Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On the nature of evil

Here is the question: are sins of omission as venal as sins of commission?

I've travelled all over the United States and talked to a number of Americans as well as a number of Israelis. Most of them would never personally torture someone. Most of them would never personally shoot their neighbor in order to steal his water or his oil. Yet for the most part, they turn their head and refuse to see when someone else does it in their name to someone who "isn't one of us".

In the case of America, the addiction is oil. In the case of Israel, the addiction is water -- the average Israeli citizen uses ten times as much water as the average citizen of Jordan or Lebanon, for example. The very fact that a satellite photo of the suburbs of Tel Aviv shows thousands of sparkling swimming pools -- in the middle of a parched desert -- should show you just how deep their addiction really is.

Both Israel and America are democracies. Thus I have to believe that the majority of people in those countries support the actions of their governments, whether it consists of torturing 78 year old blind men, or stealing water from their neighbors. Not directly, of course. But, rather, through their apathy, willful ignorance, and refusal to think about issues that might require them to change their unsustainable lifestyle.

My reluctant conclusion is that the majority of Israelis, the majority of Americans, are, to put it bluntly, evil. If you allow evil to exist without acknowledging it, if you willfully turn your head so you do not have to see the evil being done in your name, if you refuse to think because it might require you to take some action that would upset your little monkey life of mastication and defecation and fornication and accumulating shiny baubles of no import -- if, through your willful ignorance and apathy you allow evil to persist -- you are as guilty, in my opinion, as if you yourself had personally done these evil things.

Germans were quick to state that "we didn't know that Jews were being killed in extermination camps!" after the war. But they did not want to know. Just like the average American does not *want* to know that his government tortures 78 year old blind men, and indeed will become very upset with you if you force him to acknowledge this fact, because now you require him to explicitly do something. Which he will bitterly resent, I know this truth from personal experience, unfortunately.

The knowledge that the majority of my fellow countrymen are, to put it bluntly, evil, is not something that rests easily upon my soul. But if our sins of omission are as venal as our sins of commission, would not I, myself, be participating in that very same evil if I refused to acknowledge it?

-- Badtux the Uneasy Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 9/24/2006 11:21:00 PM  


you are right to be uneasy tux. for myself, i find instances where i might have been able to do something to stop or even lessen an atrocity and did not to be among the most troubling memories. there were times where i was outgunned, outnumbered, outranked etc and wasn't feasibly able to do anything. there were times where i was just too fucking tired. there were also a few times where i was able, along with a few members of my team to stand up for a little sanity, a shred of decency, and we found, that like bullies on the playground, battlefield bullies run just as fast. they hate encountering someone who won't back down and is perfectly willing to fight. most of my encounters of this sort were with ARVN units, but there were a few tense standoffs with US troops also.
# posted by The Minstrel Boy : 25/9/06 10:57 AM  

thanks so much for this post...

one reason i bought a diesel - in order to cut my addiction to oil...

so i spread the word about bio-diesel and enlighten people who don't even know of it's existance...

and oh, i think both the us and israel have another addiction - well, a few -- money and the military complex...
# posted by azgoddess : 25/9/06 1:42 PM  

-- ml
# posted by Dum Luk's : 25/9/06 6:02 PM  

But what to do? What course of action?

OT: azgoddess, what brand of diesel auto did you buy? I did a one day workshop in making biodiesel from WVO and want to purchase a diesel auto, but they are very hard to come by in CA...

Thus far the only answer I have been able to muster as our country descends into indecent thought and deed is to live one's life with as much integrity as possible...but outside of the small ripples we cast in our minute daily affairs, how does this influence the larger scheme of things?
# posted by TheCultureGhost : 25/9/06 9:22 PM  

I'm mentioning this on my blog tomorrow.
# posted by BBC : 25/9/06 10:24 PM  

I'm not sure we can really "do" anything as such. That is a question I struggle with, and every action I can think of that would actually change anything runs smack aground upon the massive wall of willful ignorance and deliberate apathy that constitutes the majority of the American public. America is like an alcoholic that is in denial, an alcoholic that proudly claims, "I don't have a problem!" while beating the kids after stumbling home drunk and the boss is starting to look at him strangely. And the barkeep is happy to keep selling this stumbling drunk more oil because the addiction of the barkeep's customers is very lucrative.

What can you do about a drunk? I believe Al-anon has a 12-step program for people who deal with drunks. Maybe we need an Al-anon for those of us who are stuck dealing with the addicts that are the majority of the American public, to allow us to do what we can while giving to a higher power responsibility for what we can't. We could call it "Oil-anon". I can imagine the meetings. "Hi, my name is Badtux, and I work with oilaholics ever day."

Okay, that sounds a bit frivolous, but the alternative of despair doesn't sound any better...

- Badtux the Puzzled Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 25/9/06 10:47 PM  

Lots of chuckles from this side of the fence over your analogy. I'm a recovering alkie (I don't do the 12 Step thing any more...but I'm sober some time now).

I don't think we've even hit the denial phase yet. We're still boozing it up like it will never be last call. We've got a ways to go.
# posted by TheCultureGhost : 25/9/06 11:11 PM  


Just wanted you to see this;

Now I can have a Hotkey to go directly to
# posted by niCk (Mem Beth) : 26/9/06 5:25 AM  

You need these also:
# posted by niCk (Mem Beth) : 26/9/06 5:44 AM  

I think blogs like this are analogous of "oil-anon".
Blogging, reading and commenting even are doing something, I think.
To continue the Al-anon analogy, if everyone in the alcoholic's life is in al-anon then he isn't going to be able to get away with his bullshit anymore.

So if "oil-anon" keeps spreading, there must come a point where critical mass is achieved and our oil addicts and power junkies will no longer prevail because the secrecy and denial that they need is now gone.
# posted by Griffon : 26/9/06 6:06 AM  

This is why I am against my country committing acts of torture or fighting war without end. Because I am of my country. When the government decides to do something like that, I feel just as responsible as if I had pulled the trigger myself. If I am unwilling to personally take the life of another human being over an issue, I am not behind my government doing it.
# posted by NewsBlog 5000 : 26/9/06 7:54 AM  

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