The Meaning of Evil

How’s that for a Wednesday title?

Yesterday I became involved in a discussion on an alumni listserv that started out being about our classmate George “Marty” Zinkhan and evolved (or devolved) into a discussion about the nature of evil and the use of that word in discourse.

We found ourselves discussing it as a family (while watching “The Daily Show”) — and several people pointed out to me that I am not shy about using the word when linking it to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Dubya, and others of that ilk.

When I use the term here, I am nearly always in a provocative and/or slightly aggressive mindset. It’s used with disgust, exasperation, and retaliatory energy. I tend to use the word more or less as a weapon — and generally against only those who use it themselves.

As I write this I realize that when I do it, it actually feels quite childish and unsatisfying to me — on the level of name-calling. If I step back and think about the word itself — and really think about what it means (or what I think it means) I am left wondering why I would ever use it at all. I can imagine applying it to particular acts, I suppose — but applying it to a person or entity is quite a bit more Biblical than my worldview sustains.

It’s a dismissive shortcut — that’s how it feels to me. I use it when I am being provocative and flip, and feeling angry.

When I use it, I recall my mother and shudder. How well I remember her railing against the Catholic Church and the way that they indoctrinated people — children especially. Meanwhile, her own children were being indoctrinated by her repetitive rants.

She called the Catholic Church evil for what it did to children. Do I call her evil?

I don’t. It doesn’t help me, either to understand her or myself. It feels more like swallowing what she spewed, and then regurgitating it.

I’m sure this will be continued, however — it’s certainly got me thinking, which is fun!

PS — The Phillies and Red Sox won last night, and there’s a WPS game this evening. I’m just saying…

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5 Responses to The Meaning of Evil

  1. Stephen says:

    Frankly I have no problem with the well-thought use of such terms as “evil.” It’s an opinion, and in some cases it may be appropriate. And for the record, Dick Cheney *is* evil… in the biblical sense!

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  2. Thanks for the comments, all! I appreciate the call to restraint – and definitely find it most challenging to be open and tolerant when I perceive someone else to not be so. But it’s that kind of stretching that makes life interesting, eh? The hard stuff … I may not relish it, but when I can welcome it, it’s where the opportunities for growth lie. (AFGO … as one friend of mine has been heard to say … “Another Fucking Growth Opportunity”!)

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  3. AMR says:

    I am not sure if there is anything more horrifying then realizing that we’re turning into our parents, even when we “like” them. It’s even more terrifying when we realize we’re repeating the same habits that caused the same deep wounds in our youth / adulthood.

    As for the “evil” comment, I think that the only thing it does it causes one to look intolerable. I live with all conservatives so I need to watch how I speak about “the other side”. I like people to know that they can be open with me about their thoughts / emotions and I work really hard to ensure that I’m not saying something that will deter them from establishing that type of relationship with me.

    But it sure is hard to resist the urge to not take full advantage of the luxury of “freedom of speech”! πŸ™‚

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  4. P.S. You have an online store with teeshirts, etc?! How amazingly creative you are!!!!!!!!!

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  5. Hi, Jordy, I absolutely am thrilled with your follow-up to the discussion. Yes, you are pushing thought forward. BTW, I did not realize that Catholicism figured into your mother’s equation. I hope to hear more about this aspect. Sincerely, your former schoolmate Donata

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