Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 15 Good And Evil Do Not Exist (Part 2)

Author’s Note: Each chapter of this book can be read as a stand-alone and it is not necessary that they be read in numerical order. All of the previous chapters are posted here or in my Diaries at Firedoglake/MyFDL href=””>my blog.

I welcome comments and will respond as time allows. Thanks for reading.

Chapter 15

Good And Evil Do Not Exist (Part 2)

Author’s Note: I had intended to present Chapter 16 today, however, Ubetchaiam, Wendy Davis, and Chebetts raised some fascinating issues in the comments to Chapter 15 that got me thinking. As a result, I wrote a new chapter that I am calling Chapter 15 (Part 2).

Wendy Davis wrote:

“But I guess I do believe in evil and good; Scott Peck’s People of the Lie made me a believer, even though he frames his beliefs through the constructs of religion.”

I also read Dr. Peck’s book and was strongly influenced by it. His concept of how everyday “ordinary evil” damages relationships and individuals started me on an odyssey that eventually led me to conclude that evil does not exist out there in what the Greeks called the ether. I do not believe evil exists in a spiritual form and I deny the existence of Satan.

Unfortunately, the concept of evil is inextricably intertwined with religious beliefs and superstitions, including beliefs in demons and witches. Anyone who is diagnosed as evil, which is not recognized as a legitimate mental health diagnosis in DSM IV, is presumed to be untreatable and a danger to society, if released.

For example, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who is best known for his controversial Depravity Scale, which he claims objectively measures the quantity of depravity or evil in a criminal act, testified at Omar Khadr’s military tribunal sentencing hearing at GITMO that Khadr presents a high risk of future dangerousness to society, if he ever is released from custody because he is an unrepentant radical jihadist. This diagnosis basically labels as evil anyone who violently resists U.S. policy to invade and occupy foreign countries to control and exploit their valuable natural resources.

For more information about the Khadr case, Dr. Welner, and the debate among mental health professionals regarding whether evil is a legitimate diagnosis, please read Jeff Kaye’s excellent article here.

Khadr is the Canadian citizen who was 15-years-old when he allegedly committed the offenses in Afghanistan to which he pled guilty. I say allegedly because I believe he pled guilty to offenses he did not commit in order to end his legal limbo and limit his potential exposure to additional incarceration at 8 years with eligibility to be released to Canadian authorities after serving only one more year at GITMO.

If I recall correctly, Dr. Peck describes ordinary evil as narcissistic selfish behavior without concern for others or regard for the probable consequences to others. Remember the parents of the child who had committed suicide with a rifle they gave him as a present? They gave that same rifle to a younger brother as a birthday present and could not or willfully refused to understand why the younger brother interpreted the gift as an invitation to commit suicide.

Crane-Station agrees with Wendy Davis and believes the parents wanted the younger brother to commit suicide.

I acknowledge that may be true, but I doubt the parents specifically intended that result. I believe they more likely resented the child and did not want to spend any money or make an effort to give him a birthday gift, so they gave him the rifle and rationalized that choice as a form of hand-me-down recycling of a perfectly good rifle for which they had spent a lot of money. At least I recall them offering that lame justification to Dr. Peck and they adamantly refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.

My parents gave me a lump of coal for Christmas when I was very young and still believed in Santa Claus. They told me Santa left it for me because I was a naughty child.

Disclaimer: Despite everything I have said, I am sorely tempted to call that parenting stunt evil behavior, as well as the military commissions, and Khadr’s involuntary guilty plea. I am going to continue to resist the urge, however, because it is such an imprecise, judgmental, and unforgiving term that excludes the possibility for reform and redemption.

If there is one thing that I learned during the 30 years that I represented people charged with felonies, it is that people certainly can be creative when it comes to offering up explanations to avoid accepting responsibility for their decisions. The most glaring and obvious example is sex offenders. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a client tell me that the bitch asked for it or the child came on to him. One adult client, who was charged with having sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old girl , told me that he did it “for love.”

I do not even see serial killers as evil people. Instead, I see a person addicted to killing who finds innumerable creative ways to minimize what they do and blame their victims.

Evil, in my opinion, is selfish behavior committed by ordinary people every day all over the world and I visualize the consequences of that behavior rippling outward through the collective unconscious like a three dimensional version of ripples spreading across the surface of a pond. I call that negative energy that is sensed by all humans everywhere instantly through the principle of non-locality, or as Darth Vader said about the positive energy we call “good,”

“I feel a disturbance in the Force.”

