Friday, April 19, 2013

Doing the Impossible Today

Here's the thing.  As the inimitable  has pointed out many times, *people who do evil things do not tend to think of themselves as evil.*  They have a frame of reference informing their actions that says they are enacting revenge, or meting out deserved punishment, or enacting the will of a higher being, or serving their religion/people/country, or otherwise performing a service in the name of something that is to them worthy.

While they might on some level understand that the killing and maiming of people is an evil act, it can be rationalized -- it's war, it's destroying evildoers, it's following orders, it's duty -- it's something that makes the evil act something that can be done.  Anyone is capable of doing evil, given the right situation and the right set of rationalizations. This has been demonstrated in plenty throughout history, in the laboratory, and outside of it.  It isn't a mystery, an enigma, a strange thing.  

It's pretty damned common.

That isn't what bothers me.  That isn't the thing.  The thing is that, when we are the victims of someone else's evil act, so many people immediately start wanting to encourage similar evil acts in revenge.  They suddenly have justification, and yet they do not see their desires as being evil.  And that begets more evil acts, which in turn beget yet other evil acts.  Each action spreads out ripples that affect others without end.  It just keeps going and going and going.

Ghandi said "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."  We are just increasing the blindness when we seek revenge, when we want retribution.    When we hurt and we want to make others hurt, we are not healing anything.  We spread the pain, and that pain will eventually ripple back to us and hurt us again. And hurting others because we hurt might give us a momentary satisfaction, but it doesn't restore lost lives and lost limbs.  It doesn't restore lost faith and lost innocence.  It just increases the loss.

It's hard to hate the sin and love the sinner, as Ghandi also said.  Sometimes it's well nigh impossible.  It's hard sometimes to separate justice from revenge.  It's hard not to be ruled and overruled by anger and hatred.  But Anger and Hatred sets the bombs, kills the bombers, directs the drones,  inspires new bombers, kills new victims.  It ceases to be about the first cause, the first thrown stone, the first death, the first place to lay the blame.  It becomes about the last cause, the stone tossed down, the life saved,  the forgiveness given.

It is not easy.  Not easy at all.  Maybe it's impossible.

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