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Beware The Psychopath... My Son by Clinton Callahan
This article is also online.
The following is largely extracted from two articles:
Both articles are recommended. Both articles reference the book Political Ponerology: A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes, by Andrzej Lobaczewski.
Cattori’s article is longer and includes an interview with the book’s editors, Laura Knight-Jadczyk and Henry See.
I make the effort to share this information because it gives me, at last, a plausible answer to a long-unanswered question: Why, no matter how much intelligent goodwill exists in the world, is there so much war, suffering and injustice? It doesn’t seem to matter what creative plan, ideology, religion, or philosophy great minds come up with, nothing seems to improve our lot. Since the dawn of civilization, this pattern repeats itself over and over again.
The answer is that civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been built on slavery and mass murder. Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, cheat, steal, torture, manipulate, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse, in order to establish their own sense of security through domination. The inventor of civilization — the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers — was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies — especially military hierarchies.
Behind the apparent insanity of contemporary history, is the actual insanity of psychopaths fighting to preserve their disproportionate power. And as their power grows ever-more-threatened, the psychopaths grow ever-more-desperate. We are witnessing the apotheosis of the overworld — the overlapping criminal syndicates that lurk above ordinary society and law just as the underworld lurks below it.
During the past fifty years, psychopaths have gained almost absolute control of all the branches of government. You can notice this if you observe carefully that no matter what illegal thing a modern politician does, no one will really take him to task. All of the so called scandals that have come up, any one of which would have taken down an authentic administration, are just farces played out for the public, to distract them, to make them think that the democracy is still working.
One of the main factors to consider in terms of how a society can be taken over by a group of pathological deviants is that the psychopaths’ only limitation is the participation of susceptible individuals within that given society. Lobaczewski gives an average figure for the most active deviants of approximately 6% of a given population. (1% essential psychopaths and up to 5% other psychopathies and characteropathies.) The essential psychopath is at the center of the web. The others form the first tier of the psychopath’s control system.
The next tier of such a system is composed of individuals who were born normal, but are either already warped by long-term exposure to psychopathic material via familial or social influences, or who, through psychic weakness have chosen to meet the demands of psychopathy for their own selfish ends. Numerically, according to Lobaczewski, this group is about 12% of a given population under normal conditions.
So approximately 18% of any given population is active in the creation and imposition of a Pathocracy. The 6% group constitutes the Pathocratic nobility and the 12% group forms the new bourgeoisie, whose economic situation is the most advantageous.
When you understand the true nature of psychopathic influence, that it is conscienceless, emotionless, selfish, cold and calculating, and devoid of any moral or ethical standards, you are horrified, but at the same time everything suddenly begins to makes sense. Our society is ever more soulless because the people who lead it and who set the example are soulless — they literally have no conscience.
In his book Political Ponerology, Andrej Lobaczewski explains that clinical psychopaths enjoy advantages even in non-violent competitions to climb the ranks of social hierarchies. Because they can lie without remorse (and without the telltale physiological stress that is measured by lie detector tests), psychopaths can always say whatever is necessary to get what they want. In court, for example, psychopaths can tell extreme bald-faced lies in a plausible manner, while their sane opponents are handicapped by an emotional predisposition to remain within hailing distance of the truth.
Too often, the judge or jury imagines that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, and then issues decisions that benefit the psychopath. As with judges and juries, so too with those charged with decisions concerning who to promote and who not to promote in corporate, military and governmental hierarchies. The result is that all hierarchies inevitably become top-heavy with psychopaths. Since psychopaths have no limitations on what they can or will do to get to the top, the ones in charge are generally pathological. It is not power that corrupts, it is that corrupt individuals seek power.
How can we distinguish between psychopaths and healthy people? What is the portrait of a true psychopath?
