Friday, October 23, 2015

A Perfectly Clear Discourse on Evil

Clearly, it seems to me that Hillary Clinton is: a) a liar and an amoral scoundrel who ought to be serving jail time; or b) an upstanding woman of the highest character and virtue and a paragon of honesty.”

I’ve seen that one-step-forward-two-steps-back syntax too many times in written and verbal statements. If something seems to be to a person, then it isn’t clear at all to him, regardless of the subject matter He is confessing that he isn’t quite sure what it is he is pronouncing judgment on. We can thank a long line of philosophers – for example, Rene Descartes – for making that contradiction of certainty-cum-doubt ubiquitous as a bad thinking habit, and as a repeated element in common language. We can also cite David Hume and John Dewey, among others.

It’s a far more grievous error than speakers and writers, in making comparisons, saying different than and not different from. Different than means absolutely nothing. As a conjunction, than is not synonymous with the preposition from.

It seems to me is also symptomatic of a lack of courage and resolve to be forthright in one’s statements. It’s a woozy approximation that is supposed to stand in for rock-solid certainty. It’s cowardly. It’s a half-full/half-empty glass of nothing. It’s like Michael Moore substituting for Cary Grant, or Rosie O’Donnell for Audrey Hepburn.

So, you’d never catch me saying, “Clearly, it seems to me that Barack Obama is evil.” I say that he is evil, and knows it. All the evidence – all his actions and statements over the last eight years – is incontrovertible proof of his evil, and of his evil intentions.

What is evil? Wikipedia begins a description of it with “Evil, in a general context, is taken as the absence or complete opposite of that which is ascribed as being good. Often, evil is used to denote profound immorality.” Wikipedia offers only economy-sized definitions of good and evil.

The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971), however, makes some critical distinctions:

A. The antithesis of GOOD in all its principle senses.

                1. Morally depraved, bad, wicked, vicious.
                2. Doing or tending to do harm; hurtful, mischievous, prejudicial.

The Oxford entry on good is one and a half pages long. So I’m going to settle for the Wikipedia treatment of the subject. It has this entry on the subject of good and evil.

These basic ideas of a dichotomy [between good and evil] has [sic] developed so that today:

  • Evil is typically associated with conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological needs and dignity, destructiveness, and acts of unnecessary and/or indiscriminate violence.

It’s not a perfect definition of evil, but it’s acceptable for the time being. I'll write the OED a note about it.

There are two species of committing evil.

There is what I call the “passive” commission of evil. This is evil committed from ignorance of its consequences, from a failure to identify them, from a habitual disinclination to face facts, or from a refusal to think. It’s people voting for Obama a second time after they’ve seen the disasters of his first term in the White House. People who commit passive evil do not originate the evil. They simply cash in on it, oblivious or indifferent to its maleficent consequences. They do not originate evil, but enable it.

The evil can also be mistaken for being a good, again, because of an absence of any critical thinking or the absence of all but standard values that could serve as a measure of what one stands to gain or lose if the evil is enabled. The perceived “good” could be a second term of Barack Obama, again, in the face of overwhelming evidence that his first term has caused incalculable damage to the nation, to the economy, to people’s lives, including the lives of those who voted for him twice. It is choosing him with the knowledge that he is also a liar and a fraud.

These are the kinds of people who will vote Democratic no matter what, even when a liberal (just “a totalitarian screaming to get out”) campaigns for office wielding a whip garlanded with daisies and bluebells.

The second species of evil is that originated by those who consciously wish to do harm, the achievement of such harm being integral and even intrinsic to an evil person’s reason for living and acting. This person is a nihilist, a destroyer who acts to destroy the good for being the good, who lives to instigate destruction in any realm. This is the kind of person who will paint a moustache on da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, or add tennis shoes to Michelangelo’s statue of David.

This is the kind of person who, like Barack Obama, will act to destroy a nation and turn it into a continent-sized correctional facility in which few or no individual rights exist, in which the economy is driven by “capitalist cronies,” financial fraudulence, and is a parasites’ paradise in which the unearned is created and paid for by a shrinking productive sector. Obama wishes to fundamentally “transform” America from one once anchored to the principles of limited government and the rule of law into one which is lawless and governed by unlimited government power.

