Crack open any novel, flip your television to a popular dramatic series, or procure tickets to the latest box office blockbuster and you will be exposed to the entertainment industry’s best attempts at giving you the fictional scenarios you crave. Lamentably, derivation and strict adherence to formulaic plot constructions abounds, but step back even further in your analysis and take notice of that which binds the mediocre fantasies of the modern era with every enduring epic since the invention of cuneiform script. Succeed and you will find the most successful thematic foundation of all time.
Humanity’s history is replete with struggles against both nature and fellow man, but the tribulations that most often draw our concern are the interpersonal tensions that can move individuals, groups or entire nations. Conflicts between members of our own species dominate both the real world and our imaginations.
The concepts of good and evil are uniquely applied to human behavior, serving as a guide for what actions should or should not be taken. The good person succeeds in focusing his energies toward good actions, and the bad person does not care either way.
A rudimentary indexing of the themes in fiction from all cultures and time periods will show a clear pattern. Good versus Evil is a never-ending source of interest, one which defines the human experience. Interpersonal conflicts are not even intelligible to us until we first identify who the good and bad guys are.
All of this is wonderful when we want to pull away from the struggles of our own existences and titillate ourselves by observing the far greater trials of a fictional hero. However, a serious problem arises when these black and white distinctions that are acceptable within imagined universes bleed into our perceptions of the unfathomably complex real world.
The Nazis are generally regarded as the most evil group of human beings to ever draw breath from the air surrounding planet Earth. For most, this is all they know about these people. And for most, this is all they care to know. The word ‘Nazi’ itself is synonymous with evil, and a serious epithet to level against another person. It seems safe- even beneficial, to have an understanding of the Nazis that does not escape the second dimension.
This manifests within our own lives as a desire to simplistically define both our perceived enemies and ourselves within two constricting ethical boxes that necessarily must be eternally set against one another. One is labeled ‘Good,’ and the other ‘Evil.’ The effect is to contrive a setup that would be deserving of any story worth being told.
We convince ourselves of the terrible nature of those who would hold enough arrogant audacity to disagree with us. It is useful as a preparatory exercise before we greet conflict. It sets our hearts aflame and allows our resolves to become staid. There is no cause greater than fighting for truth and justice, and today we enter combat in the name of all that is holy.
What could possibly be wrong with that? Surely there could be no downside to pursuing these goals with eager abandon.
Lower the massive Glinting Aegis of Righteousness you are gallantly wielding; it is obstructing your vision. An interesting development has occurred on the other side of the battlefield.
Your opponent has assumed the exact same posture!
He is certain of your own moral turpitude and intends to raise his Sword of One Thousand Truths against any doer of evil. You were expecting to run your weapon through the chinks in his blackened devil armor, but in truth, his armor shines brightly in reflection of his identical intentions. Both believe they bear the standard of Good.
It is truly a pitiful sight. Two well-meaning people- so desperate to be as a hero from lore, trying to turn a disagreement into a foolhardy opportunity for good to violently assert its primacy over evil. As a result, they have eliminated all possibility of a useful meeting of their minds. They are now bound to either completely destroy each other or to simply walk away, with neither becoming the greater for it.
We live in an age that allows or sustains few genuine demons. Not as many people with truly macabre intentions still walk among us in these times that are, by comparison to the past, morally verdant. There is still much work to be done, for sure, but hold back your sword when you sense that a hell spawn may be near. There is a likelihood that they are broken and flawed in many critical respects, but they may genuinely want to see a better world for all. Most people believe in and want to do good, but they are in need of your guidance, and it is solely their responsibility whether they take or refuse it. You can make that offer, but do not forget that you may not control their actions, only your own. Accept this and ensure that you live up to, and even beyond, the ethical nobility you rightly demand from others.
Save your furious wrath for when it is needed against a true overlord of directed and purposeful malevolence. They do yet exist.
[box type=”note” icon=”none”]Author’s Note: This is a gentle reminder that most of the people we interact with are not wantonly morally deficient people and we should not go out of our way to brand them as enemies. The source of disagreement is rarely that you are good and wonderful, and they are bad and terrible.[/box]
Notice and observe how other people arguing are each convinced of their own intellectual and moral superiority. When the disagreement reaches this point, there is no way either side can give up or give in, because they both believe they are fighting pure spiritual bankruptcy.
Catch yourself before calling your opponent a scum bag liar; they may truly believe what they are saying, even if you understand it to be false and irrational. You can help them order their thoughts, should they accept it. If not, then don’t be afraid to move on to someone who will. Don’t mistake this for weakness; it’s easier to give in to emotional aggression than to walk away.
When it comes to the issues of the men’s movement, some will get it immediately, but most won’t without assistance. The falsehoods and delusions we fight against run deep into the core of people’s understanding of their lives and the world. Expect resistance. Your energies are best spent carrying the message to those who need your help, not in seeking out false battles against evil or stupid people.