Such a dangerous question has almost never been successfully asked. The reason is because we mistakenly confuse healthy for normal. Human psychological diversity is the health of our race. There is no normal because healthy humans continuously evolve beyond all normalizing standards. The terrorism of searching through hierarchies for anyone deviating from normalis no different from witch hunts or Inquisitions. You must remember that hierarchies thrive on such low dramas, torturing victims until they confess to evil beliefs. Not so long ago the church and state ongoingly acquired significant income and property through witch hunts and Inquisitions. This continued for over two hundred and fifty years. Ten generations of Europeans understood pogrom as normal life. Let us not return to that nightmare. Testing for normal is guaranteed to backfire in our face. There is no normal. But there is conscience.
We have very little empirical evidence to support the idea that true psychopathy is the result of an abused childhood, and much empirical evidence to support that it is genetic. The neurobiological model offers us the greatest hope of being able to identify even the most devious psychopath. Other recent studies lead to similar results and conclusions: that psychopaths have great difficulty processing verbal and nonverbal affective (emotional) material, that they tend to confuse the emotional significance of events, and most importantly, that these deficits show up in brain scans! A missing internal connection between the feeling heart and the thinking brain is detectable.
Psychopaths are incapable of authentic deep emotions. In fact, when Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist who spent his career studying psychopathy, did brain scans on psychopaths while showing them two sets of words, one set of neutral words with no emotional associations and a second set with emotionally charged words, while different areas of the brain lit up in the non-psychopathic control group, in the psychopaths, both sets were processed in the same area of the brain, the area that deals with language. They did not have an emotional reaction until they intellectually concluded that it would be better if they had one, and then they whipped up an emotional response just for show.
The simplest, clearest and truest portrait of the psychopath is given in the titles of three seminal works on the subject: Without Conscience by Robert Hare, The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, and Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak. A psychopath is exactly that: conscienceless. The most important thing to remember is that this lack of conscience is hidden from view behind a mask of normality that is often so convincing that even experts are deceived. As a result, psychopaths become the Snakes in Suits that control our world.
Psychopaths lack a sense of remorse or empathy with others. They can be extremely charming and are experts at using talk to charm and hypnotize their prey. They are also irresponsible. Nothing is ever their fault; someone else or the world at large is always to blame for all of their problems or their mistakes. Martha Stout, in her book The Sociopath Next Door, identifies what she calls the pity ploy. Psychopaths use pity to manipulate. They convince you to give them one more chance, and to not tell anyone about what they have done. So another trait — and a very important one — is their ability to control the flow of information.
They also seem to have little real conception of past or future, living entirely for their immediate needs and desires. Because of the barren quality of their inner life, they are often seeking new thrills, anything from feeling the power of manipulating others to engaging in illegal activities simply for the rush of adrenaline.
Another trait of the psychopath is what Lobaczewski calls their special psychological knowledge of normal people. They have studied us. They know us better than we know ourselves. They are experts in knowing how to push our buttons, to use our emotions against us. But beyond that, they even seem to have some sort of hypnotic power over us. When we begin to get caught up in the web of the psychopath, our ability to think deteriorates, gets muddied. They seem to cast some sort of spell over us. It is only later when we are no longer in their presence, out of their spell, that the clarity of thought returns and we find ourselves wondering how it was that we were unable to respond or counter what they were doing.
Psychopaths learn to recognize each other in a crowd as early as childhood, and they develop an awareness of the existence of other individuals similar to themselves. They also become conscious of being of a different world from the majority of other people surrounding them. They view us from a certain distance.
Think about the ramifications of this statement: Psychopaths are, to some extent, self-aware as a group even in childhood! Recognizing their fundamental difference from the rest of humanity, their allegiance would be to others of their kind, that is, to other psychopaths.
Their own twisted sense of honor compels them to cheat and revile non-psychopaths and their values. In contradiction to the ideals of normal people, psychopaths feel breaking promises and agreements is normal behavior.
Not only do they covet possessions and power and feel they have the right to them just because they exist and can take them, but they gain special pleasure in usurping and taking from others; what they can plagiarize, swindle, and extort are fruits far sweeter than those they can earn through honest labor.