I think it is fruitless to try and choose who have been the most evil political leaders in recent history. One would need to begin with Barack Obama. He is the one Americans are most familiar with. His Canadian clone, Justin Trudeau, recently elected in part with Obama’s help, as the new prime minister, wishes to be a kind of white Obama, friendly to Islam and “climate change,” and is also out to “transform” Canada, just as Obama wants to “remake” America.

Then we could toss a coin or two for the ones we don’t know as intimately: Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, and even Angela Merkel. There is small fry like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and big fry like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the “supreme leader” of Iran, and his equally malevolent predecessor, Ruhollah Moosavi Khomeini, are in a special class of evil all by themselves.

Choosing to initiate evil can begin in a person as early as pre-school, sometimes in adolescence, and definitely in adulthood. Wanting to destroy the good for being the good can begin with envy or jealousy or hating the sight or knowledge of happiness in others. I think the best literary description of how an evil person develops is Ayn Rand’s account of archvillain Ellsworth Toohey’s growth from childhood up to adulthood in The Fountainhead.

Ellsworth Monkton Toohey was seven years old when he turned the hose upon Johnny Stokes, as Johnny was passing by the Toohey lawn, dressed in his best Sunday suit. Johnny had waited for that suit a year and a half, his mother being very poor. Ellsworth did not sneak or hide, but committed his act openly, with systematic deliberation: he walked to the tap, turned it on, stood in the middle of the lawn and directed the hose at Johnny, his aim faultless – with Johnny’s mother just a few steps behind him down the street, with his mother and father and the visiting minister in full view on the Toohey porch. Johnny stokes was a bright kid with dimples and golden curls; people always turned to look at Johnny Stokes. Nobody had ever turned to look at Ellsworth Toohey.

Little Ellsworth faces his parents and the minister, states that Johnny Stokes is a bully at school, and awaits his punishment.

The question of punishment became an ethical problem….it seemed wrong to chastise a boy who had sacrificed himself to avenge injustice, and it was done bravely, in the open, ignoring his own physical weakness; somehow, he looked like a martyr. Ellsworth did not say so; he said nothing further; but his mother said it. The minister was inclined to agree with her. Ellsworth was sent to his room without supper. He did not complain. He remained there meekly – refused the food his mother sneaked up to him, late at night, disobeying her husband. Mr. Toohey insisted on paying Mrs. Stokes for Johnny’s suit. Mrs. Toohey let him do it, sullenly; she did not like Mrs. Stokes.*

In Ellsworth’s mother we see how a passive sanction of evil promotes and enables an active instance of it. From there on Ellsworth Toohey developed into a full-scale villain. To Ellsworth’s mother, the bold, undisguised destruction of a value – not even her own, but Johnny Stokes’s suit – is a sign of virtue, of goodness, of almost sainthood. Ellsworth’s willingness to be punished for it is also, to her, a sign of self-sacrifice, what her minister doubtless preached in church was a moral ideal. To her uncritical, unthinking mind, her son is moral person who deserved praise, not condemnation or punishment.

Assiduously created and maintained multiple layers of fragile onion skin can hide the core evil of such men from themselves and from others: special attention to social decorum, public appearances, dinner table etiquette, kissing babies, political speeches, perhaps a smartness in dress – these and other ostensive marks of a civilized, nominally cultured person go into the task of disguising a core soul and ultimate ends. Peel away the layers and one will finally come to the poisonous glop that is the driving force in all that such men do or say. It takes a lifetime to refine these layers to erect and sustain an elaborate façade and pretence of a “good” person who seems to be the epitome of benevolence. But, beneath the polish is festering putrescence.

The maquette that presents itself to the world and preaches sacrifice and the sly but “harmless” corruption of values – or even the wholesale, wide scale sacrifice of them, such as Merkel’s willingness to sacrifice Germany and the rest of Europe to the Muslim hordes, who are themselves venomous malignancies – hides a very real monster, a nihilist, a destroyer. He is small in his own and in others’ eyes, he assumes a deceptively modest mien, but his ambition is not modest and retiring.

His evil is clear and writ large in today’s culture, here and abroad.

