RANGER AGAINST WAR: When She was Good. . . <

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When She was Good. . .

When she was good,
She was very, very good,

And when she was bad,

she was horrid

--There Was a Little Girl

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When I'm good I'm very good,

but when I'm
bad I'm better
--Mae West,
I'm No Angel (1933)

Why must I be surrounded by frickin' idiots?

--Dr. Evil, Austin Powers (1997)

Look at the faces

Listen to the bells

It's hard to believe

we need a place called hell

--Devil Inside


Mssrs. McCain and Obama held forth on evil at Mr. Warren's Orange County megachurch warren this past Saturday. I did not view it, but if you are a glutton for punishment, the video is here. Our friend tw sent Al Jazeera's take, which predictably mocked U.S. provincialism and hypocrisy.

What strikes me, aside from the obvious dissonance (a pastor leading a political debate at his church, and the candidates actually addressing the topic of evil) is the ease with which the term "evil" has entered the political lexicon.

Seventeen years ago,
Time magazine ran an issue devoted to the topic: "The Nature of Evil: Does it Exist, or Do Bad things Just Happen? (6/10/91)" It was an interrogative, and the featured essayists came down on either side of the matter. Sixteen years later Time fronted an issue which took the matter of the existence of evil for granted: "What Makes us Good/Evil? (12.3.07)"

The 1991 cover is a blackout, implying a void, an unknown quantity. This not a Loony Tunes cartoon, and there is no devil with a pitchfork on one shoulder, angel on the other. It offers neither a prescription nor an easy answer.

Contrast 1991 with 2007, which feature an interior view of the brain, with dotted lines pointing to different regions for "good" and "evil," implying that the very chemistry of our mind is wired to produce one or the other result. The "Good/Evil" construction posed in the question implies a duality, but it does not suggest the possibility of the absence of either quality. This is a quasi-scientific, anatomical rendering of the origin of evildoing.

In just over 15 years, pop culture has gone from engaging in a dialog on the possibility of evil to the presumption of its existence; in fact, its indwelling within the human character. We were once bad or good. Now the dichotomy is anted-up. We are either good, or we are evil.

This dialectic is firmly within the purview of a religious dialog. However, it certainly is not a humanistic one. Roll back at least 250 years to a fork in the road, and do not choose Jefferson, but rather the Rev. Jonathan Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." How would the U.S. Constitution rest on that bedrock?

What does this imply about our mores in 2008 AD?

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Anonymous Labrys said...

I can't even touch this with a ten foot pole....now, maybe with a 15 ft Swiss pike...

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 10:35:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

labrys, would you touch this with 2 five foot czechs? jim

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 10:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

candy barr was really quite a star
she's the only girl that did that dirty donkey
when she went to jail
she dumped her bail
on this snow white uptight do right dallas honky
little lady's only trying to get her kicks
shot a man down and the next day she walked free
texas law giving two to life for loco weed
hell, i don't need a judge to tell me
just how the punishment fits the deed

when she's good
mmmm mmmm she's good
but when she's bad
she's better

jerry riopelle

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 11:52:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


One of Texas's finest.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 12:40:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only if those two Czechs are poets with poisonous pens!

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 1:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger PeterofLoneTree said...

I recommend a look at an essay entitled Political Ponerology: A Science on The Nature of Evil adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrew M. Lobaczewski which begins:
"Pathocracy is a disease of great social movements followed by entire societies, nations, and empires. In the course of human history, it has affected social, political, and religious movements as well as the accompanying ideologies… and turned them into caricatures of themselves…. This occurred as a result of the … participation of pathological agents in a pathodynamically similar process. That explains why all the pathocracies of the world are, and have been, so similar in their essential properties."

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 2:51:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you--reminiscent of that wonderful Journal of Pop Culture hoax a while back.

[BTB: I recall seeing recently that you are engaged (?) If not a hoax, I send my congratulations to you and the bride-to-be.]

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 4:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

pls don't let it get around that we czechs have poisonous pens - it'll ruin my social life. jim

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 4:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL...but you see, I love poetic license. Being mostly of Celtic/Nordic ancestry...a viperous tongue was considered an asset in a bard/poet!

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 5:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Mad Celt said...

I am not good. I am not evil. I am mad.

"Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast."

- Isaac Asimov

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 6:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Mad Celt,

Or as the Good Lord said, "I am that I am," or "I shall be that I shall be." I am in the process of becoming, but surely not "evil" or "good".

Why does the Lord love a sinner? Because of his transformative potential. We are refined substance--shape-shifters in the best sense.

"Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field- I'll meet you there" (Rumi) The Asimov quotation is excellent.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 9:40:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous MAS said...

Bell shaped curve, with most of us in middle. We're malleable to some degree, but some are damaged presumably beyond repair ... by genetics, infection, brain tumors, or societal or personal abuse/neglect/corruption.

The Corleones ...Adam Lanza... the Beltway snipers and Boston bombers...

Books of interest:

--Guilty by Reason of Insanity, Dorothy Ottnow Lewis

--The Psychopath Inside, James Fallon. This one shows the possible malleability of genetics


Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 11:04:00 PM GMT-5  

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