Evil

In our exploration of standards of conduct, we found conditionality at every point. That conditionality drove us to a position that exhorted the responsible resort to disorderly behavior. The danger in this position is that a clever antagonist can fabricate justifications for disruptive conduct. In most situations, determining the truth requires a diversion of energy sufficient in of itself to disrupt our lives. For that reason, disruptive conduct can go unchecked until it reaches destructive proportions.

There are effective spiritual tools for managing disruptive conduct, but they require special discipline. For that reason, despite discarding the dichotomy of good and evil, I turn to a consideration of the dynamic of evil. An understanding of that dynamic will guide us in applying spiritual tools to ensure that the consequences of evil conduct are ameliorated, if not suppressed.

In common discourse, the analysis of evil has a shallow basis. Social liberals tend to see conduct as conditioned by social context, rightfully recognizing that self-indulgence by the privileged elite often generates destructive behavior in disenfranchised communities. Social conservatives often see good and evil through the prism of absolute ethical codes, imposing rigidity that can itself be destructive.

F. Scott Peck grappled with the problem of evil in People of the Lie. His belief was that evil, as a systematic refusal to allow the oppressed to develop power, must be confronted. However, that confrontation is fraught with hazard, and can lead down unexpected paths. Open combat with evil is itself a systematic attempt to deny power, and the process can be represented as evidence of evil intent.

Another approach, which addresses the consequences of evil conduct if not its root, is to focus on the affected party. Over time, I have come to conclude that this is the only sustainable approach: the best response to oppression is to make the weak stronger. Direct confrontation, as well as confusing the ethical perspectives, liberates the oppressed into an environment that they frequently are ill prepared to negotiate. Focusing on creating health, happiness and capability in the oppressed helps them prepare for independence. And, by improving their position, this strategy undermines the dynamic of force, until the oppressor becomes isolated and relatively impotent.