Those of us who went through the Generation X experience probably grew up with a Nietzschean view of evil. In the public sphere, the only “evil” was ideological evil: communism, crime, and maybe failure to show up at work on time every day to pay the taxes that kept the underclasses pacified.
Churches talked about evil, but at that point, churches had become self-parodic because very few of the people involved believed what they preached, and the remaining ones swung hard to the extreme of fundamentalism, mysticism, and a view of the Bible that belonged more in a B-rate horror film (nothing wrong with those) than an attempt to describe reality.
We grew up atheists as a result. Agnosticism, or even — dare we say it? — belief in the metaphysical had few advocates who were not outright insane. Even those of us who grew up with the forest gods, whose presence we saw in the intricate patterns of color on hummingbirds and the fresh infinite green of spring growth, had no words or symbols for what we felt, and so we experienced a slow drain of confidence under the dual assault of secular fanatic atheism and religious fanatic Saturday morning cartoon level supernaturalism.
Most of us matured under such a cloud of despair, knowing that we were about to be ground up in the mill of a society dedicated to its own self-destruction through existential terror and time-filling but pointless activities, that we wanted nothing more than to turn that cross upside down, shoot anyone who depended on government, and crucify our teachers in the dog park with old spikes from the rotting railroad tracks outside town that mocked us do all disused artifacts of a saner time.
When Fred Nietzsche talked about getting “beyond good and evil,” it made sense to us. In our world there was only sanity, which was a narrow and thorny path, and the varying degrees of delusion, craziness, neurosis, mania, obsession, perversity, corruption, and other routes away from realism, stability, and sanity, the latter being what we secretly craved.
To us, the formulation of Kant perhaps made the most sense, which is that there are no wrong answers, only answers to another question; when someone gets a bad result, then, we say that they did not understand the task at hand and so addressed another task under the guise of trying to solve the one they intended to. For example, if a man concludes that his life needs more alcohol instead of fixing his marriage, he has answered the question of “how do I numb the pain?” instead of “how do I fix my life?” Our parents the Boomers proved expert at deflecting and redirecting the question to whatever gave them the answer corresponding to what they wanted to do.
In this sense, we did not believe in evil. Like scientists, we saw only increasing accuracy of results or a thesis that needed editing and re-adjustment before we could try again. This made sense, to a degree, until we saw how pathological most people are, and how so much of human error converges on the same few mistakes, all of which cluster around wanting the immediate, personally rewarding, ethic of convenience, and short-term answers to prevail over any kind of long-term or qualitative view.
When you see the pathology of humans, you also experience the knowledge that humans attempt to escape any kind of focus on the murkily-defined areas like existential value, metaphysics, the meaning of life, and what will endure through history. These things bring up questions of death, powerlessness, and insignificance, and those fundamentally disturb people. In other words, they are like anti-advertising: they will not sell products, win elections, or make you popular. To most people, these questions are useless and worst, upsetting.
For many of us, the first introduction to the fact that we live in a dying society came through the everyday insanity of adults. They avoided any upsetting topics but, because they had no answers there, embarked on repeated quests for personal importance and control over their environment in lieu of exploring the need for meaning and significance. This made them fundamentally schizoid, and also kept them in a cycle of always pursuing the new acquisition instead of figuring out who they are and a sensible assessment of the point of life.
These people take refuge in a type of individualistic fatalism: everything is out of our hands, they argue, and nothing means anything, so we might as well pursue whatever fascinates us at this very moment. In an odd sense, they worship not gods but their own desire, mainly because having even a small sense of purpose like obsession with sex, money, drugs, and power serves to momentarily relieve their crushing existential doubt. They are not nihilists, because they are very religious, but their religion focuses around their own wants and fascinations and has no relation to their inner need to be loved, understood, and part of a meaningful process in history, personal development, and the evolution of humanity. They rely instead on simplistic fictions that explain away the need for these things.
