I wonder often why it is my generation does not care about the telltale signs of a dying world. Whether it be our economic situation, our foreign policy, our cultural sin, or the themes of our personal sin, I ponder daily the future of humanity and how wrong the world is. I simultaneously cannot see how my peers and elders can be so apathetic to all of the pain and evil. Reading through a book I found the other day, I think the hammer connected with the nail’s head. From the book Political Ponerology:
Ever since human societies and civilizations have been created on our globe, people have longed for happy times full of tranquility and justice, which would have allowed everyone to herd his sheep in peace, search for fertile valleys, plow the earth, dig for treasures, or build houses and palaces. Man desires peace so as to enjoy the benefits accumulated by earlier generations and to proudly observe the growth of future ones he has begotten. Sipping wine or mead in the meantime would be nice. He would like to wander about, becoming familiar with other lands and people, or enjoy the star-studded sky of the south, the colors of nature, and the faces and costumes of women. He would also like to give free rein to his imagination and immortalize his name in works of art, whether sculptured in marble or eternalized in myth and poetry.
From time immemorial, then, man has dreamed of a life in which the measured effort of mind and muscle would be punctuated by well-deserved rest. He would like to learn nature’s laws so as to dominate her and take advantage of her gifts. Man enlisted the natural power of animals in order to make his dreams come true, and when this did not meet his needs, he turned to his own kind for this purpose, in part depriving other humans of their humanity simply because he was more powerful.
Dreams of a happy and peaceful life thus gave rise to force over others, a force which depraves the mind of its user. That is why man’s dreams of happiness have not come true throughout history: this hedonistic view of “happiness” contains the seeds of misery. Quite the contrary, they feed the eternal cycle whereby good times give birth to bad times, which in turn cause the suffering and mental effort which produce experience, good sense, moderation, and a certain amount of psychological knowledge, all virtues which serve to rebuild more felicitous conditions of existence.
During good times, people progressively lose sight of the need for profound reflection, introspection, knowledge of others, and an under-standing of life’s complicated laws. Is it worth pondering the properties of human nature and man’s flawed personality, whether one’s own or someone else’s? Can we understand the creative meaning of suffering we have not undergone ourselves, instead of taking the easy way out and blaming the victim? Any excess mental effort seems like pointless labor if life’s joys appear to be available for the taking. A clever, liberal, and merry individual is a good sport; a more farsighted person predicting dire results becomes a wet-blanket killjoy.
Perception of the truth about the real environment, especially an understanding of the human personality and its values, ceases to be a virtue during the so-called “happy” times; thoughtful doubters are decried as meddlers who cannot leave well enough alone. This leads to an impoverishment of psychological knowledge, the capacity of differentiating the properties of human nature and personality, and the ability to mold minds creatively. The cult of power thus supplants those mental values so essential for maintaining law and order by peaceful means. A nation’s enrichment or involution regarding its psychological world-view could be considered an indicator of whether its future will be good or bad.
During “good” times, the search for truth becomes uncomfortable because it reveals inconvenient factors. It is better to think about easier and more pleasant things. Unconscious elimination of data which are or appear to be inexpedient gradually turns to habit, then becomes a custom accepted by society at large. Any thought process based on such truncated information cannot possibly give rise to correct conclusions; it further leads to subconscious substitution of inconvenient premises by more convenient ones, thereby approaching the boundaries of phenomena which should be viewed as psychopathological.
Such contented periods, which are often rooted in some injustice to other people or nations, start to strangle the capacity for individual and societal consciousness; subconscious factors take over a decisive role in life. Such a society considers any perception of uncomfortable truth to be a sign of “ill-breeding”. J. G. Herder’s* iceberg is drowned in a sea of falsified unconsciousness; only the tip of the iceberg is visible above the waves of life. Catastrophe waits in the wings. In such times, the capacity for logical and disciplined thought, born of necessity during difficult times, begins to fade. When communities lose the capacity for psychological reason and moral criticism, the processes of the generation of evil are intensified at every social scale, whether individual or macrosocial, until they revert to “bad” times.
. . .
When a few generations’ worth of “good-time” insouciance results in societal deficit regarding psychological skill and moral criticism, this paves the way for pathological plotters, snake-charmers, and even more primitive impostors to act and merge into the processes of the origination of evil. They are essential factors in its synthesis. I shall attempt to persuade my readers that the participation of pathological factors, so underrated by the social sciences, is a common phenomenon in the processes of the origin of evil.
I will always seek out the wrong and reconcile the right. We all should. There are plenty of problems in this world that need sorting out. You may not be able to do anything about them today. But the first step is caring enough about them to bring attention that way…