They also learn very early how their personalities can have traumatizing effects on the personalities of non-psychopaths, and how to take advantage of this root of terror for purposes of achieving their goals.
So now, imagine how easily human beings who are totally in the dark about the presence of psychopaths can be deceived and manipulated by these individuals, gaining power in different countries, pretending to be loyal to the local populations while at the same time playing up obvious and easily discernible physical differences between groups (such as race, skin color, religion, etc).
Psychologically normal humans would be set against one another on the basis of unimportant differences (think of Rwanda 1994, think of Israelis and Palestinians) while the deviants in power, with a fundamental difference from the rest of us, a lack of conscience, an inability to feel for another human being, reaped the benefits and pulled the strings.
We are seeing the final desperate power-grab or endgame (see Derrick Jensen books Endgame Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) of brutal, cunning gangs of CIA drug-runners and President-killers; money-laundering international bankers and their hit-men — economic and otherwise; corrupt military contractors and gung-ho generals; corporate predators and their political enablers; brainwashers and mind-rapists euphemistically known as psy-ops and PR specialists — in short, the whole crew of certifiable psychopaths running our so-called civilization. And they are running scared.
Why does the Pathocracy fear it is losing control? Because it is threatened by the spread of knowledge. The greatest fear of any psychopath is of being found out.
Psychopaths go through life knowing that they are completely different from other people. Deep down they know something is missing in them. They quickly learn to hide their lack of empathy, while carefully studying others’ emotions so as to mimic normalcy while cold-bloodedly manipulating the normals.
Today, thanks to new information technologies, we are on the brink of unmasking the psychopaths and building a civilization of, by and for the healthy human being — a civilization without war, a civilization based on truth, a civilization in which the saintly few rather than the diabolical few would gravitate to positions of power. We already have the knowledge necessary to diagnose psychopathic personalities and keep them out of power. We have the knowledge necessary to dismantle the institutions in which psychopaths especially flourish — militaries, intelligence agencies, large corporations, and secret societies. We simply need to disseminate this knowledge, and the will to use it, as widely and as quickly as possible.
Until the knowledge and awareness of pathological human beings is given the attention it deserves and becomes part of the general knowledge of all human beings, there is no way that things can be changed in any way that is effective and long-lasting. If half the people agitating for truth or stopping the war or saving the earth would focus their efforts, time and money on exposing psychopathy, we might get somewhere.
One might ask if the weak point of our society has been our tolerance of psychopathic behavior? Our disbelief that someone could seem like an intelligent leader and still be acting deceptively on their own behalf without conscience? Or is it merely ignorance?
If the general voting public is not aware that there exists a category of people we sometimes perceive as almost human, who look like us, who work with us, who are found in every race, every culture, speaking every language, but who are lacking conscience, how can the general public take care to block them from taking over the hierarchies? General ignorance of psychopathology may prove to be the downfall of civilization. We stand by like grazing sheep as political/corporate elites throw armies of our innocent sons and daughters against fabricated enemies as a way of generating trillions in profits, vying against each other for pathological hegemony.
Nearly everyone who has been part of an organization working for social change has probably seen the same dynamic play out: The good and sincere work of many can be destroyed by the actions of one person. That doesn’t bode well for bringing some sort of justice to the planet! In fact, if psychopaths dominate political hierarchies, is it any wonder that peaceful demonstrations have zero impact on the outcome of political decisions? Perhaps it is time to choose something other than massive, distant hierarchies as a way of governing ourselves?
So many efforts to provide essays, research reports, exposés and books to leaders so they might take the new information to heart and change their behavior have come to naught. For example, in the final paragraph of his revised edition of the book, The Party’s Over, Richard Heinberg writes:
"I still believe that if the people of the world can be helped to understand the situation we are in, the options available, and the consequences of the path we are currently on, then it is at least possible that they can be persuaded to undertake the considerable effort and sacrifice that will be entailed in a peaceful transition to a sustainable, locally based, decentralized, low-energy, resource-conserving social regime. But inspired leadership will be required."
