by Andrew Bard Schmookler
On the thread "Why "Good Will Toward Men" Has Become More of a Challenge for Me: My Christmas Thoughts," on my own website, one reader (I will call him) Paul wrote: "I've been living in a fundamentalist Christian household for several months now. The several very young children in the house regularly experience levels of humiliation, of physical and emotional abuse and neglect, of external control over their biological needs, of dehumanizing treatment that are all, while still legal and sanctioned by the social, legal, and health communities, have nevertheless deeply disturbed me and reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. My feeble interventions have been ill received and seen as an intolerable challenge. Even the victims outwardly embrace the authoritarianism. It does not surprise me that Christian communities enthusiastically support Mr. Bush and his policies--such as those policies are even known or understood. The blind worship of authority here--whether legitimate or not--has its political counterpart in fascism."
In this vivid and even heart-breaking passage, Paul captures well one of the dimensions of evil that I tried to delineate in my earlier essay on "The Concept of Evil." This is indeed how certain aspects of brokenness in the human system get transmitted. One can well imagine how this pattern of abuse gets transmitted from generation to generation in the family system.
But beyond that, as Paul correctly suggests in his statement that this pattern "has its political counterpart in fascism," the pattern gets transmitted from the micro-cultural level of the family to the macro-cultural level of the polity.
And, we can readily envision how the human wreckage being created by our proto-fascist Bushite regime would feed back into the micro level. The neglect of human needs (tax cuts for the rich, declining incomes for the poor, thousands dead and maimed in war) increases the rage and frustration that get expressed covertly in the family system. The modeling of power --as something beyond question, something wrapping itself in a phony way in the trappings of the sacred, something not bound by rules of decency or by law and not accountable to anyone-- also reinforces the dynamics of a family system such as that described by Paul.
Paul's passage also captures the way that evil manifests when it expresses itself from the conservative side of the spectrum: evil there takes the form of THE ABUSE OF POWER. It is amoral power masquerading as the agents of morality.
For those of us interested in human nature, and how and why we behave the way we do, this is an interesting essay. More about the way society behaves than we as individuals.