Saturday, January 12, 2008

Are we angels or devils?

Recently AfroSpear asked, “What is the true nature of mankind?”
As a species, do we fall primarily under the Darwinian law of “survival of the
fittest”, the resulting by-product of which are the wars, conflicts, genocides
and other atrocities which we continually face throughout the ages, the present
and into the future? Are we engaged in a losing battle against the very nature
of humankind, i.e., the “so-called” 7 deadly sins: pride, jealousy, greed,
gluttony, lust, anger, laziness… when we put forth the effort to be humble,
supportive, generous, sharing, exercise self-control, forgiving and responsible?
Are the virtues of justice, equality, liberty, integrity, charity, kindness,
mercy, etc., figments of our imaginations and delusions of our spirit? And if
doing “evil” is not the natural state of humankind, then what is it, why aren’t
we doing it and how do we get there?
Deep down, at our essence, are we all angels or devils?

I believe we are both. And the sooner we accept this, the sooner we can work together in an effective way to solve the “isms” that plague the world community.

We are the people who, in our hearts, want to save the planet, but who commute 60 miles to and from work each day in big gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. We are the people of color who want racial equality, but don’t stand up when a race other than ours is marginalized or denigrated. We are the people who shout about political platforms that hurt the poor and disenfranchised, but who step over the homeless on the way to our favorite shops, averting our eyes when asked for a dollar. We are the people who say we are not prejudiced, but call the police about the black man in the neighborhood…just to be safe. We are the people who would never use the word “nigger,” but who will use the word “fag.”

That is who we are.

Somewhere in the universe, there may be perfect evil and perfect goodness, but not in the realm that we humans occupy. We are not perfect anything.

Name someone that you consider “evil.” Let’s take Alabama governor George Wallace: The Ku Klux Klan sympathizer, the man who stood at the door of the University of Alabama to bar black students from achieving the higher education that was the “right” of young white Southerners, the man who said, “segregation now…segregation tomorrow…segregation forever.” A black lawyer recalled of Wallace’s judicial career, "Judge George Wallace was the most liberal judge that I had ever practiced law in front of. He was the first judge in Alabama to call me 'Mister' in a courtroom."

Could George Wallace have been a good man in some areas of his life and a very bad man in others? Probably so. Because he was human.

There are no evil people. There are no good people. There are only good actions and bad actions. Our lives are a constant effort to get the balance right.

I found this quote by Alexander Solzhenitsyn from The Gulag Archipelago. It perfectly sums up my beliefs on the non-dualism of good and evil:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere,
insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them
from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts
through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of
his own heart?


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