And that is the just-murdered fantasy. There are no inspired leaders anymore. And in hierarchical structures there can’t be. Assuming that you can elect men or women to office who will see reason and the light of day, and who will change and learn and grow, make compassionate decisions and take conscientious actions… is a foolish, childish dream. Continuing to dream it simply plays into psychopathic agendas.
Only when the 75% of humanity with a healthy conscience come to understand that we have a natural predator, a group of people who live amongst us, viewing us as powerless victims to be freely fed upon for achieving their inhuman ends, only then will we take the fierce and immediate actions needed to defend what is preciously human. Psychological deviants have to be removed from any position of power over people of conscience, period. People must be made aware that such individuals exist and must learn how to spot them and their manipulations.
The hard part is that one must also struggle against those tendencies to mercy and kindness in oneself in order not to become prey.
The real problem is that the knowledge of psychopathy and how psychopaths rule the world has been effectively hidden. People do not have the adequate, nuanced knowledge they need to really make a change from the bottom up. Again and again, throughout history it has been meet the new boss, same as the old boss. If there is any work that is deserving of full time efforts and devotion for the sake of helping humanity in this present dark time, it is the study of psychopathy and the propagation of this information as far and wide and fast as possible.
There are only two things that can bring a psychopath under submission:
Let us choose path 2!
If individuals simply sit down and refuse to lift a hand to further one single aim of the psychopathic agenda, if people refuse to pay taxes, if soldiers refuse to fight, if women refuse to have sex with government workers and corporate officers, if prison guards refuse to go to work, if doctors refuse to treat psychopathic elites and their families, the whole system grinds to an immediate screeching halt.
True change happens in the moment that a person becomes aware of psychopathy in all its chilling details. From this new awareness, the world looks different, and entirely new actions can be taken.
To read 43 intelligent comments to this article, please visit Dissident Voice.
Clarifications Of Evil
The Last Jedi, Moana, and the Etymology of Evil by Ian Mackenzie
This article is also online at: https://medium.com/re-culture-collective/the-last-jedi-moana-and-the-etymology-of-evil-122ce911e688
Back in middle school, I vividly recall a conversation during class between myself and our history teacher. The entire term was devoted to the complex political machinations that led to the rise and end of World War II. In the final minutes of class, I felt like I had arrived at a revelation that seemed so obvious, I had the impulse to speak. I raised my hand and the teacher called on me.
“Despite all the wars, the good guys always win.” I proclaimed, then suddenly grew less confident as the words left my lips. The class fell silent and looked to our teacher.
“Well,” he responded with scholarly kindness. “Every side always thinks they’re the good side.”
My middle school brain, with its adolescent need to frame the world into the foundational binary of good and bad could no longer compute. The cognitive dissonance detonated my simplistic model of morality and I was instantly dropped into the murky depths of complexity. I could never look at the world the same way again.
It was this conversation that came to mind as I watched The Last Jedi, filled with the familiar struggles between good and evil, the dark side versus the light. It is this archetypal battle that defines the universe of Star Wars, and arguably, the entire landscape of the dominant global culture.
Recalling her own youth, writer Laurel Carney recounts the impact the original Star Wars had upon her worldview:
“The struggle between light and darkness within each of us became the lens through which I viewed and coped with my surroundings, and Luke Skywalker, who appeared, to my young eyes, to beat back the darkness for good with a single act of mercy, became my hero.”
With the recent episode’s impact of seeing Luke’s fall from grace, and the subsequent backlash from the fans, she defends the film with an appreciation for a more nuanced hero archetype:
“Darkness comes for all of us, in many forms, and no single act of goodness can beat it back forever. Victory is temporary, and useful only insofar as it makes it easier to face the next challenge, and the next, and to inspire goodness in others. Learning to embrace this cycle, to accept setbacks with peace and purpose rather than grief, is one of the most painful (and ultimately necessary) lessons to be found in The Last Jedi.”
