Monday, December 26, 2011

On Evil

Today, I heard someone refer to a film as 'evil'. After recovering from the jealousy I feel whenever someone sees something that I have not created as sufficiently harmful to the social and spiritual fabric of mankind to call evil, I became a little perplexed. And then I was offended, because the film in question wasn't evil by any stretch of the imagination. It was slightly irreverent, a little bawdy, and contained a few favorable references to Satan. All in all, a good family film. Not high brow, but definitely not evil.

It's been so long since I've heard someone refer to some pop-culture trinket as evil that I am shocked and amused to remember that this is the mindset of some folks. In a world where people starve to death not long after birth, where dictators crush democratic movements, where children are taught not to question authority, where people mutilate the genitals of infants at the behest of ancient crime anthologies, there are individuals out there who lose sleep over Harold & Kumar's latest hijinx.

They say that the smartest thing Satan ever did was to convince people that he doesn't exist. As a person who looks favorably upon Satan in general, I think this move was probably just good self defense. If the plebians who believe Lady Gaga has been sent to corrupt the souls of our young ever got wind of such a sophisticated and moral being, they would undoubtedly tear him limb from limb, or crucify him, just like they have done to all of our truly original thinkers. But there's something to this idea though: if you ask me, the greatest evils in this world are the evils Charles Dickens warned us about in A Christmas Carol: Ignorance & Want. Ignorance of the true extent of our human freedom--from gods, leaders, parents, authorities, traditions--ignorance of each other that leads to tribal thinking and insular protectionism. And then there's the want. Want of education, housing, healthcare, a steady food supply, access to the arts and other culturally enriching treasures. Want of justice. Want of equality. These are the real evils.

As long as there are people out there who think their ears are too precious to be defiled with 'swear words' and ideas that challenge their personally preferred paradigms--and think that the naked human body is the most vile type of blasphemy--the real evils of the world will continue on unchecked.

If the devil is the same kind of vulgarian as many of the people who believe in him seem to be, then his best idea wasn't to convince the world that he didn't exist, but to distract it with something shiny.

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