Nietzsche tells us to be beyond good and evil, but everyday experience shows that the term “evil” persists because it is so useful. It describes those things which are pathologically determined to destroy the good, however we measure that.
The paradox of evil is that most evil things do not intend to be evil. Some intend to be good — Hitler, Osama bin Laden — where others intend simply on being self-serving, like Genghis Khan, Mark Zuckerberg, Joseph Stalin, Joel Osteen, or Nancy Pelosi.
Others are simply opportunists. Diseases are only looking for a free handout, since they are impoverished and unable to achieve nutrition on their own; in addition, they can help stir up our DNA and bring out hidden traits as well as destructive mutations. Opportunists provoke responses.
The opportunists seem closest to the self-serving tyrants, albeit with less ability to have total control. Do we blame the weed that intrudes in our garden? To it, a patch of nicely tilled fertilized earth appeared, with daily watering, so it saw no reason not to take root there…
Of course, we find ourselves wondering about the opportunists. Would Joseph Stalin been happier as a village shoemaker, with less terror and menace in his life? Perhaps his early life, or genetic mutations, simply made him what he was.
The idea of people making “moral choices” appeals because it is simple, but really it simply reads in egalitarianism. It presumes that everyone is capable of the same level of making choices, when in fact some are broken, retarded, insane, or dysfunctional to varying degrees.
For example, if you take baby Joseph Stalin and constantly tell him that he is a horrible child who ruined your life, you will get a hateful adolescent and, as the world pushes back as he enters into adulthood, someone hell-bent on achieving power so that he can quash that pushback.
I describe the typical Generation X experience for context. To our parents, we were malfunctioning gadgets, weird pets that required too much attention, and alternately ways to show how our parents were living their best lives or how they were victims, failed by their embarrassing children. If our whole generation ends up being Joseph Stalin, it would surprise no one. Maybe when the bodies cool we can talk about how white people, by being clever and manipulating their children, have self-destructed.
Evil then represents less of a moral choice than a mental state. Someone who is motivated by revenge against the world will have a desire to control which does not consider the consequences of its acts; control is a closed-circuit loop, a sealed feedback cycle, in which control only exists to perpetuate control and everything else is a means to that end. This parallels the parents who see their children as tools to make the parents look good, or excuse the parents wanting to ditch their children in the nearest big city and rush off to Florida to spend all that postwar boom money instead.
Actually, that was the Greatest Generation; they flung those Boomers out into the world and took off in a hurry. Boomers retire to places like Scottsdale and live in eco-communities while praising the great diversity of the surrounding area right up until the gate of their retirement community, which is somehow mysteriously almost entirely white. Boomers figured out how to alienate their children so severely that those kids moved away and disappeared from their lives, which was exactly what Boomers wanted: the appearance of a successful family without the inconvenience of maintaining one. Sort of like how Leftists want society to protect them through equality, and fund them through socialism, despite them doing nothing to maintain civilization; it also analogizes to the cold virus that wanted just a bit of my “extra” nutrition and nasal passage space a few weeks ago.
This leads us to ask whatever might be the problem with evil since it obviously leads to success. We all know who Joseph Stalin, Mark Zuckerberg, Genghis Khan, Joel Osteen, and Nancy Pelosi are, although we will forget three of those by the end of next decade. You do not have to go far to find a common cold, or even Hepatitis A, thriving among humans. In fact, evil seems to thrive wherever humans go because we have a use for it: it excuses our own failings. When bad leaders like Joseph Stalin are in charge, you can claim you are oppressed and use that to justify, excuse, and rationalize just about any behavior you want. Having random sex? Needed the money, or the escape. Taking drugs? Miserable, needed a distraction. Stealing? Well the big leaders do it too, so… Killing? Violence is the currency of the regime, might as well get current. And so on.
It only makes sense that evil sucks when you look at it in the long term. Sure, Hepatitis A may be thriving, but it will still always be a virus dependent on its host that spreads itself through feces. Joseph Stalin may have ruled until his death, but he created an ugly drudge colony instead of a beautiful, rising society. Even if he were immortal, his reign would be limited by its tendency to grind people down into thoughtless automatons who, lacking creativity or a desire to connect with the world, found themselves perplexed by simple everyday problems. Same with Joel Osteen, who has to wake up every day to tell gratifying lies to greedy idiots in order to keep being a big cheese. Or Nancy Pelosi, who knows what she preaches are lies and that the people buying into them are morons chasing false hope. Genghis Khan built what he thought was the ultimate empire only to watch it collapse and revert entirely to third world status; he could not have failed more if he had tried. Mark Zuckerberg will end up being a punchline, the guy who made a lot of money off of the addictive personalities of imbeciles and then faded away. He will join N’Sync, The Backstreet Boys, and The Moral Majority in the list of historical footnotes that once were apparently really important but now look like just tendrils of a trend.