Her conclusion — to embrace the fallibility of our heroes while upholding the ‘universal and inevitable’ war against darkness — I find ultimately unsatisfying. I believe there is a missed opportunity to pull on a more provocative thread to unravel the deeper pattern stitched beneath.
THE MACHINE OF WAR
Take for example, the Master Codebreaker (played effortlessly by Benicio Del Toro) who reveals to Finn and Rose (the spunky maintenance worker and the first Asian-American character to appear in a Star Wars film) that the weapons dealers they are quick to condemn sell to the First Order and the Rebellion just the same. “It’s a machine.” he says of war, matter of factly.
Joshua Rothman in the New Yorker made the connection that the Codebreaker could just as well have been talking about the entire Star Wars franchise, “which depends for its continued existence on a story of perpetual war.”
This leads me to what I believe the most interesting scene in the film: the moment when Kylo Ren and Rey have defeated the Supreme Leader Snoke and his legion of red guards. As the room continues to blaze and the rest of the First Order have yet to descend upon them, Kylo reaches for her hand and offers a simple solution to transcend the past:
On the surface, the moment is portrayed as one more seduction for Rey to choose the dark side and betray the Rebellion. Rey (and the audience) know there are only two choices: the light or the dark. Rothman connects this moment to the vision Rey had previously experienced in the cave beneath the Jedi island, and the inherent paradox of this perspective:
“…she sees the world as a system of opposites: light and dark, life and death, love and rage, the dark side and the light. There’s a pleasing symmetry to this view of the universe, but if the cosmos is truly constructed this way, then the good side can never win, because good and evil will always be evenly matched.”
What if Kylo was actually, albeit through violence, inviting her to transcend the narrative of the dark and light, and thereby end the infinity war?
Instead, it was Rey who was unwilling to step outside of her attachment to the Light, the paradigm of good/evil, and the need for victory, thereby collapsing the tension into an epic space battle once again. This game plays out for the rest of the film, ultimately ending in Luke Skywalker’s “heroic” death and the escape of the Rebellion.
Good and evil, the supposed universal narrative, remains to fight another day.
ON FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES
Let’s talk about the dark side. Let’s talk about evil.
How do you define it? Without too much thought, and depending on where you grew up, you are likely to respond: someone or something that is inherently bad. The opposite of good. That which exists beyond redemption.
This provides the foundation for most super hero movies that choke Hollywood and the imaginations of young children.
“Why do they have to kill the bad guy?” They always ask, wide eyed and curious.
“Because they’re evil.” Often comes the response.
While I was not raised in church, I did grow up in a culture with a foundation of Christianity. From that religious perspective, the world is not our true home but a stage for the God and the Devil to battle over the eternal souls of mankind. We participate in that drama by choosing whether to serve the darkness or the light, our fate in Heaven or Hell ultimately decided by our deeds.
This orientation continues to play itself in different costumes and communities, from the unnervingly perky Lightworkers to our punitive system of justice. It’s the same answer whether speaking of a comic book villain, disease, or a terrorist.
If we could only get rid of the bad, the good will win.
Charles Eisenstein calls this war thinking: “…the pattern of fixing a problem where you look for the enemy, the thing to fight. You believe that if you can defeat or dominate that enemy then the problem will be solved.”
And herein lies the trouble: just like in Star Wars, any victory ensures a loser and the conditions for future war are already planted.
This way of thinking is not universal to all cultures.
I've been fortunate enough to be schooled in a fashion that re-animates the living quality of words. Whenever I attempt to understand what they “mean”, I no longer settle for the withered understanding that words have always meant the same thing as they do now. It’s far more appropriate to ask “when and where?” alongside your inquiry. Such as “in what time and what place are you wanting to know what that word meant?”
Let’s consider evil, again.
A brief etymological study reveals that from about 1400, evil was understood to mean “actions that were morally sinful” and therefore actions deemed to go against the will of God.
So far so good. That continues to line up with the definition upheld the good guys, you just need to substitute “good guys” for “God.” Evil therefore, is any action that goes against the will of the good, as understood by the good guys.
