Conquering Evil

“Evil can not be conquered within this world. It can only be resisted in oneself.”

Kung Fu (television series), Master Po

The world is full of people that look at the world they live in and see evil all around them. It’s easy to point to outliers, such as Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a., the Unabomber, to illustrate the point. But, looking at individuals is a good way to only look at trees and miss the forest.

The fundamental problem is that every human being has evil tendencies, and they live with other human beings that use those tendencies to increase the group’s chances of survival in a world with limited resources. Hunter-gatherer groups protect sources of water for their groups exclusive use from other hunter-gathers. With the advent of agriculture, surpluses allowed a larger population, which could then take control over the sources of water in their area from hunter-gatherers. Larger societies took from smaller ones, and killed and consolidated with outside groups. Human history is simply a chronicle of the rise and fall of these groups, whether it be tribe, city or modern nation.

How then can these tendencies be eradicated? How can evil be fought?

The first step is to transcend the notion that our group is somehow special, whether this idea is talked about as “The Chosen People”, the “twice-born” of Hinduism, the “Elect”, or any of the other many permutations of this idea of a special group that is above others. This kind of thinking allows for a double standard of morality, where the in-group is treated one way and the out-group is treated in another.

The second step is to realize that all human beings are the same, with capacities for both good and evil. Evil is the product of desires to get the things we want or need. We need to turn and face this tendency in ourselves and make a choice. That’s the only evil we have any hope of eradicating, and realistically, most people can only hope to reign in their evil tendencies, particularly in a cultural environment that promotes them.

Other 9/11s

On September 11, 1973, the Chilean government was overthrown by a CIA-backed military coup d’état that killed or disappeared a few thousand people. Over the years, the government of General Pinochet arrested, imprisoned and tortured more than 28,000 people and over 200,000 people (2% of the population) were forced into exile because of this coup.

There are other 9/11s. We would do well to remember these others, where the United States were the perpetrators and not the victims. I try to do this by playing a song by Victor Jara, who was tortured and found dead in the streets of Chile on September 16, 1973.

It might also be worthwhile to think about today. There is a 9/11 being created in Yemen by Saudi Arabia using weapons made in the United States and with the support of the United States government.