Monday, November 25, 2019

Impeachment & Evil

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- Let's talk about the impeachment.
- Do we have to? What's the point?
- I have a reason.
- Which is?
- Evil. I'm looking for a better definition.
- You've already said evil* is acting on a principle of destruction. Have you changed your mind?
- Not exactly. Political statisticians say that the president's supporters are comprised of a small proportion that actually likes the man, what they can see of him, and the rest of his supporters are regular Republican Party voters, that is, people who don't want the government to do redistribution of income through taxation and benefits. This latter group has the distinction of for the most part not paying attention at all to the actual activities of government, leaving that to a power struggle between politicians. They seem to intuitively understand that once you give up acting on a principle of sympathy for others character goes with it, along with right and wrong, and all that is left to politics is a compromise between different special interests. In the course of the impeachment the active supporters are holding steady in their identification with the president, but the party loyalists, at least some of them, are abandoning him as he begins to appear a loser in the battle of interests.
- So which do you call evil?
- It's not that simple. They all are acting on bad principle, choose to live a life without sympathy for others.
- A difference perhaps between crimes of omission and commission? The party loyalists turn their backs on public life, the active supporters enjoy the idea of violence against others. So again, which are evil according to you?
- The singer songwriter Leonard Cohen said about his work, 'Poetry is the verdict that others give to a certain type of writing.' What if, like what we consider poetry depends on not only a principle describing its composition, but public judgement of its creativity as well, what we consider evil depends both on both principle of action and a public judgement of its destructiveness?
- If evil is only a feeling then isn't it entirely relative?
- No. Evil is something like anger, a passion that responds viscerally to undermining of social standards such as lying, stealing, violence. Like anger, being a passion, it leads to action done in a kind of blindness.
- And as it is better to act without anger, if you can manage to stay reasonable and still act to change the world, so it is better to attack bad coolly than indulge yourself in a passion of evil?
- In my experience I call actions evil only when they come close to me, seem to undermine my unconscious expectations of what is going to happen. When I saw the pictures of the children of asylum seeking parents crowded in cages at the border I cried.
- You? You cried?
- I did.
- I did too. I never thought I'd see something like that in this country. It hit home. You're saying that as anger is a response to circumstances undermining our unconsciously relied on security, evil is a response to action that not only undermines security but bears with it the bad principle of action that leads to it being done.
- Yes. Calling someone evil requires both witnessing a clear bad principle acted upon, and a violation of expectations in one's own life.
- If that is right, then depending on how I feel, if I, like you, as I understand your life, feel myself an outsider, and look at others looking desperately for sympathy from strangers, I'll see even party loyalists as evil, but others more like me, others, forgive me, better befriended, might only consider active supporters of the president as evil.
- Or even if not 'better befriended' they might have learned to respond calmly without anger or desperation and see no one as evil, confident enough in public life to respond with knowledge without passion.

Further Reading:
Evil & The Corporate Executive
* Beverly Hills Jews