Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Manichean Madness

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” (Voltaire)

There is no more absurd or destructive mythology than the notion of a giant struggle between the forces of good versus the forces of evil. In reality, the subjective labels of “good” and “bad” are moral and situational judgments properly attached to actions. Actions are subjectively evaluated as “good” or “bad.” People, in turn, should be evaluated based upon their behavior, their actions. A “good” person is someone whose behavior is generally “good.” A “bad” person is someone whose behavior is generally “bad.” A “good” person is nonetheless capable of committing “bad” acts. A “bad” person is nonetheless capable of “good” behavior. It is the subjective evaluation of behavior which determines whether or not a person is, on the balance, “good” or “bad.” There is no such thing as an intrinsically “good” or intrinsically “bad” person. The term “evil” is used to denote something monstrously bad.

In spite of the absurdity of the Manichean concept of the forces of light (good) in constant struggle with the forces of darkness (evil), this ideological duality is part of Western mythology, and is constantly reinforced by the media, particularly the entertainment media. For example, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are depicted as “good guys,” their intentions and actions noble by definition. Darth Vader and Lord Voldemort are depicted as intrinsically evil in nature, their intentions and actions wicked by definition. The duality is sharply drawn. It is difficult to imagine Harry Potter doing something “bad,” and Voldemort’s evil nature is absolute. It is a one dimensional caricature whereby the label defines reality. Good guys do good, bad guys do bad. Actions are assumed to correspond to the label.

All of this is no accident. In a militaristic empire such as ours, there is a constant need to pre-condition the public mind to accept the righteousness and need for the inevitable wars of aggression and other despicable acts that empire inevitably engages in. As such, it is advantageous for the elites to have the populace believe that we are intrinsically good, and future enemies intrinsically evil. People and nations are judged based upon the Manichean label which has been attached to them. Propaganda is used to provide the details to support this mythological depiction. Information is evaluated based upon this ideological pre-conditioning. When we bomb and destroy, kill and maim, this is depicted as necessary, even desirable, to enable the “good guys” (us) to defeat the forces of evil. On such absurdities do empires and wars and atrocities flourish.


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