“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The Usual Suspects (1995)
Let’s do a thought experiment.
Evil exists all over the world. With the exception of those evils that come from fragile human bodies colliding with such impersonal forces as volcanoes, typhoons and the general laws of physics, evil seems to work through the agency of human beings; evil men who do evil things to other men, women and children.
Evil is not creative. These evil men don’t do anything new; they do the same old things over and over. The only difference between evil men 2,000 years ago and evil men today is that today’s evil men have more advanced technology to use for their killing, stealing and destroying. What do these evil men have in common?
They are cruel; they do not value human life or feel any qualms about snuffing it out. They are selfish; they want it all for them selves. They will never be satisfied, never say, “I now have enough.” They are proud, not in a healthy, realistic way, but in a sick, delusional way. “I am the pinnacle of humanity. I know more than, I deserve more than other men. I, only I, have the answer to every question. All who oppose me must be crushed.”
They are puffed up, greedy and cruel. Individual evil men are mortal; that is, they die, and leave, not their mark on history, but their stain. But the inevitable death of evil men does not stop evil. Others arise to replace them, with precisely the same characteristics; the essence, the spirit, of evil lives on, generation after generation. All of this is obvious from even the most casual glance at history.
Let’s call this essence, this spirit, of evil D’evil. Let’s use it as a metaphor. D’evil is that force that encourages men to be puffed up, greedy and cruel. We hold men responsible for their actions, we do not buy that they are overwhelmed by D’evil-we believe that they cooperate with it. D’evil may suggest to a man that he is the pinnacle of humanity who deserves everything but we believe that the man is able to resist that suggestion.
D’evil as described is the devil of the Bible. The red, horned, pitchfork-toting caricature is literary invention from the Middle Ages. An evil spirit working actively against goodness is not the invention of the writers of the Bible. From the Tricksters of indigenous religions to the Zoroastrian Angra Mayu, the idea of evil personified as the lying, destructive force in the world is very ancient.
We need to resurrect the D’evil because without it, we attribute all evil to individual human beings, or groups of human beings. This results in such multiplied evils as the Holocaust (Jews, communists and the Roma are evil) and the Rwandan genocide (Tutsis are evil.) Trying to pin evil on specific people (Obama, Putin, Saddam) or groups (communists, bankers, NeoCons) leads to the murderous delusion that if you just kill them all, evil will be eliminated from the world. As Stalin said, “No man, no problem.”
Killing people to destroy evil-think about that.
We need to resurrect the D’evil because the D’evil can and does tempt anyone. The devil can tempt a president, a CEO, a house wife, a waiter, a cookie-baking Grandma-and unless we are willing to stand and boldly LIE-we must admit that the D’evil can tempt YOU and ME.
THAT is the thing we are reluctant to admit: “I, too can be selfish, greedy and cruel.” This self-delusion is why we are so very willing to point at a designated D’evil and demand his impeachment, deportation or extra-judicial assassination.
You can’t fight evil with more evil. You can only fight evil with good. Jesus, Ghandi, MLK and Mandela proved that this is not pie-in-the-sky Pollyannaism. Goodness has tremendous power if only we have the courage to do it. COURAGE! C. K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and not tried.”
This story attributed to Native American oral tradition sums it up:
“Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all of the time.” When asked which dogs wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most.”