Whence Cometh Evil?

I have been wondering a lot recently about the nature of evil. Or specifically, how evil actions come about. It is pretty easy to look at the actions of lone crazed murders or rapists, declare them evil, decide there is something wrong in their minds, and move on. But what about the politicians we elect? Or the corporations we buy from and work for? Where does evil arise.

Angel and devil on shoulderA lot of people, me included, would look at the actions of the banking and mortgage industry over the past few years and declare them evil. Actions that put good people out of their homes, devastated retirement or investment accounts, and generally brought about the failure of the American economy. The actions of the corporations were in direct opposition to the general welfare and well-being of the population and so would be considered evil. But each of those corporations is made up of people. Individuals. Individuals who, if you talked to them individually and looked at how they led their lives and fed their dogs, are what we would think of as good people. So how did these good people come together to perform works of evil? It is very similar, though no where near the same scale and deadliness, as Nazis during the holocaust.

Another example is the bill going before the House to protect the rights of LGBT people in the workplace. There are many, at least in the Senate, who supported and passed the bill in a bipartisan manner. But the bill looks like it will fail in the house – in large part because Speaker John Boehner is against it. Here is a man, who even if you disagree with is politics, is someone we would normally consider to be a good person. But in this case he seeks to deny rights and equal protection under the law to a group of people because it might cost jobs. Directly said – money is more important than human rights. Again, most would say that is a statement that borders on evil. So how does this happen.

I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions. I do not even go so far as to say I know how to react to the individual evidences of the actions. I am at a loss to explain how people, either individually or in a group can do evil. These action, to people of all races, colors and sexes, hurt me deeply. Cruel acts to animals and children hit me deep in the heart. Why does it happen? And how do you deal with it?

I do know that there is a fantastic quote attributed to Edmund Burke that says, “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” And I firmly believe this. We must do something. We cannot sit idly by, and we must call out evil where we see it. We must cease worrying over our own discomfort, desire for wealth and status, and we must feel for the world. But the implementation of that? As hard as finding the root causes of evil actions.

My Personal Rights

1. I have the right to ask for what I want.
2. I have the right to say “no”.
3. I have the right to feel and express my feelings, both positive and negative.
4. I have the right to make mistakes.
5. I have the right to have my own opinions and convictions.
6. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
7. I have the right to change my mind or decide on a different course of action.
8. I have the right to protest unfair treatment or criticism.
9. I have the right to expect honesty from others.
10. I have the right to my own values and standards.
11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
12. I have the right to say “I don’t know”.
13. I have the right to negotiate for change.
14. I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.
15. I have the right to ask for help or emotional support.
16. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time, even if others would prefer my company.
17. I have the right not to have to justify myself to others.
18. I have the right not to take responsibility for someone else’s behavior, feelings, or problems.
19. I have the right not to have to anticipate others’ needs and wishes.
20. I have the right not to always worry about the goodwill of others.
21. I have the right to choose not to respond to a situation.

Why Martin Luther King Was Wrong

Doctor Martin Luther King SpeechThe great Martin Luther King was assassinated 40 years ago this year, and today is his birthday. One month after I was born he delivered his famous speech in Washington, DC, that begins this way…

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Very powerful words. This is either the most powerful speech delivered by an American or at the very least one of the top ones right up there with the Gettysburg Address and Kennedy’s “Ask Not…” speech. But in it Dr. King is wrong. And he is wrong for a very important reason, so perhaps I should say he mis-stated.

I say this not to make any one mad, but to draw an important point about his speech and his actions, because Dr. King didn’t just have a dream, he had a goal. It is said that the difference between a dream and a goal is the plan. And it can be assured that Dr. King had a plan. He wasn’t going to just sit idly by and hope and wish that the freedom and equality hoped for came to pass. No, he was going to use his desires and his dreams to ignite the hopes and dreams of others. He planned to use his voice to bring a voice to millions of unheard people. He planned to use his feet to walk down the roads that would lead millions to equality. And he planned to use his will power, his determination, his inner strength, to give strength to millions to stand up for what was, and still is, right.

But, look at that speech again. Would it have been as powerful if he had said, “I have a plan” or if he had looked out at that crowd and said, “I have a goal”? No, what he needed to impart to that gathering was a dream. His dream. A nation’s dream. So yes, Dr. King was wrong. But in being wrong, he was more right than most of us can ever hope to be.

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Smoke Lies, and the Nanny State

If you haven’t already read the article (It’s been floating around on the many cigars forums alot lately) I would definitely recommend checking it out. The essay isn’t short, but it is well worth the time. Below you will find a link to Joe Jackson’s website where you can read or download the article in pdf format. The article can also be found in the latest issue of Cigar Magazine (Winter 2007, Pages 24 through 51).

Smoke Lies, and the Nanny State
This essay, the culmination of four years of research, replaces Joe’s previous essay “The Smoking Issue”. Also included at the end of the essay are Joe’s op-ed pieces for the New York Times and the Telegraph of London.

Make sure to check it out. It is an excellent piece of writing and the type that really needs to be given more air.

Oh, and if you can and are of that interest, check out the previously mentioned Cigar Magazine too. An excellent magazine for “real” cigar smokes and the current Winter issue also has an excellent article on Port.