rn> Re: The Yin and Yang of Good and Evil


Richard Moore

1/16/2001, Jay Fenello wrote to FixGov:
  > Is it possible to have good without evil?

Good question.  Here are some thoughts about how that might
relate to our issues...  And Jay, I'd like to hear your
thoughts on this question.


Perceptually, there can be no light without dark.  That is,
we need to know moral contrasts before we can perceive a
'moral dimension' or 'act morally'.

Psychologically, there is no way we are going to 'educate
out the evil' in people's minds.  We all experience times
when we feel like killing someone, or are tempted to 'get by
with' something that might benefit us in the short term.


Any 'future utopia' which does not recognize these things
will either (1) never happen, or (2) be based on denial. 
And 'denial' by society always translates into suppression
and / or geneocide of those who - by their existence  -
contradict the belief in 'perfection'.  Thus in some
Communist countries dissidents have been considered
'enemies of the state' - they contradict the doctrine about
how socialism is supposed to 'transform the individual'. 


Fortunately, however, a livable world is achievable without
losing the experience of moral contrast, and without denying
or suppressing the 'darker' aspects of human nature.

Childhood is that wonderful time when we all get to play out
our darker sides, and find out the kind of trouble it gets
us into.  To put it in over-simplified sexist terms: boys form
gangs and get into fights.  Girls experience the full range
of social expression, with cliques and lies and exclusions,

Here in Ireland I notice that the kids are encouraged to
play out these games / learning experiences.  They are given
guidance and feedback, but they aren't strictly punished or
made to 'feel evil' when they come home with bloody noses
and angry notes from teachers.  As a result, the kids grow
naturally through these phases, and the adult civil society
in Ireland is a remarkable civil one, with lots of teasing,
but very little real anger and very little violence.

By contrast, in Victorian England - where little boys and
girls were expected to be models of virtue - you had one of
the most morally poisoned of adult societies.  Instead of
being 'worked through', the infantile dark-side was
preserved, and it dominated adult society.

In some sense then, the 'dark side' of humanity can be
worked through in childhood.  Grown-ups don't need to go
around suppressing their aggression and anger, they've
outgrown it - they've learned more successful ways to relate
and achieve.  If children are given liberty, within a
supportive framework, then they can grow up into adults who
can live in both harmony and liberty with their neighbors. 
If people experience the 'moral contrasts' in childhood - in
themselves and others - and together they learn to get
along, then as adults they don't need lots of 'playground
monitors' (laws and cops) to force them to 'get along'.


In addition, society can be set up so there are useful
outlets for such passions as competition, and
aggrandizement, and leadership.  There are societal tasks
which require those kinds of energies.  Instead of denying
them as 'wrong', or worshipping them as 'virtues', they can
be rationally employed as 'skills'.  Just as you wouldn't
use a hammer to turn a screw, so you wouldn't let a 'leader'
run the affairs of a community.  Leaders are for projects
like building bridges.  Communities are not projects, they
are living organisms, deserving of liberty.

all the best,