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A Touch of Evil

Historically, neoconservatives (the more religious ones generally referred to as “fundamentalists”) have seemed to pride themselves on an ability to face the cold-hard, rather cruel, facts of life, a willingness to accept the more unsavory aspects of our make-up as human beings–the most unsavory being that all human beings, as a consequence of “an original sin,” have been determined to have an evil nature. Consequently, they have had little difficulty accepting “the fact” that we, as homo sapiens, seem to have a rather natural inclination toward selfishness, to do whatever we, as individuals as well as nations, must do in order to survive. However, when such a competitive desire to stay alive is placed upon the foot of others (especially when those others have been determined to be our enemy….. Moslems ), then such a desire to survive is more often than not deemed to be essentially unnecessary. On the other hand, they have spared little in criticizing their counterparts, those dreamy-eyed liberals (the more religious of these sometimes referred to as Christian humanists), for what they feel to be their rather quixotic ways, the liberal’s surrealistic belief that we, as human beings, are, by nature, “just a little lower than the angels.” They have chided liberals for believing that we, as human beings have a morally sacred responsibility to do whatever we can in order to transform the earth in such a manner that it might one day become as much as possible like the once fabled “Garden of Eden.”

So should we score one for the neoconservatives? Should the advantage be given to the neoconservative’s as a result of the liberal’s unwillingness to face up to the rather crass nature of what it means to be a human being? Perhaps not, since such austerity seems to demand a truly harsh, and perhaps even brutish, approach to life. And especially so in relation to how neoconservatives tend to look down upon others. Such an outlook makes it so easy to undermine the essential worth of other people through an attempt to disparage the values upon which their lives are based. And this seems to be especially true in relation to how religious fundamentalists are so inclined to berate the religious beliefs of those of other people (e.g. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson’s criticism of Muslims, etc.). Consequently, rather than becoming more realistic, these people seem to become increasingly biased in how they view the lives of those who they see as being so different from themselves. Blinded by such an ethnocentric vision of the world, they tend to become convinced that we, as a nation of people who have received the special blessing of God, are somehow inherently better than, somehow superior in relation to, and thus more worthy than all others in the world—— vis a vis, Western civilization along with its associated religious beliefs excel all else in the world. The result is an egocentric world view that breeds a vitriolic arrogance that inclines so many of us as Americans to ignore the fact that other people value their lives just as much as we do, and that their values, their beliefs, their ways of living are every bit as important to them as ours are to us. Such a harsh and brutal way of approaching others can do nothing but lead those of us who hold such an outlook to have nothing but contempt for the rest of the world. Of course, such an attitude is, in the vilest sense, impractical in that such a way of proceeding can do nothing but lead to the inevitability of conflict between those whom we have so unscrupulously presumed to be righteous (those who are like us) in relation to those who we have presumed to be evil (those who we have chosen to become our enemies).”

Which leads to the primary purpose of this piece; to explain why the neoconservative approach (the way in which the Bush Administration and those who have chosen to follow in their footsteps) represents such a dangerous path to take within the context of a world at war. Especially dangerous then, is this country’s belief that, as the assumed imperialist leader of the world, it has the right to act as the moral arbiter (the moral policeman) for all the people of the world. And even worse, that it has the duty to determine, for all others in the world, who it is that should be labeled as evil (the evil ones), and therefore those who must eventually be eliminated –in other words those who need to be “wiped out.”

Consequently, neoconservatives have seemingly come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with our having invaded the country of Iraq even though as many as 100,000 Iraqis have died (been killed?). With little concern for those who have died, the dead have been degraded as nothing more than “collateral damage”– a simple, yet unfortunate cost of war, an inauspicious accident of having taken residence at the side of a beleaguered enemy. And, for them, such a consequence would be deemed to be acceptable given such an ethnocentrically abject inability to understand and appreciate the worth of people’s lives that they envision as so inherently different from their own.

Now the reason why such an ethnocentrically de-humanizing view of the world turns out to be so drastically impractical is that such a view ends up being the way that nearly everybody else, every other nation on the face of the earth, tends to view their own enemies. And so the world becomes nothing more than “one gigantic slugfest” to see who will end up having the bragging rights for possessing the “biggest stick,” the one who will end up being able to declare to the rest of the world, “to the winner goes the spoils.” Quite frankly, I’m not sure how the war in Iraq will eventually be played out–if we will end up winning or losing the war. However, whatever the outcome, believe me, there will be no winners—-only losers! If “we win” the war in Iraq, and become “foreigners in a foreign land” trying to tell the Iraqi people how they ought to live their lives, just about how long (and how many billions of dollars later) might it take before we eventually have to pull out (or are run out) as a result of all the violence and chaos such a takeover will give rise to? But then, what if we end up losing the war, if our efforts lead to a conflagration that might begin to spread throughout The Middle East and perhaps even to the rest of the world—- even to a conflict that might become the arch genesis of WW III? Now wouldn’t that be something that the neoconservative community could be proud of–a real legacy to leave our grandchildren, that is, if it turns out that there are any grandchildren for whom to leave a legacy.

In final consideration, maybe the conservatives have been right all along. Perhaps, if those fuzzy-headed liberals (democrats some call them) would have had their way, we would have decided to simply lie down and play dead hoping beyond hope that everything would eventually work itself out as long as we didn’t give up on ourselves, as long as we didn’t lose faith in ourselves as human beings. On the other hand, if arrogance, violence, and a “red in tooth and claw” fight to the bitter end is what is necessary in order for a people to survive , then I’m not sure that I want to stay around to see how it all turns out.

Just one more thought–who was that guy anyway, you know, the one who mentioned something about “loving our enemies,” you know whats-he’s-name, well anyway——WWJD?

DOUG SODERSTROM is a psychologist in Wharton, Texas. He can be reached at: DougSod@wcjc.edu

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