Monday, November 21, 2005

The Fire that is Evil

I was reading through a book of speeches recently. The content between the covers of the book is a compilation of historic speeches dating as far into our history as 400BC and running up to the decade of the 1960’s.

The recurrent theme throughout the speeches is oratory about the war of good versus evil.

That will come as no surprise to students of world history and world affairs. It is just as unlikely that it would be a surprise to those without the benefit of that education.

Good versus evil is the main plot driver of action movies, the typical western novel and it dominates today’s headlines. There is often confusion between the sides about which side is wearing which uniform. We abhor the random violence of terrorism while they define the rest of the world as infidels.

These battles have gone on for all of recorded history. The logical question that follows that statement like a wagon behind a horse would be, “Are we forever sentenced to this struggle?” Will the grandchildren of our grandchildren’s grandchildren engage the same evil on a forever existent battlefield? Will a present day terrorist simply have a different name yet wear the same evil cloak?

I have an opinion on this issue, and I trust you are not surprised.

For several years now I have been forming an opinion that fear is the base emotion that fuels this struggle between good and evil.

Philosophical types will propose that good cannot exist without evil, that one defines the other and that they live in a mutually sustaining relationship. My view is that while that theory is popular, not to mention ancient, it presupposes that something we have not achieved or not experienced cannot exist because we have not known it as a reality.

Another way of saying this is that the theory of mutual reliance; good can only be defined if evil exists alongside it, depends upon our need to accept the world exclusively under the terms of our current understanding or experience.

This might well be the same type of presupposition as believing the earth is flat because we cannot see it curve from the bow of the ancient sailing vessel.

I believe fear is the fuel beneath the fire that is evil. Hitler used fear as a tool. Can it be legitimately argued that fear is not the predominate tool in the terrorists’ tool kit?

When I fear something I naturally do not like that thing. Only the mentally deranged could be said to truly like or love something that they know should be feared. (Those old girlfriends or boyfriends don’t count on this one)

When we fear something we set out to remove it from our world or avoid it altogether. It could be argued that the more passive of us would seek to avoid rather than confront, but God imbued the human race with aggression, for survival reasons I suspect, and we often stand and fight, or attack the things we fear.

I would propose to you that only by removing fear from our lives will we eradicate evil. There is probably something more to remove as well, but we should begin with fear.

Yes, I believe good can exist without needing to be defined by the presence of evil.

I believe the roots of evil are in fear, not money, and that the roots of good are in the absence of fear. I do believe greed is in the mix of the stew labeled evil, but not the principal ingredient.

The great challenge before us is that we are each responsible for removing our individual fear of our world and even fear of death itself, no one else can do it for us, and indeed it could be a very long war.

The book of speeches I told you about contains the final speech of Socrates prior to his execution. He had been tried and sentenced for not believing in his eras accepted gods and for corrupting Athenian youth with his oratory. During this final speech he mocks his enemies that are about to execute him.

He mocks them by making it clear that they cannot instill fear in him and therefore will ultimately be defeated. His prophesy to them is that they will have to ultimately pay the price for their evil and ‘fear’ of him, but that he will go to death as an honorable man without fear. Portions of his speech are reprinted below.

A portion of Socrates speech

But this is not difficult, O Athenians, to escape death. It is much more difficult to avoid depravity, for it runs swifter than death. And now I, being slow and aged, am overtaken by the slower of the two; but my accusers, being strong and active, have been overtaken by the swifter wickedness. And now I depart, condemned by you to death; but, they condemned by truth, as guilty of iniquity and injustice. And I abide my sentence and so do they. These things, perhaps, ought so to be, and I think they are for the best.

In the next place, I desire to predict to you who have condemned me, what will be your fate, for I am now in the condition in which men most frequently prophesy, namely when they are about to die. I say then to you, O Athenians, who have condemned me to death that immediately after my death a punishment will overtake you far more severe by Jupiter, than that which you have inflicted on me.

Having predicted this much to those of you who have condemned me, I take my leave of you.

By the way, I would like to hear your opinion on these posts. I know you are reading because I get the statistics from Google. You are passing the page around since there are many more readers than the number I have told about the blog. I really thank you for sharing, but more than that I would love to hear your comments, con and pro. (You can comment on posts at the bottom of the post)


Launa Lazariuk said...

I am really in touch with the way you have come to understand things. After all, understanding is there to be had/gained. There are apparently 6 basal emotions,a according to research I learned in my psychology course and fear, obviously, is one of them. For human progression sake and for justice, in general, we need to transcend fear, overcome our baser animal natures.

Yes, alot of people, for a long time, have somewhat unquestioningly believed that the good must be defined as you say with the PRESENCE of evil. But the good, in it's transforming power, inherent in its presence, can and ought to be defined by the eradication of evil or the transcendence of evil, which are things which stem from fear namely. As I frequently say, suffering and war is necessary in so far as we learn from it.

By the way, I finally wrote back to your post on my site about the death penalty and saddam.

;) glad to see that you are using knowledge and communication as your "weapons".

Seven said...

All beautifully articulated Jennifer. Thanks for reading through and understanding the triumph that can occur.
Peace and Good Cheer,