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A story theme: evil is the absence of good

March 7, 2013
Posted at 1:20 am

A kind reader sent an email, opening the discussion of evil and darkness which is a prime theme in "Masi'shen Evolution." It is such a powerful theme, that the Masi'shen are resolutely constrained in their actions by an absolute refusal to kill. Michael and his companions share that belief. It makes for interesting situations when the easy way out of killing one's enemies is not an acceptable action.

The reader's commentary led to these thoughts of my own:

"First, it seems to me that many folks think of evil as a palpable thing, like an influential force. And they think of it as opposing "good" which is regarded as another palpable thing, coming from supernatural sources. I suppose this comes from centuries of being told by religious leaders that "Satan" and "Evil" and "Demons" are all real entities of substance. Hence, we get the fantasy fictions of demonic possession and popular films like The Exorcist.

That just isn't so ... at least in my world of philosophy and the body of teachings that I respect. Good people are a balance of motivations, which might be considered "good" on one hand, offset by "not so good" on the other hand. A good man can do many good deeds, even self-sacrificial acts on behalf of others; yet have some moments in which he's not so admirable. I've read that sometimes we become victims of "self," meaning that we succumb to lust, greed, selfishness, bigotry, anger, fear, or self-deception. Sometimes our actions, influenced by these promptings of self, are evil.

Great teachers, sometimes called prophets or messengers from a spiritual realm, typically warn against the temptations and weaknesses of the self, of our baser nature.

So, in simple terms, there is really no such thing as evil as a palpable, substantial entity. Just as dark is simply the absence of light, thus is evil simply the absence of good. A man is neither good or evil, inherently. The evil comes from the power of choice. If a man refuses or is unable to believe that all people, regardless of color, are equal, then his actions will tend towards the evil of bigotry. If that same man has fear, hatred, anger, and bigotry in his mind, then he can easily commit violence and murder ... to the extent of kidnapping and killing three freedom riders perceived as a group of invaders challenging his life-long culture of segregation. In that respect, the two brothers in my story were victims of their own selves. The atrocity they committed was evil, but it had nothing to do with Satan or demons or an evil spirit. If anything, their parents and neighbors who fomented and supported their fear, anger, bigotry, racism, and cultural bias against "niggers and injuns" were just as guilty as the two who committed the act. Their hearts and heads were too hardened against toleration and education.

Isn't it strange that a man can be a good, loving husband and father, willing to sacrifice himself for his family; yet he will torch and burn another man's family of a different faith, race, or nationality, with little thought for their humanity. This is the terrible price of warfare: we dehumanize the enemy, and rain destruction upon their homes and cities. During the Second World War, we (America, and our allies) killed far more civilians—old men, women, children and infants—than we did enemy combatants in battle. Never did we pause to consider the horrors of the Dresden, Germany firestorm created by our incendiary bombing raids, or the equally horrific incendiary bombing raids of Tokyo that deliberately killed many thousands of civilians. Consider the nuclear holocaust that followed. Then recall, many years later, the iconic image of the girl child fleeing naked and burned from the napalm attack against her Vietnamese village by American aircraft.

One might think that having been forced by circumstance to commit evil in the cause of good, that we would dedicate ourselves to finding a better way, a sure path, a firm resolve that never again would we be forced into another nightmare of death and destruction upon the innocents, to achieve victory in some justifiable cause. Yet we embrace evil committed in the name of a justifiable cause. We have desensitized ourselves to the abhorrence of killing innocent civilians, as only so much collateral damage, incidental to taking out targeted terrorists.

At the moment, there is a question whether a "secret law" should remain secret in support of national security, secret interpretations of law that enables the American President to act as judge, jury, and executioner, to order the killing of American citizens abroad who are perceived as a threat to national security.

Some members of the U.S. Senate are trying to get an answer to the question: "Will this secret judgment extend to American citizens inside U.S. borders?" That is a question which the government refuses to answer. The response is to attack the question, and the questioner, but not to answer the question. Thoughtful minds know that if one can legally kill a citizen abroad, labeled as a "foreign" terrorist, it is equally easy to kill a person labeled as a "domestic" terrorist at home. And what, exactly, is a domestic terrorist? A person or group of people perceived as fostering anti-government attitudes? Who judges?

I think we know the answer to that question: when it becomes convenient, some future day, someone with government power will, because they can.

So, back to the question of evil. Is the government inherently evil? No. Are the men and women of the government evil? No. But good men and women, acting against the guiding principles of truth, justice, and the higher purpose of the law, do commit evil acts. They shun the light of transparency, hide in the dark of secrecy, and submit to the baser urges of self-interest.

It is this thinking that is a basic thread in the "Evolution" story. There are good guys and bad guys, and aliens. And motives, good and bad, which need to be exposed and examined.

Isn't it interesting, [as the good reader said in the beginning,] that we can stand beneath a starry sky on a clear night, yet not instantly realize that we are such a tiny speck in such a huge creation. We dwell upon a small blue and white marble—a tiny life raft in a vast ocean—and we have no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and no time to wonder.