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May 14, National Decency Day (really!)
The Problem of Evil
To celebrate National Decency Day, I will take up the problem of evil, which often stands between us and decency.
A minor part of this problem is identifying the true sources of evil. For example, are Putin, the evil dictator, and Russians, his evil minions, attacking Ukraine for no reason, killing for expansionist fun and profit? Or are the US and NATO the greater, more powerful evil, forcing Putin and his Russians to defend Russia’s borders and honor against Western imperialism? Or, are all warmongers and politicians evil, making money and careers from death and destruction? Or are the soldiers themselves evil, at least the ones who volunteer because they get off on the adrenaline rush of killing while risking death? Identifying the exact locus of evil is a game we’ve all been playing since we were three and forced to deal with siblings and parents. And whose fault is that?
If God is pure good, if God is love, and if God is omniscient and omnipotent, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world, regardless of who else might be to blame? Why did God implant in us such powerful impulses to compete, blame, and kill? In fact, aren’t evil and suffering proof of God’s incompetence or nonexistence?
First, let’s just admit that none of us is in any position to judge God or God’s creation. I, personally, have seen a child I love running through the house with a knife he found on the kitchen table. I stopped that child, took the knife away and spoke to him sternly about the dangers of running with a knife. He was furious. He acted exactly as if he wanted to beat me to death. If he had still been holding the knife, he would have stabbed me with it. Then, he screamed and cried as if I were torturing him. He loved that sharp and shiny knife and, in his excitement, desperately wanted to run around the house with it. I took it because I was afraid he might fall and stab himself in the eye or cut his own throat or in other ways cause suffering to himself or others. I took it, and I didn’t give it back, despite his protest.
We mortals know less about our omnipotent creator and the universe we live in than my two-year-old knew about me and knives. For us to criticize God for anything happening here on Earth is absurd. We do suffer, and we see others suffering, and what we see or experience makes us sad or angry, but that is no excuse for impugning the motives or competence of our creator. That approach to the problem is just childish.
Some suffering is caused by the Earth itself. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, fire, and tornadoes definitely cause suffering, so is the Earth evil? Is the Earth’s violence an indication of God’s incompetence? A native American friend who was in Japan during a minor earthquake laughingly pointed out that earthquakes don’t do much harm to people who live in teepees, but even people whose high-rise apartments fall down are unlikely to become furious at the Earth. They are more likely to blame the contractor who used salty concrete and substandard pylons to increase profit.
Most phenomena that appear or feel evil are the consequence of someone’s selfishness. The horror of selfishness and the bliss of selfless love are the lessons we are on this physical Earth to learn. That is the game we are here to play. Each of us is free to selfishly pursue pleasure and power. We are also free to lovingly pursue mutual satisfaction and universal wellbeing. We are here to discover conclusively that one of these pursuits leads to a state of being we refer to as hell, while the other leads to paradise. Guess which is which.
I have taken up the problem of evil because, in our ignorance, humanity has devised a system of governance that penalizes decency and outlandishly rewards the selfish pursuit of power. As a result, the US, Russia, Ukraine, and most of the world are ruled by men and women who cause so much suffering they appear quite evil. Regardless of the team we're on, their selfishness keeps most of us quite furious and/or miserable much of the time.
Global suffering is the direct, inevitable consequence of a laser-like, loveless focus on winning the competition to amass great wealth and power or, in animal terms, achieve dominance. Competition on behalf of self (person, family, team, company, political party, country, class, race) causes the most powerful people on our planet to denigrate or ignore non-self, often referred to as “others.” Selfish seekers of dominance have no interest in mutual satisfaction or universal wellbeing. They live to compete and win, to rise above and protect their “selves” from the unwashed masses, whose suffering is of no concern to them.
Because selfish men and women rule, our world is increasingly hellish, even for the winners. Selfishness and the suffering it causes could be regarded as God’s fault, but not if consciously and voluntarily abandoning selfishness is the lesson we’re on Earth to learn. The freedom to be selfish and experience the painful consequences could lie legitimately within the will of God even if God is secretly hoping we will learn the lesson of love.
The suffering and rage that results from selfishness are real and, if poorly managed, tend to cause more selfishness, rage and suffering. If we are meant to somehow interrupt this vicious cycle, we have no cause to blame either our selfishness or our suffering on God. God put us in this game or, perhaps, allowed us to enter this game for reasons as far from our comprehension as Earth is from the black hole in the center of our galaxy. Our task is to learn to play well with others, which we will fail to do if our energy goes into disparaging those others, the game itself or the creator.
Mediation, as I have pointed out and as Terry and Rebecca demonstrate to all who read the book, is the decent, loving way to manage power. Mediation is the pursuit of mutual satisfaction and universal wellbeing. Mutual satisfaction and universal wellbeing are the keys that unlock the door to paradise.
The objections I often hear are: You’re a dreamer. Life is competitive. Evolution is survival of the fittest. Nature is red of tooth and claw. The pie is finite--if I get more, you get less, face it. It’s human nature to take as much as we can get. There are evil people out there. We can’t possibly make everyone happy.
My two answers are: 1) we don’t know if universal wellbeing is possible or not because we’ve never tried to achieve it and 2) we have no choice but to try. It’s becoming increasingly, painfully obvious that if we hope to avoid near-term human extinction, lift ourselves out of hell and proceed toward paradise, we must, absolutely, change the way we relate to each other and the Earth. That means changing the way we make decisions, which means changing the way we do politics. And my suggestion is, put political power into the hands of mediators rather than power-seekers. To see how this could promote decency in the hands of superheroes, please read Terry and Rebecca Save the World https://www.peacinstitute.org/grp
To read the book, use the + - slide to get the font the right size, then use your cursor to drag the page so you can see the part you're reading.
To read previous emails, see Stevez E-mails at: https://www.peacinstitute.org/stevezemails
If you are interested in the Global Resolutionary Party, send me an email. ([email protected]) The GRP does exist. It has a Federal ID Number. If several of you show interest, we can create an online forum. If any of you wants to run for office on the GRP ticket, we can figure out how to help you. I am increasingly convinced that nothing anyone says will have any meaning at all until we have a party committed to mediating.
Violence starts with taking or winning without caring about the loser. The use of power without love is destroying us, and taking down the powerful won’t save us. Mediation is the antidote to the endless power struggle currently failing to solve our problems. Mediation is the loving way to manage power, but to do what we need done, mediators must have the power to bring everyone to the table.
PEAC Institute · Montclair, NJ 07042, United States
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