Evil is a toxic blend of secrecy, intolerance, ignorance, silence and zeal.
It is, to say the very least, a personality disorder of varying degrees.
The best way to comprehend evil is to understand what it means to be mentally healthy and self-discipline is the prerequisite characteristic that ultimately defines the well adapted individual.
What is self-discipline? Self-discipline is the process of delaying gratification for the purpose of solving a problem or completing a goal and we do it all the time. When we complete our homework rather than use our time watching television, or playing video games, we are delaying gratification. When we work hard to pay for college tuition and get a degree in our chosen field of study, we are delaying gratification. The list goes on and on and on....
Self-discipline is very important because it is linked to the feeling of being valuable. "I am a valuable person" is essential to mental health and is a cornerstone of self-discipline.
This feeling of being valuable is a cornerstone of self-discipline because when one considers oneself valuable one will take care of oneself in all the ways that are necessary. Self-discipline is self-caring.
Life is an endless series of problems. It is always difficult and full of pain as well as joy. Yet it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning.
Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of our problems that we can grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems, just as in school we deliberately set problems for our children to solve. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.
Most of us practice avoidance and do not confront problems. We procrastinate, hoping that they will go away. We ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist. We even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so that by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that cause the pain. We attempt to skirt around problems than meet them head on. We attempt to get out of them than to suffer through them.
This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Since most of us have this tendency to a lesser or greater degree, most of us are mentally ill to a lesser or greater degree, lacking complete mental health. Some of us will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is good and sensible in order to try to find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality. In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, "Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering."
But the substitute itself ultimately becomes more painful than the legitimate suffering it was designed to avoid. The neurosis itself becomes the biggest problem. True to form, many will then attempt to avoid this pain and this problem in turn, building layer upon layer of neurosis. Fortunately however, some possess the courage to face their neuroses and begin - usually with the help of psychotherapy - to learn how to experience legitimate suffering. In any case, when we avoid the legitimate suffering that results from dealing with problems, we also avoid the growth that problems demand from us. It is for this reason that in chronic mental illness we stop growing, we become stuck. And without healing, the human spirit begins to shrivel.
The technique of dealing with problem-solving which must be continually employed if our lives are to be healthy and our spirits are to grow, is dedication to the truth. Superficially, this should be obvious. For truth is reality. That which is false is unreal. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world -the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions -the less we will be able to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions.
Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inacurrate, we generally will be lost.
While this is obvious, it is something that most people to a greater or lesser degree choose to ignore. They ignore it because our route to reality is not easy. First of all, we are not born with maps; we have to make them, and the making requires effort. The more effort we make to appreciate and perceive reality, the larger and more accurate our maps will be. But many do not want to make this effort. Some stop making it at the end of adolescence. Their maps are small and sketchy, their views of the world narrow and misleading. By the end of middle age most people have given up the effort. They feel certain that their maps are complete and that their worldview is correct (indeed, even sacrosanct), and they are no longer interested in new information. It is as if they are tired. Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, even enlarging and refining and redifining their undestanding of the world and what is true.
The biggest problem of map-making is not that we have to start from scratch, but that if our maps are to be accurate we have to continually revise them because the world is constantly changing.
What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn? The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming.
What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore the new information. Often, this act of ignoring is much more than passive. We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality. Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.
This process of actively clinging to an outmoded view of reality is the basis for much mental illness. Psychiatrists refer to it as transference. There are probably as many subtle variations of the definition of transferenece as there are psychiatrists. The definition that applies most profoundly today is a quotation by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of propaganda who said, "Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty."
Isn't that what Fox News has become today? Aren't the defects they identify more applicable to Donald Trump and his enablers than they are to the political opponents they target and seek to destroy?
Indeed, the only reason many of us watch Fox News today is to better understand the latest psychotic, knee-jerk reaction of the effort to replace reliable maps of reality with outmoded and backward ideas.
To conclude as we began, Evil is a toxic blend of secrecy, intolerance, ignorance, silence and zeal. In summation, those who resist and seek to replace the truth with falsification reflect the most sever cases of mental illness and cause the most damage to society because they perpetuate two kinds of evil; the do-nothing variety and the do-the-wrong-thing variety, and since Trump and his followers dominate both brands, it is difficult to find any positive aspect in anything they have done and continue to do.
Despite constantly changing maps, our views appear to be timeless and consistent with both Christ and Plato and that is certainly an interesting consensus. Christ said, 'everyone who does evil (has become corrupted hates the light (the unevasive, denial-free truth, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed' (John 3:20).
Plato said, 'if he (the cave prisoner) were forcibly dragged up the steep and rocky ascent (out of the cave) ...into the sunlight...he would much object...his eyes would be so overwhelmed by the brightness...he would turn back and take refuge in the things which he could see'. (Plato The Republic).
Please find and shine your own light and draft your own map. Stop accepting everything you hear without scrutiny because it is mostly predicated on falsehood. The only point of exposing evil is to expose the destructive, dehumanizing aspects that are constantly targeting the very best ideas and elevating the most outmoded, is it not?
It is time to look in the mirror, to face reality and to hold those who seek to target and to destroy their political opponents accountable for deploying illegitimate and destructive schemes that trash the Constitution.
NEXT: Inexcusable, miscarriages of justice are a dime a dozen.