forward march of History gains impetus when we identify and call Evil by its name… That which seeks to destroy the will to achieve the common good. The establishment of the common good is the goal of our civilization. It is a foundation of the kind of Peace which issues from the triumph of the forces of good over the presence of evil. We understand civil society to be a function of the recognition of each other’s right to the pursuit of our highest human potential regardless of circumstances of race, gender, sexuality, religious persuasion, or the socio-economic circumstances of one’s birth.

When we appropriate to each other as a human right the ability to thrive in ways that are non-obstructive to the strivings of our fellow persons, we regard that as a good thing. To live at peace with each other by the establishment of equity among us is good. We know beyond equivocation that there have been, and that there remain among us persons and influences that do not share the values implicit in these notions. They foster in their own lives, and seek to foist upon others, the inequity that serves their twisted sense of being. They create misery. They are agents of chaos. We call such persons and their intentions and influences... evil.

There exist in each of us the potential for both good and evil. We all experience the strife of both barking dogs. The preeminence of either is a function of our decision about which dog we will feed. This is the dilemma of every free being. Ultimately we cannot hide from our responsibility to be the architects of the kind of world we want. History waits. Our destiny is by no means inevitable.

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