We experienced the results of their pathology as a type of evil. For example, no one would be home because a parent was chasing a new lover or spouse, working late, or even at a church whose faith they did not believe for the sake of raising their own social status in the community. Children did not grow up in stable homes, nor did they receive beneficial advice from their parents. Instead, they were treated like housepets, controlled like an unruly underclass, and then flung out into the world as a problem for someone else to solve.
If our generation experienced evil, it started at the home. We knew of the threat during the Cold War but tended to view the Soviets as like the bullies at school: people from bad homes where tyrannical parents abused each other and their offspring, making those kids so full of rage that they could not resist humiliating, torturing, and destroying all that was around them. When our leaders said there was evil in them, we translated that into Communism being an evil system because it had evil results, not that it was a conscious form of evil like the rubber monsters in horror films.
We recognized Communism for what it was because we saw similar evils around us. Jobs made people miserable, as did commuting and office politics, but in theory, you had to do it. Taxes, paperwork, registrations, and fighting with merchants and repair people over money turned people mean, but everyone has to do it. Medicine, media, and academia came up with ways to scare our pants off just about every day, but what alternative did we have? Our system had become as evil as theirs, just less prone to self-immolate through economic ineptitude.
At the core of these evils, we find the same thing: doubt. People distrust their world, and believe that it fundamentally tends toward the negative, and in response they embrace immediate tangible things that affect them directly instead of thinking about the bigger picture over the longer term, including what sort of civilization they have created. They doubt anything intangible, such as things that take place over time, and focus on what makes them feel good right now.
Even more, they doubt the world outside of their own impulses. They abandon the thought of the world having consistency, and therefore being mostly predictable, and instead view it as a black box which contradicts their own needs. They do not even trust themselves, but they can fall back on their own impulses, which because they seem like bodily reactions or socially-acceptable needs, seem to be things that cannot be denied by any rational person.
People in this mindset think only about how things make them feel. Does it make them feel good, or does it make them feel bad? There is not much middle ground, since sensations are like vectors, either heading toward pleasure or its absence. Things that make them feel good become “good,” and things that make them feel bad become “evil,” which is why Fred Nietzsche and others threw up their hands at the good-evil dichotomy and declared it to be insane nonsense.
Some define evil as the absence of good. It works better than the converse, since the absence of evil can simply be mediocrity, where good is one of those vector directions in that we are either heading toward something excellent or falling backward into stagnation. Without a will toward good, one ends up with an absence of direction in a condition much like that fostered by doubt. One might say that absence of good consists of doubt of the possibility, value, or utility of good, and therefore constitutes a view of the world as evil that then justifies further evil by the individual.
That is simple enough that it should be distrusted because it can only be part of the answer. In this world, things never appear as they are named mainly because there are causes and effects, and each effect has only one cause. That which causes good cannot be good because then it would be an effect, and since it addresses the removal of the absence of good, it often resembles a type of intolerant aggression that, like a vicious natural selection, destroys so that only good remains.
People in the grips of doubt deny cause and effect because they do not believe in the world, only in their own impulses, and in our impulses we desire an effect and consequently will it to become real, usually by purchasing or negotiating for the object we are seeking. This social layer hides the vast gap between cause and effect, and instead makes the two seem to be one and the same but achieved through the use of a tool, including the method of socializing with others.
Socializing allows them to remain within the human bubble, or the mental space comprised of tokens that enable them to transmit their thoughts to others, which includes everything from facial expressions, emotions, and sensations all the way through complex ideas transmitted through symbols. The use of symbols makes us think that the two minds — ourselves and the wider human world — are one, even though symbols must be interpreted, and two people never have exactly the same mental impressions in use for the symbols they exchange.