However, evil does in fact suck (contrary to PC lore, this term was short for “sucks eggs,” a turn-of-the-century insult applied mostly to and by New Yorkers) because it is a lesser option. You could have had good, which requires waiting awhile for your reward, but instead you opted for evil because a short-term reward is tangible and immediate and therefore seems universal and absolute. With evil, you can have the power you crave right away, instead of laboring on something to have it take root and prosper and then spread, like a natural species, ecosystem, useful tool, or sustaining idea might.
In this sense, evil represents the triumph of the tangible over the transcendent. People are like stars, either sending light outward or collapsing within and becoming black holes, and if human black holes had a pathology, it would be to desire only things nearer to them — power, wealth, status, self-congratulatory ideas, “living in the now” — at the expense of everything else. Stars show us the life side of the existence cycle, where black holes are the death side, and people who act like black holes are either fatalists, or those who believe that nothing they do will change anything in any important way, or simply self-destructive because they hate this experience of living through a dying time.
Evil at the end of the day consists of the disordered. Where an ordered mind finds meaning in existence and works to adapt to it and then maximize that role not just for individual benefit but so that life continues to be awesome as a thing in itself, a mind afflicted with disorder never connects to anything beyond its vessel and therefore, ends up collapsing in on itself. When we look at our society, with its neurotic obsession over dividing up wealth instead of making a better future, we are seeing the effects of a society which has no purpose because it fundamentally has no internal order or pattern that defines it. It consists instead of a giant heap of ad hoc responses to “problems” and “issues” without an overall plan or goal in mind.
People talk about what makes them “happy” — this is the measurement of utilitarianism, the greatest happiness for the most people in a Pareto optimum, which is the opposite of a zero-sum game, meaning that each can have more without another losing out — but they really have the wrong word there. “Happy” is a temporary state which we have elevated to a condition of life when in fact no well-lived life exists in a permanent state of any emotion, but consists of a series of ups and downs culminating in (we hope) a sense of satisfaction, meaning, and beneficial sacrifice that the ancient Greeks called thymos. That means a desire to be significant, important, and content in your own role by doing something that your civilization and the natural order around it will find to have improved the situation of life. Thymos means many things, but it can be as simple as unclogging a stream choked with dead leaves or building a house that is architecturally beautiful so that people look toward it and are inspired.
Evil takes the opposite approach, which is that instead of trying to be important in the context of the world, it seeks to minimize the world and replace it with the individual and the social group that supports the individual (note: this is parallel to what Revolutions do, replacing natural order with a herd of individuals telling each other how hip, cool, different, unique, trendy, suave, iconoclastic, and attractive they all are). Evil destroys the world; good enhances it. These definitions are a far cry from what people use in their place, where “good” means “benefits me” and evil means “obligates me or causes losses.”
In the end, evil is cheapened. It becomes nothing more than ignorance or incompetence, an inability to see more than the immediate. It appears as a variety of mundane error, not some fascinating ritual magic or alternative view of the world. Like all other human failings, it shows weakness and a lack of faith in life itself, against which we defensively raise a projection of self-importance. In other words, evil is a type of compensatory psychology, or a psychological hypertrophy:
Adler described a coping strategy that he called compensation, which he felt was an important influence on behaviour. In his view people compensated for a behavioral deficiency by exaggerating some other behaviour: a process analogous to organic processes called hypertrophy, in which, for example, if one eye is injured, the other eye may compensate by becoming more acute. In Adler’s view, a person with a feeling of inferiority related to a physical or mental inadequacy would also develop compensating behaviours or symptoms. Shortness of stature, for example, could lead to the development of domineering, controlling behaviours.
A short person may act like a big person, a form of projection, in order to conceal (from himself) that he is short. No one else is fooled; they see that he is in fact angry about his smaller stature. In other words, he is acting as if what he dislikes about himself does not exist.
When people talk about equality, they are actually saying “good includes evil” and “evil is only that which rejects including evil in the category good.” This shows a type of compensatory logic where, fearing their own inner evil, they pretend it does not exist.
William Blake hit on something interesting when he said “the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” If we are to truly beat back the disordered within us, we must first accept it, then prove it wrong, and then correct the behaviors by correlating our actions to what works in external reality.
Interestingly, the view of evil that sees it as external — Satan, Hitler, money, power — serves only to obscure the reality that evil consists not of choices, but of a failure to make them, and that this reflects an inner inability, failing, or damage (insanity, abuse, pathology).
Nietzsche had a point on getting beyond good and evil. Our use of the terms renders them useless. When we see evil as a lack of ordered thought, caused by internal chaos, as a result from externalizing our decisions and projecting instead of engaging in self-discipline, the terms regain meaning.