Unless of course, as I found out in my middle school history class, the bad guys generally think they are also the good guys. Not much help there.
Luckily, I happened recently to be reading the classic book “Finite and Infinite Games” where the author describes two types of games: those that are finite and those that are infinite. A brief overview:
Finite players play to win.
Think of a soccer match, where the players all work together to defeat the other team by scoring more goals, with a clear winner and loser. There are rules and penalties for stepping outside of the boundaries, not because they are inherently punishable, but because not playing within the rules jeopardizes the ability to confer with clarity who is the winner.
Infinite players, on the other hand, play to keep playing.
Think of making love. A skilled player aims to conduct actions and choices that reveal ever more delightful realms of pleasure, for themselves and for the other. Those achieved in the language of eros know that it is a way of being, with no clear beginning and ending — every move a possibility to play more finely with every caress, word, and contact.
One could say that Life itself, flowing freely, is the ultimate infinite game, endlessly expressing and evolving through a myriad tapestry of diverse peoples, flora, fauna, and minerals — from the tiniest microbe to the vastness of the cosmic theatre.
With this in mind, I was floored when I came across the author’s precise definition of evil:
“Evil is the termination of infinite play.”
“Evil is never intended as evil. Indeed, the contradiction inherent in all evil is that it originates in the desire to eliminate evil. […] Infinite players understand the inescapable likelihood of evil. They therefore do not attempt to eliminate evil in others, for to do so is the very impulse of evil itself, and therefore a contradiction. They only attempt paradoxically to recognize in themselves the evil that takes the form of attempting to eliminate evil elsewhere.”
Translation: the existence of evil is not something gone haywire in the fabric of the universe. It doesn’t mean God somehow got it wrong or that he’s asleep at the wheel. It might mean there is no such thing as good guys that are devoid of their own capacity for evil. And in fact, attempting to eliminate evil in service to the good is how evil is enacted in the world.
This is demonstrated powerfully in another moment from The Last Jedi, when Luke is shown approaching the bed of Ben Solo, contemplating killing his own nephew to avoid the evil that might ensue. At that moment Ben awakes to this moment of betrayal, and flees to join the dark side. The attempt to eliminate evil in another, blinds oneself to their own capacity, thereby generating evil in the world.
In Finite and Infinite games, the author finishes the chapter by stating:
“Evil is not the inclusion of finite games in an infinite game, but the restriction of all play to one or another finite game.”
I’ll say that again differently for emphasis:
Evil is the attempt to collapse all games, both infinite and finite, into ONE finite game.
If there is one ultimate winner, the rest of life loses.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF 'MORE'
At the risk of making any statement that generalizes into a pan-indigenous understanding, I have a hypothesis that many indigenous cultures do not have an equivalent word for “evil” — meaning the presence or possibility of evil as the inherent opposite of good. (See my Facebook post to follow that interesting discussion).
With my aforementioned love of words (and their precision), I feel it’s important to take a moment and define my use of indigenous. The term itself is problematic and tends to draw heated debate depending on where it’s used. True, all humans are indigenous to the planet. But more helpfully, I’m using it here to refer to a people who are still connected and living on their land of ancestral origin.
In contrast, settlers are those people who have relocated, whether through choice or otherwise, to colonize other lands, usually at the deep expense of those peoples who are already living there. ‘Colonization’ is also best understood as not just the theft of land and oppression of people, but also a significant psychological trauma that hides by making itself so normalized as to be invisible by those who continue to “benefit” from its rewards (more on that later).
It appears to me that intact Indigenous cultures, and/or those who have managed to revive their ancestral understandings and ways, tend to view acts of malice coming not from an inherent “evil” but from a lack of right relationship.
For many reasons, a sickness may arise in the soul that gives way to hostility, violence and mayhem, whether to oneself or others. And contrary to isolated individual and “their” problem, this dis-ease is generally not placed solely on the shoulders of the individual, rather, the whole village is tasked in service toward healing.