Through understanding this, we see the pathology of what we might call human evil, and can distill it to the notion of a group of people saying “we agree” and using that consensus as a surrogate reality instead of perceiving actual reality. When people choose to agree on something as real, in defiance of what is actually real, they exhibit doubt and go down a path of reality-denial which guarantees that the results of their actions will be bad not just for themselves, but for any order larger than themselves. This affects both individuals and groups, with the latter being especially susceptible to evil.
Evil consists of this self-centeredness which leads to willful refusal to inspect reality to see how it operates. If evil is the absence of good, then our starting point for good begins with everything outside of this self-centered narrow viewpoint. Where doubt forms the doorway to human evil, we can see doubt as the lack of good, which is faith in the whole or the set of everything in existence, taken as one, in which we can discern a Will toward goodness, beauty, excellence, joy, and honesty.
In other words, good consists of unity with the order of the world and its universe; evil consists of denial of this order, and choosing out of doubt the desires of the individual because they are more tangible. Evil cares about its commands being followed more than the results of those commands, especially results beyond the individual. Every corrupt, criminal, perverse, and destructive act follows this pattern at least; the origin of sin and evil can be seen then in denial of existence beyond the individual and its desires at that very moment. Time, nature, gods/God, logic, and the mythic-historical view that sees us caring about the long term and the qualitative degree of our excellence are all denied in this negative view.
For us to rediscover good, we must give up on fighting evil, and choose good instead; vanquishing evil does not by itself produce good. This struggle happens within the individual, and is only accessible to some. We are born with our moral quantum complete and while we have the power of choice, we do not have “free will” or any other self-empowerment scheme. We are what we are. Societies become good when they stick the good people on top and have them make everyone else get in line, and societies become evil when they decide that they can make everyone good.
The West rose through a focus on excellence in terms of reality instead of a focus on the individual and its desires. The third world is the most individualistic place on Earth because people remain oblivious to anything outside of what they desire at any given moment, which is why the third world finds it difficult to make lasting institutions, social order, or commitments to ideals. The third world person shuffles through life, concerned with only his immediate desires, and as a result spends all his time enslaved to this inefficient subsistence method instead of establishing an order larger than himself to make his efforts more effective.
For us to restore the West, we must start within its people and choose those who are good to lead. They can then create a social order that rewards the good and excludes the bad, at which point the filter of Darwinism begins to work for us as the good succeed and everything else fails. In contrast, the current system rewards people for being human and accomplishing minimums of narrowly-defined tasks, so those who are less concerned with first world concepts like ideals, institutions, and social order become more efficient and thrive more.
Whether it exists or not, something “evil-like” exists among us. We give it names: individualism, utilitarianism, egalitarianism. However, at its core, it consists of doubt of the goodness and beauty of life, and an enraged and defensive embrace of the tangible parts of the self instead. Some are born to this path, and they are born doomed. The rest of us can do better, and for us it is not selfish to discard the others and rise to the heights that good affords.
We live in a weepy society that cries over every person who is impoverished, facing hardship, or not included in something they desire. We view this altruistic sentiment as good, but its results turn us evil, in that by accepting everyone we discard our ability to have any standards, and thus we descend to third world levels.
For us to restore ourselves, we need to change our viewpoint toward one of embracing good instead of fighting evils, mainly because these evils are effects and not causes in themselves. Wanting to do good however produces good, and rewarding good makes good predominate. As we confront our fall, we see our path to rising leads away from caring about the sadness and injustice of the world, and toward orienting ourselves to achieve good independent of all the sadness out there.
This requires that we concentrate on a sense of joy in life instead of looking toward the darkness we see around us. We cannot fight evil directly, but by redirecting ourselves toward good, we exclude evil and make it formally declare itself an outsider, at which point it can be treated like any other parasite.
We will get nowhere with doubt and self-pity, which when projected becomes an excessive concern for the quality of women, plight of the poor, and disadvantaged position of minorities and lower social classes. Instead, we must cut ourselves free from this human drama, and pursue excellence in all that we do, which places us closer to good than evil, however we define it.