*The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. 1943. New York: The Centennial Edition, Plume/Penguin, 2005. P. 301


Steve Jackson said...


I don't know if you heard Yaron Brook's recent show on immigration.

He says that if America were a free country we could have 10 immigrants per American and he would be "completely confident" that we would convert them or their children to the cause of liberty in 1 or 2 generations. That's right, a free America could have 3 billion third worlders and there would be nothing to worry about. It's ar 32 mins.


Edward Cline said...

Steve Jackson: There was a lively debate on the subject of immigration with Brook on Facebook. I didn't participate because I got tired some time ago of reading Brook's duck-and-dodge answers to questions others asked. The official ARI position on immigration is pure Fantasy Land. Brook argued in a manner suggesting he was representing someone else's position on the subject, and he was just a proxy. So, there was no chance of convincing him of the insanity of his position. A friend who observed the debate wrote me that he had heard that ARI and TOS (The Objectivist Standard)are being funded now offshore, that is, by foreign money. I wonder what happened to John Allison, the BB&T executive who promoted ARI (I know he took over CATO). It just gets stranger and stranger. Well, I say what I way here on RoR and elsewhere.

Steve Jackson said...

There was a recent press release from the ARI that said you could get a funded student internship with Koch Foundation support.

madmax said...

Was that debate between Brook and Peikoff? I'm tempted to listen but after listening to Brook and Ghate I don't think I could. They were ignorant of the actual data on immigrants and their welfare usage and their voting patterns. Also, they don't seem to understand that the Left is using non-white immigrants to change the racial demographics to capture total power of the nation. Leftists say this openly. There was just an article by a Leftist (I forget where) in which he openly stated that once whites were a minority the Democrats could abolish gun ownership. And its true, Hispanics don't vote pro-gun. So the Left want's to disarm whites and organized Objectivism thinks nothing about it. They have no awareness of how group voting patterns effect the cause of liberty.

Even further, Onkar Ghate thinks that if some Guatemalan has a dream of making a life for himself and he is denied entry into America, then he is entirely entitled to hate the people who denied him entry. Think about that. Not only does it encourage hatred of whites by non-whites (which is what the Left constantly seeks to do) but it resembles some religious vision of what America means as a nation. That view totally destroys the very concept of nationhood. It actually seems to me to be somewhat Christian. And of course, Brook and Ghate are not aware of Robert Putnam's data on how racial diversity lowers social trust and cohesion. Why am I not surprised.

ARI funded off shore? Interesting.

Immigration is the hardest issue in politics IMO. Its true that the current economic system is terrible and the infinite price controls and regulations make untangling the mess near impossible. But the open immigration viewpoint is destructive to liberty as it makes libertarians and Randians look insane. Also, Brook mentions explicitly that he feels if you are not open immigration then you weaken the case for liberty. That right there is the problem. It takes real knowledge and insight to untangle that mess. Right now no one can.

madmax said...

"He says that if America were a free country we could have 10 immigrants per American and he would be "completely confident" that we would convert them or their children to the cause of liberty in 1 or 2 generations."

Mollyneaux destroys this claim; with data. It actually shocked me, but I've seen this hatefact now in multiple places. 2nd generation immigrants are more anti-libety than 1st. 3rd generation immigrants are even worse than 2nd. Even with Asians. Now, it can be argued that this is because of the Progressives domination of the education system and even because of the public educations system itself. But that is a fact of our current societal organization. We don't live in Galt's Gulch. In this world, left-liberalism + immigration = further drift leftward = eventual hell on earth.

I would love to see Brook debate Mollyneaux. He won't because Stephan is better at it.

Prashant said...

No nation is obligated to help other people no matter how deserving of asylum if it is at the cost of its own destruction. People from ARI are dropping context when talking about free immigration as Ed has mentioned in previous articles.

Hence, the argument that Americans can't do the jobs that would be left unfilled if immigration is stopped or controlled. Left out is the impact of regulations, minimum wage, welfare policies and other crippling laws, while lowering education standards resulting in dumbing-down of generations that will be good enough only to vote and riot.

The challenge right now is to get government out of education and having that second renaissance in the realm of ideas. I am thankful for this blog for putting things in the proper perspective.