Class Warfare Blog

April 27, 2017

Good and Evil? Meh.

I find the ideas of good and evil puzzling. In a world of almost infinite variation, these two absolutes continue to exist in people’s minds, often as an unnecessary dichotomy. Of course, there are organizations dedicated to their continued existence but, really, they are not useful terms, at least not to us. Mostly they show a lack of imagination or a desire to manipulate.

We are always trying to quantify things; that is normal for us. But we also tend to play one-upmanship in contests for status. There is a PGA commercial running now with famous golfers talking about how early they get to the practice range. The times quoted get earlier and earlier in response to what the others claimed until they are completely ridiculous. It was designed to show how competitive the golfers are and serves that purpose. It works, of course, because we have all played the game. (And please do not respond that this is a hyper-competitive, male-only game. Just listen to a group of mothers talking about their children and you will see the same process.)

So, when someone asks you “how bad was it?” There is a tendency to exaggerate. (I thought I was dying. Excruciating—worst hangnail I have ever had. etc.)

But like most things, these are just gradations on a scale. There is, for example, no “tall” or “short” or a clean dividing line between them. (I am tall enough to be in the top 3% of Americans in height, but when I played center in basketball in college, I was a puny shrimp.) Similarly, where are the dividing lines between “bad” and “evil” or between “good” and “bad?” These do not exist, for good reason. There are gradations of good and bad like there are of tall and short, but no absolutes.

What happens when we use absolutes, though, is we fall down a rabbit hole out of ordinary discourse. These absolutes do not acknowledge that there is a bit of everything in each of us. For example, by all accounts, Hitler was good to his mother.

By labeling things as “good” or “evil” we create categories based upon similarities that are not close to being exact. For example, do Adolph Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer belong in the same box?. Certainly not based upon their body counts. But both are simply labeled “evil.” Remember the “Evil Axis” of G.W. Bush? Such characterizations set people up for overly simplistic “solutions” to problems. As examples: We must oppose evil (because we are the good guys). We must oppose ISIS, it is evil. And, the ultimate: we must make war on terrorism! WTF? This makes no sense at all.

The terms good and evil exist as manipulators of human emotions and for no other reason. They are vague and unhelpful terms designed to be vague and helpful to those using them, to manipulate their hearers into doing their bidding.

When you next hear the term “all-good” or “ultimate evil,” think “all tall” or “ultimate short.” Those are about as useful as descriptors as the former.

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13 Comments »

  1. OMG! First I had to find a height percentile index. Then I discovered I’m only taller than 60.1% of the population in France. That means almost 40% of the population is taller than me! That is the definition of Evil.
    Although not entirely relevant to my life, as in my specific region, I’m perceived as unusually tall 😀

    Comment by The Pink Agendist, née Mr. Merveilleux — April 27, 2017 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

    • I am a mere 1.90 m and at that height I was regularly beaten into submission by much taller and heaver basketball players. I did, however, lead my team in fouls. There was some fight in the dog, just not enough physical presence.

      On Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 4:37 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 27, 2017 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  2. I understand that good and evil are societal constructs. One mans evil is anothe mans jihad. I get that. We have a sliding scale based upon perspective.

    But I think most can agree that certain acts, genocide, senseless murder, the eating of your victims cross some sort of ill defined line. It seems that when a deplorable act tends to cross that line it is inherently descibed as evil.

    Good can also be as subjective. Strangely enough.

    Comment by shelldigger — April 27, 2017 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

    • The line between “bad” and “evil” is a little like the highest federal tax bracket. If you make under 418,000 dollars, you have to just 35% on the last segment of your income. If you made less, you would pay less proportionately. The poor pay at a 10% rate. But what you make over that $418,000 you pay the highest rate, whether you make $500,000, a million, 10 or 100 million, or a billion. Past that threshold, there is no distinction as to levels of income. Once you label someone or thing as “evil” there is no distinction any more, no matter how many adjectives you use. There are levels of bad. Hitler killed millions. Dahmer, just handful or two. Labeling them both as evil is not a helpful distinction. This is a failure of imagination. Look at the imagination involved in the church labeling a kind of wrong as a “sin”. By doing this, they carved out power. No court of law can resolve a sin, only a church can. So, power goes to the church with just a label and a story.

      Maybe we need better adjectives, for “wrong bordering on evil” we might use wrevil or evil well clear of wrong as assholery. You can see I am not an accomplished word smith. I hit the damned things but they don’t change shape.

      On Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 5:29 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 27, 2017 @ 9:11 pm | Reply

      • A bigger hammer might do the trick? 😉

        The church came up with a brilliant plan, they themselves only, have the cure for the problem they made up. Beautiful a scam as I have ever seen.

        Comment by shelldigger — April 28, 2017 @ 5:24 am | Reply

  3. Which is why I describe evil as the ways and means by which suffering can be delivered and experienced.

    But yes, they are essentially useless terms.

    Comment by john zande — April 27, 2017 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

    • But then even suffering has nuances, for example, the Buddhist concept.

      I think I am your kind of creationist. But it is a truly sick fuck who invented Original Sin and the Lake of Fire. (Hey, Murray, I gotta idea, how about …)

      On Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 7:13 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 27, 2017 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

      • You can thank Irenaeus (the Bishop of Lyons), and later, Augustine of Hippo (who came up with the idea Adam’s “sin” being transmitted to all descendents) for that little gem.

        Comment by john zande — April 28, 2017 @ 4:59 am | Reply

        • Really, I read an entire book on OS (written by a professor at Wheaton College I had met) and I didn’t pick up that tidbit (possibly because he wasn’t interested so much in history as in apologetics. The books point is that Christianity wouldn’t (can’t) exist without OS. That is a damning admission as far as I am concerned.

          On Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 4:59 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Comment by Steve Ruis — April 28, 2017 @ 7:43 am | Reply

          • And that is true, it can’t exist without it.

            Comment by john zande — April 28, 2017 @ 8:12 am | Reply

            • A complete con, then. You have to believe in a savior to avoid a punishment that was dictated by said savior … as *you *said!

              On Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:12 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Comment by Steve Ruis — April 28, 2017 @ 10:04 am | Reply

              • Selling an imaginary cure to an imaginary disease. Quite clever, really.

                Comment by john zande — April 28, 2017 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

                • Homeopathic medicine before there was water to dilute things? Why sell medicines when you can cast out demons? (The demons, so poorly treated then taking up habitation in the nearest human, necessitating another trip to the exorcist. I wonder if this con is still going one? Wouldn’t want my business plan being based upon demons. Actually that might work better than my current one.

                  On Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 1:08 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                  Comment by Steve Ruis — April 28, 2017 @ 1:16 pm | Reply


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