Friday, May 04, 2007
Further Thoughts on Evil 1
Further Thoughts on Evil 1 There is a word that I think sums up much of the attitude to evil, or that at least sums up our reaction to seeing acts of evil being committed and that word is demonization. During every war, whether internecine or international, one side will demonize the other. For any parties at war the combatants on one side are always “right” and the combatants on the other always “wrong.” Needless to say, this is a gross oversimplification of matters, but during disputes even, never mind wars, oversimplifications are indeed rife. Propaganda takes the place of objective news for the most part. Then there is the further “evil” of believing our own propaganda, swallowing whole gross exaggerations and prejudices and allowing hate for others to consume us. Historically in Northern Ireland before the present settlement, those with politics of an extreme orange hue would have seen Gerry Adams as the devil incarnate, while those of an extreme green hue in politics would have seen Ian Paisley as the hoofed one. One can trace the history of the deification of ones own nation and heroes and the demonization of the nation and heroes of the opposition/enemy even with rudimentary historical or analytical skills. Somehow or other, the enemy is always painted in the blackest terms. As a boy, I read many comic books like the Hotspur and other combat- based magazines. Therein, the Germans were quite simply caricatured as ugly brutes that were cruel, deceitful, cowardly and murderous at every opportunity, while the Brits were drawn as handsome, honest, brave and fair in battle. It is always easier and less complicated to use these polar extremes, blacks and whites, good and evil, bright and dark to paint a not too complex version of our world. To colour in all the shades in between is a harder task indeed. We do not like to admit that life is much more complicated than we would have ourselves and indeed others believe. Not alone are there many shades of grey in between black and white, but there are many other colours there as well, and all these colours also have their own respective shades. To my mind, Shakespeare and every middling to good dramatist paints characters that are whole or holistic or more three-dimensional. Shakespearean heroes all have their fatal flaws which lead to their downfall. Likewise, great novels and films have less extreme cardboard or two-dimensional characters. The great and powerful television series The Sopranos comes to mind here. Tony is a very believable and scary character. Why? He is capable of being a loving husband and father. At the same time he is capable of cheating on his wife and murdering both former friends and foes alike. He is also capable of doing work on his own feelings by attending a therapist. In short, we begin to like Tony Soprano. This in itself leaves us very uncomfortable indeed. This mafia boss or capo has good points and bad points. He’s not all evil and he certainly is not all good. So Tony is not demonized by the programme. Rather he is painted in the round – with his many good points as well as his many bad ones. This, to my mind, is what makes The Sopranos a super show and it is precisely what makes it so popular. In summary, then, humankind, come of age, begins to understand the complexities of the human psyche or the complexities of being human or the complexities of the many moral dilemmas in which it finds itself embroiled. It is here where Jungian psychology can help us greatly. Jung was forever pushing the idea of the “wholeness” of the psyche, about the good and the bad mixed into the stew that goes to make up the human personality. There are no easy solutions to any human or moral dilemmas. By the same token there are no easy solutions to the many thorny questions posed by the mystery of evil. Above I have placed a picture of Falung Gong practitioners which I took Christmas '06 in O'Connell Street. Practitioners of this meditation/art are both persecuted and imprisoned in China. The Chinese communist party persecutes them because anything that teaches people to think for themselves is by nature evil. To be continued.