The problem, of course, is twofold: First, very few animals outside of Disney movies behave with any dark motivation outside of simple survival. As such, this comparison, as was noted by one speaker at the Fogel funerals, is not entirely fair to animals. The poor sharks and lions only want a meal. They are not out to eradicate the seals and the antelope.
But more importantly, it makes our life too easy. People possess the creative potential to, say, paint the Sistine Chapel; preserve it for hundreds of years; and also the brilliance to design a machine that can theoretically destroy it from thousands of miles away, in roughly 15 seconds. Animals? That is a convenient slander against nature, which surely can be cruel, but is rarely quite as thorough and as indignant afterwards, as people tend to be.
No. Evil is something else entirely, something that seeks to muddle the lines between prey and predator, and between creativity and destruction, in the first place. We try with all of our might to avoid calling it what it is, because it is very painful, and it demands too much of us. The fact that murderers have historically failed to recognize the humanity in their victims before destroying a family, or even large chunks of nations, does not automatically absolve them of their own human status. We’d like it to be so, but it is not.
Calling them animals makes it too easy to punish the predators in less than moral ways, and too hard to demand accountability from them. But it is certainly high time we demanded accountability and measured justice - from everyone.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has placed this package squarely at the feet of the Palestinian Authority, making plain that perverse religious and nationalist incitement to violence and the evil dehumanization of Jews sits at the heart of Friday night’s vicious attack. True. But I think that is only part of the story. There are many parts.
Bizarre new culture
Here’s another: There is a much more benign evil, and it is one we pay to have delivered into our civilized, human, Western homes, where it grows quietly malignant, into numbness, and keeps us from ever doing anything about anything. It is an evil that seeks pleasure in doing very little but sitting and watching, one that enjoys seeing people, other humans, squirm just a little.
It is an evil that sits in judgment of far away nations vying for land, or for God, or for whatever, its learned rulings based on the deep and considered knowledge that this segment is only five minutes long, and after that is the sports roundup, unless it is a really bad conflict, in which case, bloody hell, this is a freaking long report.
It is an evil that holds a bag of chips in hand when proclaiming this or that dying tribe the loser, and then changes the channel, in order to watch much sexier people in tribal makeup and strategically ripped clothing insult each other as they fake vie for fake land, presided over by a metrosexual man with a torch, which I’ve always thought is an interesting riff on the Statue of Liberty.
I call this “evil” - and do not feel it is too much of a stretch - because I see a direct relationship between the depravity of Western culture, reality TV in particular, and the West’s inability to adjudicate and define real conflict, real danger, real psychosis - and not just the smart, sexy, unshaven kind.
But perhaps this bizarre new culture is the symptom, and not the cause, of our complete loss of a moral compass.
In our strange new morality, in a world that feeds on Schadenfreud (the sadistic pleasure derived from the misfortune of others,) watching people fail or fall is somehow profoundly entertaining and soothing to the public ego. Gladiators, all.
In our strange new morality, we have reversed empathy at its core, and instead try to keep the “other” down. At all costs must we remain comfortable, superior, entertained, and unconfused.
There is nothing more human than wanting to strip people who make us feel oh so awkward of the title: Human. But we all own that one together. We share the human race with all manner of humans, the good, the bad, the evil, the lazy, the stupid, and the shallow. Those who create, and those who destroy.
It is both a very small and our hugest task to simply know the difference. And then to howl.
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