Just trump evil
I was recently introduced to a card game by some relatives, and as with many card games, there’s a “trump card” element. Of course, the nature of the trump card is that in spite of how good of a hand you’ve played, how lucky or unlucky you are, how well you’ve executed a plan, it can all be rendered irrelevant in a flash by someone producing the trump card.
We live in a complex world. There are a million things going on—a lot good and a lot bad. How do we know which forces are winning, those of good or those of evil? Can we ignore the evil? Is there a trump card?
Where we’ve been; where we’re going
Because Greg Swann contributed in no small way to my decision to recapture in my writing an outlook about things that I used to possess, I emailed and asked his comments on my posts here and here. He replied:
I think it's great, both of your recent entries. It seems very reasonable to me that normal people will pursue rational values most of the time, if they know what they are. The contrary proposition is that people value self-destruction, which I think is untenable. To the extent that people pursue self-destruction, it's because they think they are avoiding an alternative they view (often irrationally) as being worse. When people start to look for something better (a practical, useful definition of adulthood), they do all right by me, even if they don't share my abstract ideals. Best news, all human behavior is habit-forming: The better you do, the better you get at doing better.
Here’s how I think about what Greg is saying. Observe all of human history. Observe how we began and where we are today, and by this I mean to look at this wide perspective of humanity, but from the narrow perspective of the individual. What was the individual’s life then vs. what it is now? I’m assuming that everyone understands the vast space we’ve traveled from the primitive to the modern. If not, you’re dismissed because you don’t matter. The rest; continue.
Now, overlay this vast progression and astronomical improvement with all the bad, the evil, the injustice, the stupidity that has cascaded through human life throughout all of history. In just last century alone, the evils of Nazism, Communism, Fascism and Socialism, all told, killed somewhere between 150 and 200 million innocent people. Consider the Dark Ages before that. 1000 years of repression of scientific inquiry and knowledge. Consider the imperial conquests of the Greeks, the Romans, the French, and the Germans (in the Western world) that left millions of dead in their wakes.
Yet in spite of all of it; ALL of it, the average guy all over the world is far better off than he was 10 years ago, or 20, or 100, or 1000, or 5,000. In spite of all the evil, we do better and better. As an individual, the chances are ever greater that you will live a longer and more prosperous life than anyone who has come before you, and the father back you go to compare, the greater the chances and the greater the disparity.
Yes, but by what standard?
What does all this tell you about human nature? I submit that the only rational conclusion to draw is that in spite of myths of “original sin” and depravity, human nature is not only good, it’s the only benevolent and Godly thing in the universe. Human nature is the very source of good. The ideal human life lived is the standard of the good
The only alternative is that we couldn’t exist at all, in the sense that human beings are meant to exist. Consider again all of the horrific evil that individuals are capable of. If humanity were depraved by nature, then it surely would not have overcome the vast swaths of evil in our history to not only triumph over them, but to continue its quest for improvement and greatness.
To be sure, there’s a lot of nonsense going on. Most of the world’s population still believes that men are evil by nature and requires the stern and judgmental hand of God or Government to keep them in line. Their mistake is that they only address a symptom. And ironically, it is their very belief in man’s depravity that completes a self-fulfilling prophesy. For, the authority of Gods and Governments is granted by its subjects and victims—those same who believe unquestioningly in their necessity and primacy.
So what’s the solution?
There can be only one, and fortunately for us, it has been working behind the scenes since the beginning of man. It’s man’s innate quest to be better off, to improve himself and his condition, and to see his offspring live better than he lived.
It’s an excruciatingly slow process, but proceeds nonetheless. Many more will die unnecessarily. Many will have everything they’ve worked for unjustly taken from them. The best governments in the world will continue to prey upon their subjects. And each new injustice will breed new generations who see the pointlessness of it for what it is. The only thing that can overcome this irrationality is that its victims refuse to be victims.
There are two things that elevate people beyond a sense of being a victim, other than the moral principles that underlie it all: Capitalism and Science/Technology. Capitalism has been imperfectly implemented, of course, but even in socialist democracies, it uplifts people to a sense of self-sufficiency and pride.
Capitalism, science and their technological offspring out compete God and Government. The one thing the purveyors of God myths didn’t count on way back when was man’s eventual capacity to go beyond God’s miracles of the time. This puts them in a pinch, today. Does that mean there’s no God? Of course not; He’s just not who you thought He was.
So in the widest sense, God is our trump card. God is why evil is unimportant in that widest context of humanity. He always comes out on top, in the end. But God is you. You are that goodness. You are the key to the future, and you always have been. Trust that you will do well, and that others will too.