I spoke with a friend Pulxaneeks Love, a woman of the Haisla nation, who has spent years doing important reconciliation work between indigenous and settler cultures. I asked her if her people had the equivalent of a word for “evil.”
At first, her response was grief. As a woman who grew up two generations after the residential school system, and lived half her life in the realm of the colonialists, she felt the sorrow of what has already been lost in her own story and that of her people.
When she did respond, she said:
“We don’t have a word for evil to my awareness, and I know us to have been a very abundant people who didn’t have the need to fight over anything. Words that aren’t often used in daily life can be very hard to find the Haisla word for.”
“But the Haida though…” she continued. “The Haida were a neighbouring tribe who would come and raid our villages. They would take our resources, along with the strongest women and men. They were not satisfied with what they already had.”
In this story, Pulxaneeks drew a progression that mimicked numerous other cultures. When a people feel they don’t have enough, they rise to take it from others. This is the origin of war, and from war comes trauma, displacement, and further colonization.
Etymology again. Now armed with this nuanced understanding, I pursued the trail of “evil” back even further, before it became known as morally sinful actions against the will of God, that is, before the Christian colonization of the Northern European indigenous peoples.
In the Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto, he writes:
The root meaning of the word [evil] is of obscure origin though shown to be akin to modern German Das Übel (although evil is normally translated as Das Böse) with the basic idea of transgressing.
It probably comes ultimately from “upelo-”, a derivative of the Indo-European base “upo-, under (source of Greek hupo, under, Sanskrit “upa”, at, to, and English “up” and “over”), and so its underlying connotation is of “exceeding due limits, extremism.
So here we have evil stitched together with the faded fabric of ‘transgressing’ and ‘exceeding due limits.’ Said with a little more flourish, perhaps we could say:
Evil was originally understood as describing anything (or any people) that grew beyond the natural limitations of the place that could carry them.
Evil was the trauma that would be unleashed by those who were not able to satiate the seduction for ‘more’, who sought war and displacement on behalf of empire, growth for its own sake.
A tragic irony then, as it often is, that once the colonizers rolled in, “evil” no longer described the expansionist actions of those very people, but instead became anything that went against the will of their one and only God.
As it often goes, in the name of purging the new definition of evil from the world, they covered the tracks of the old understanding, like building a temple to the new god on the rubble of the old.
James Carse says it clear:
“There is much evil that remains beyond redemption. When Europeans first landed on the North American continent the native population spoke as many as ten thousand distinct languages, each with its own poetry and treasury of histories and myths, its own ways of living in harmony with the spontaneities of the natural environment. All but a very few of those tongues have been silenced, their cultures forever lost to those of us who stand ignorantly in their place.”
By the tip of the sword, then the barrel of the gun, they demanded all infinite players collapse into one finite game.
Lest you think the past is history, the same agenda continues to this day. The biosphere is buckling under the weight of an expansionist culture that refuses to acknowledge its mania for more. Ravenous eyes are now set to reach Mars as the next frontier, as if our collective deus ex machina lies with ditching the planet we’ve already messed up and starting over on a lofty, inhospitable, red rock.
But thankfully, there is a new hope.
TOWARD DE-COLONIZED STORYTELLING
Perhaps you’ve noticed a recent trend in Hollywood. Though the vast majority of the slurry that comes from the big studios continues to fall in the binary-oppositional range, there continues to be a rising crop of big-budget films that shatter the mould.
Here are just a few I’ve noticed:
Lego Batman — Healing toxic masculinity through transmuting grief and rebuilding trust in the village
Arrival — Understanding the role of language and its relationship to conjuring our perception of time. Hint: not all cultures (and aliens) conceive of time as linear.
Interstellar — Love is not a feeling but the animating force of the universe (read my feverish essay for more).
Tomorrowland — We cannot build a life-affirming future unless we are first able to imagine it.
I submit that narratives like these can be classified as de-colonized storytelling, breaking the trance of modernity that has kept modern humans lockstep in the spells of monocultured universalism.
