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Sunday, December 18, 2005


The Rotation of 'Evil'

The crying you hear about even the possibility of torture, even for those who would happily run any one of us through a meat grinder, is merely indicative of our society's ongoing rotation of the meaning of evil.

At one time, evils were mostly action-oriented, as conveyed by the "thou shalt nots" - i.e., thou shalt not lie, steal, kill, and so on. Disobediance of those comandments was considered evil.

But the meaning of evil has been slowly rotating for a long time, as indicated by the almost-Stoic principles of being, concisely captured in the Seven Deadly Sins. To not be evil, donn't be slothful; don't be greedy; don't wrathful, gluttonous, envious, or prideful.

In recent years, unfortunately, this rotation has accelerated damatically. Now, the prohibitions against evil mainly start with "don't cause": don't cause suffering; don't cause poverty; don't cause feelings of inferiority, discomfort, or exclusion.

That approach is bad, of course, since it takes virtue out of the hands of the individual, and places it in the reactions and judgements of others. "Their" reaction has become the measure of "our" evil.

I think that this explains the brouhaha about something like waterboarding. Waterboarding does cause suffering, at least while it's in progress. However, it does not cause injury. In the past, such temporary suffering would have been seen as something to be endured. After all, have we not all suffered? Have we not all survived our suffering? But now, suffering itself is seen as bad as injury... or perhaps even as worse.

Of course, the wheel of values continues to turn. Already, some hold that good people and countries "don't allow" suffering, poverty, hurt feelings, and the like. The arrogance of this is completely lost on those who would impose these definitions on all of us.

But for those of us we believe in personal responsibility, and personal freedom, this unobstructed rotation is ominous. It is well past time that we push back harder. We should firmly reject any arguments based on anything other than our actions and our motives.

Applying this understanding to the question of interrogation means that we should not injure our captives, not should we act out of anger or wrath. But, as long as the purpose to the gathering of information that may save lives, causing even extreme suffering for a short time (ex: waterboarding) is perfectly acceptable.

We should not hide this; we should tell the world about it, loudly and clearly. Allowing the reactions of our enemies to determine our standards (ala McCain) would be foolish. Pretending to do so is even worse, for such lies, when exposed, call our entire character into question.

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