I may have over-thought the question about racism and evil. And I think I know where I went wrong. The absolute nature of something in its laboratory form, or the purest expression of an idea may be neutral, the practical expression of it goes one way or the other. There IS no perfect balance in the real world. You’re always wobbling one direction or the other.
Then…why did I say that racism wasn’t evil? Because in that laboratory/pure thought sense it is just an opinion that can be gathered by looking at math on a sheet of paper.
But why would I not ask the question: “what usually flows from this? What are the average consequences of this? How much positive as opposed to negative flows from this?” Because if I had looked at those things, I’d have seen that the AVERAGE, TYPICAL result of actions flowing from a thing determines the morality of a thing more than the “pure” thought-experiment.
And what is evil? My position is that it is the interjection of chaos into order, specifically that which increased danger or pain for children. Viewed that way, we’re asking what the typical human response, cross-culturally, to an action might be. Philosophies filter reality and create emotions. Emotions motivate actions.
So practically, I cannot separate them. But…why didn’t I see that? And I think I know.
Simply put, if I define racism as assigning different levels of human capacity or value or morality to different groups based on race or ethnicity (and I do), then I have to admit that this is so widespread that it is safer to assume it universal than rare. I’d guess that only 10-20% of people have it STRONGLY but it sits as a filter, exists in pre-assumptions, influences choices in business, entertainment, law enforcement, politics and personal life so often that, again, it is safest to assume its like the puppets in “Avenue Q” say: “Everybody’s a little bit racist” and that the denial of that perspective facilitates it. That I choose the Liberal side of politics in large part because they acknowledge this, and “lean into it” just a little. Good Conservatives are more likely to say “I don’t see race.”
If you think its not there, it gets you while you ain’t looking. I don’t know how much therapeutic or meditative work it takes to get beyond it, but if you haven’t done a thousand hours of it, I think its safest to assume the disease is lurking in your marrow, waiting for you to believe you can stop taking chemo.
Worse, the actual monsters use the “laboratory” version (“its just a concept. An opinion.”) to convince people that its not evil…even if most of the fruits of it certainly are. Even if a vast, overwhelming amount of pain in my own life has flowed from it, even if I’ve watched it destroy lives and give nothing back, even if it motivated most of the “holocaust” level events I’m aware of: German, American, whatever.
Why did I make that error? Because I love people. Simple. And I see so much of it, even in people I respect, who have been mentors, lovers, students, friends, neighbors, role models. So much, like an ocean of sewage. I couldn’t consider all of them, and the country I love, tainted without feeling such existential loneliness and isolation, such despair and fatigue, that it might have defeated me. I just wasn’t strong enough.
And if I created the attachments to those people as a younger man, or even as a boy, I couldn’t make the fine distinctions I can make today. Couldn’t say: “this is a human evil. It is in our hearts, and in some of us it is a raging fire. But there is nothing it gives that is even 1% as powerful as what it takes. It is a spark humanity would be better extinguishing. It leads to fear, not peace. Hate, not love. It makes the world more dangerous to children, not less.”
Absolutely true? No. And a bit of that is “faith based” in the sense that I’m taking the position that the basic assumptions of racism are incorrect. That means that I MUST, as a philosopher, leave open the door to: “but they might be right.” Black people MIGHT be less intelligent. White people MIGHT be weaker and less moral. Its possible. Yeah, it is.
But that’s not what I believe. Not how I live. I am strong enough, clear enough, to take another step, and it is only relationships formed before I matured in that sense kept me tied to that old but needed mode of thought.
As a philosopher, I have the luxury of living in a world of pure thought. But I also live in a world of politics, in which a comment can be taken out of context like a bacteria taken out of a laboratory. Is botulism evil? In a test-tube, no. It is just a life form. In your daughter’s oatmeal? For all practical purposes, it is the very definition of evil. Any human being who DELIBERATELY introduced it into that oatmeal is going to be considered evil by 99.9% of people on the planet. The rest are snakes and monsters.
Speaking of its neutrality becomes like one of those scientists who insist that Godzilla must be captured and studied, as Big G wrecks Tokyo. We KNOW he is out to lunch, and can’t wait to see how he reacts after his cute little daughter is reduced to ashes. Now he’s the one who will die taking the Oxygen Destroyer into Tokyo Bay. He sees how his urge to be a Big-S “Scientist” has crippled his common sense.
Could my words be used to hurt people? Yes, they could. Children? Yes, they could.
“Is it true? Is it useful? Is it kind?” are the three filters I am committed to.
And the relation of truth, usefulness, and kindness compared to the spawning of lies, abuse, and horror are, in this case, at best, like the skin of an apple compared to the flesh. If the flesh is rotten, it doesn’t matter if the skin is shiny and beautiful. If someone asks “is that apple rotten?” they aren’t asking: “is it 100% rotten”. They are asking if it is rotten for all practical purposes. Would I give it to my son or daughter to nourish them.
Viewed that way, you can try so hard to be fair, so hard to be philosophical, that you become an idiot.
The people I love, the country I love, has been poisoned by this belief pattern. It is a toxic outgrowth of tribalism, and must be rooted out of our society, even as we love and cherish the individuals within, evil if they are carriers.
That doesn’t mean we let them infect our children, however. How to do that and protect the freedoms we hold dear is one of the most important discussions any culture can have, a sober matter for awakened adults. Not frightened children, and not philosophers who can’t get their heads out of their butts.
It is enough to say that good people can have a sickness in them, to love who they have the potential to be, and see their anger as fear, and do all I can to communicate to their hearts. Yes I can.
But…I was wrong about this one. And I’m sorry. As much as anything can be that bridges the worlds of pure thought and human action, racism is evil.