I believe as storytellers we have a moral imperative to transcend the binary of good and evil, crafting visionary narratives for our personal and collective vitality to flow towards.
Which brings me to Moana, one of the best examples of this type of storytelling in recent times. Spoiler alert!
The opening myth of Moana tells the story of how the demi-god Maui steals the heart of the Goddess Tafiti in order to control her capacity to regenerate life. Upon his departure from the theft, he is met by the power demon Te Kā who attempts to thwart his escape. Ultimately, Maui loses the heart in the bottom of the ocean and is banished to a remote island.
Yet the damage had already been done. A sickness spreads throughout the islands, strangling the flora and poisoning the sea life. Eventually it reaches the shores of Moana’s kingdom, and it’s up to her to set out beyond the reef to restore the heart of Tafiti.
Until this far, the film doesn’t deviate much from the typical heroic narrative that most Disney films have followed, the only difference is a girl in the title role. Various adventures and hijinks ensue, until Moana has retrieved the heart and is ready to give it back to the goddess.
In this moment of revelation, for her and the audience, it’s revealed that the Goddess and Te Kā are the same. The demon’s rage is that of the Great Mother scorned, her capacity to generate life stolen by the egoic pride of a Hero.
“I have crossed the horizon to find you…I know your name…they have stolen the heart from inside you…but this does not define you. This is not who you are…you will know who you are…who you truly are.”
The seas part and Moana approaches Te Kā, willing to make contact, where others were only able to make war. The demon softens, and the young princess returns her heart (placing it in the holy spiral), thereby restoring wholeness to the Goddess. The demon’s skin cracks and the vitality of life springs forth again.
To recap: many would agree that humanity, and the entire web are life, are in a collective moment of great peril. Whether this moment is one of extinction or initiation remains to be seen.
“Finite players aim for eternal life. Infinite players aim for eternal birth.” — James Carse
On winter solstice last December, I stood gazing at the ocean while the last rays of the golden sun drained from the horizon. I watched the languid waves roll in toward the shore, and was reminded of the phenomenon I read somewhere in a physics essay.
To the uncritical eye, it appears the water is rolling toward the shore. Yet this is an optical illusion. The water is simply moving in a circular motion, while the actual wave is the energy moving through the water, generated far out at sea.
I sat with this crystal recognition: that I was witness and awash in the energy of events generated long before I was born. And it was clear that my actions will generate ripples that will continue long after this body is gone.
From this vantage point, the individual peculiarities that I believe are “my life” seem less significant, or perhaps equally significant, then my presence and affect upon the whole.
I am both the wave and the particle.
We are all storytellers. The stories we tell, particularly in this time of mass connectivity, have the capacity to affirm or transform the underlying mythologies of our civilization.
Will you continue to perpetuate the finite games of separation, violence, and war? Or will you choose the infinite game of contact, love, and diversity?
Choose wisely. The future (and the past) depends on now.
Two remarkable books by the remarkable Derrick Jensen
by Derrick Jensen
Matrix Code BOOKx163.00
This is Derrick Jensen's most ambitious, important and monumental book to date. The companion piece to Derrick Jensen's immensely popular and highly acclaimed works "A Language Older than Words" (Souvenir Press, 2002) and "The Culture of Make Believe" (Context Books, 2000), "Endgame" builds on a series of simple but increasingly provocative premises: for example, "The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of any economic system" and "The mass of civilized people will never be on our side". Jensen invites readers to imagine a return to agrarian communal life via the disintegration of civilization itself.
by Derrick Jensen
Matrix Code BOOKx164.00
call yourself to action...
The second volume in the "Endgame Series" examines mankind's means of resistance. Whereas "Endgame: Volume 1" presents the problem of civilisation, the second volume of this pivotal work illustrates our means of resistance. Incensed and hopeful, impassioned and lucid, "Endgame" leapfrogs the environmental movement's deadlock over our willingness to change our conduct, focusing instead on our ability to adapt to the impending ecological evolution.