So two days ago I wrote a long post about evil. I wrote about how evil creeps into our lives either directly or indirectly. I also talked a bit about how often it is not deliberate conscious actions that bring about evil, but more often that not it is by our own inactions that we allow evil to manifest itself. Another often-overlooked action that I find disturbing, and that can actually help bring about evil is hypocrisy.
There is a definition on-line of hypocrisy that reads like this, “the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another; moral self-contradiction whereby the behavior of one or more people belies their own claimed or implied possession of certain beliefs, standards or virtues.” I see these practices and behaviors in many of our politicians and other of high office. Unfortunately I also see them in normal people – my friends, my family, myself.
For instance, I have a friend who has a handicapped placard for his car. This will let him park in all those juicy reserved spots up close next to the doors of buildings. I have no problem with. That is what they are there for – he has a knee problem and his doctor decided he qualified. But, this is also the same conservative who decries all government programs that give aid to the poor or needy as government handouts that come out of his pocket and make the receiver week. Um, well I hate to tell you, but that handicapped placard is exactly the same type of aid. It is telling private businesses how they must run their private parking lots so that a certain group of people will have an advantage, or a leveling of the playing field if you will, when it comes to parking. Where it goes even further beyond is that this friend has a gym membership so that he can go to the gym and walk three to five miles on the treadmill every day or so. Yes, this is the same person who needs government assistance to get a preferred parking place. And, I must repeat, the same person who says government aid is bad.
Let’s take another friend; in fact this is a bunch of friends, who are going to school on programs like the Pell Grants, Life Scholarships, and others. It is the recipients of these awards that I often hear complaining about programs such as Food Stamps and housing assistance. Excuse me? If you weren’t such a hypocrite then you wouldn’t have accepted all that student financial aid – including the extra part of it that you didn’t need for class itself but instead used to buy a new computer so you could surf YouTube, post on FaceBook about all the lazy slackers who can’t earn their own money, oh and occasionally do enough homework so that you may not flunk out of class.
Last biggie, then I will shut up, I promise. This last friend is a faithful liberal. A tree-hugger like me. They insist on organically grown local produce, trans-fat free foods, and free range meat that was raised and executed under humane conditions. OK, fine. But then, because it is cheaper and easier on their budget, they turn around and buy the rest of their household crap at Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart; one of the major destroyers of local businesses, the livable wage, and now as we find out, our environment. Just recently in a revelation that shocked no one, it was made public that, “America’s largest retailer and employer has been fined over $100 million for violating environmental regulations by disposing of fertilizer, pesticide and bleach in sewage systems across the country, among other violations.” [Please take the time to read the full article.] So great, you have bought happy, albeit dead, chickens but are supporting a company this destroying the basic fabric of America. If that is no hypocrisy I don’t know what is. Oh yes, let’s add that this person lectures other people on their incorrect buying habits! That is pretty ballsy. Or misguided. Or just plain wrong.
Let’s call it what it is. All of these actions are wrong. And we can either attribute them to a creeping evil or stupidity. There is a quote by the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The ghost shows Ebenezer Scrooge the two scrawny children concealed beneath his robes and says, ‘“And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!”’
On the boy, on Ignorance, is written “Doom”. Unless we can wake up to the hypocrisies, unless we can quit doing what is easy and convenient and profitable, then we are bound to propagate ignorance and we are, as the spirit said, “Doomed”. For the more and more I think about it, the more I realize that ignorance is where evil lives. Ignorance breeds fear for those who are not like us. Ignorance breeds the fear that if I don’t make sure to secure all my wealth first then there will be none left. Ignorance causes us to cross the street when people not like us are walking on our side of the sidewalk.
And ignorance lets us deny the rights and dignities to others because we fear that by giving them their dignity, by giving them their rights, it might somehow diminish our own.
So, from Whence Does Evil Come? It comes from ignorance. It comes from hypocrisy. And it comes from our refusal, as individuals and as groups, to combat that ignorance with truth, love, and hope.