Ubetchaiam noted that the Torah says the Jews are God’s chosen people.

I doubt God would make such a distinction, since everything is a manifestation of God. To heal ourselves and our planet, we need to see ourselves in the other.

Chebetts said,

” Train of thought….must go off course here…..and start putting down different ties in order for a greater good and a real sense of whatever we all love to call freedom. The DC track is already laid in a downward direction, straight through ze magma…..hard to know what direction your flying in, when the sense of floating is real in every direction. I say, forget the train. Walk away from the railroad, and get together on a different ground, a different realm of thought that chooses to forgive and grow away from this societal austerity. I see these governmental cuts as changing minds and forcing an awareness that hopefully will create a sustainable climate, and a peaceful world….”

I believe he is saying that many humans have become trapped by a limiting and destructive set of obsolete definitions and ideas that need to change. Doing that will, in effect, be like removing blinders and only then will we truly be able to see.

I agree and this is why I propose we eliminate the extremely tired and overstretched good v. evil dichotomy, which no longer serves us well, and replace it with a much more specific selfish v. unselfish dichotomy. By doing so, we become more self-aware and assume responsibility for the decisions we make and the acts we commit.

The effect of such an apparently minor adjustment will be paradigmatic, however, because we also abolish good and whom do we associate with good?

The answer is God.

I propose nothing less than redefining God as the Ancient Egyptians did, albeit with a slight twist. Amun literally means the “hidden one.” The Ancient Egyptians believed the hidden one created the universe and everything in it, everything that ever was, and everything that ever will be. Put another way, Amun is the Universe and we are a part of it. Notice that I did not say him or her. He is the One. When we go on a nature hike, we experience Amun directly through our senses. We become part of nature.

And the shattering mind-altering conclusion is that we are God.

That, my friends, is the true meaning and immense responsibility of free will.

We are responsible, not only for our own behavior and its consequences, but we are responsible to tend the mythical Garden of Eden, which is our planet, and all of its lifeforms.

Ubetchaiam mentioned the chosen people concept. Whomever came up with that idea, had to be a human with a selfish motive like starting and maintaining a special religion with special privileges not available to the great unwashed.

The Creator is love and loves all things, even us.

Go forth and love thy neighbor as thyself.

Cross-Posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL and the Smirking Chimp.

Namaste: If Not Now, When? Is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal-defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death-penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for three years.

Now I am a writer and I haul scrap for a living in this insane land.




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One Comment on “Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 15 Good And Evil Do Not Exist (Part 2)”

  1. Ed Griffith Says:

    Not everything is intellectual (as your fine blogs indicate) and all answers are certainly not in conventional religions. For the existence of evil you really have to go to your gut and life experience.

    I too have defended criminals in a court of law and then after a lifestyle change taught them for two decades. Though there is a lot of selfishness and narcissism – as you indicate – most are not evil. A very few are. Some choose evil just as some choose good. Your defending the unfortunate for decades was not because that is where the big bucks were nor was it the easier path. Nor is it because you are just a nice guy and unselfish. You chose a path.

    Evil is a choice just like goodness. The scorpion does what he does to survive. The pedophile is selfish and narcissistic. But some people go beyond that and go out of their way to choose evil just as you choose goodness. Your parents leaving you coal or Peck’s example of the gun were examples of people who went out of their way not because it was easier or to satisfy their desires. They went out of their way to do evil.

    Certainly I acknowledge that both genes and environment play a part, but there is still a place for free will that Jean Paul Sartre, one of my favorite philosophers, wrote about. Someone once said that the best trick the devil ever played was convincing people he does not exist. I doubt the existence of the devil, but I have seen evil progress because everybody was eager to make excuses. (Obama just does not understand, we need to sign this petition to get him back on track, he must be really tired and confused.) You are right that good and evil are “imprecise, judgmental, and unforgiving.” We should not be afraid to use those terms when necessary because they are imprecise, judgmental, and unforgiving for that is how evil advances. I disagree that those terms exclude the possibility for reform and redemption. Reform and redemption are also individual choices.

    For the vast majority of us, I agree that there is so much good in the worst and so much bad in the best that constantly using a good vs. evil judgement does not serve us well. To pretend there is never such a thing as evil, however, also does not serve us well.

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