15 November 2001
Needing Evil Elsewhere
- / -
What I regret, in any exchange on the question of terrorism and evil, is how
readily we operate in terms of unquestioned assumptions.
Never has there been a use of public resources on such a scale on the basis
of less hard evidence for all to see -- or in support of something less clearly
defined, with less clear objectives (beyond the vagaries of public rhetoric),
or with less clear motives. Something really special is going on.
I would not defend the Taliban regime -- but there are many other regimes I
would not defend either and which I would dearly like replaced -- if only there
was something better on offer applicable to their circumstances and according
to their understanding! But that is primarily the business of their citizenry
-- unless we are to have a new situation, as now proposed, in which one country
or coalition goes around the world with a bomb-assisted, regime-changing program
-- focusing (only incidentally of course) on the countries from which they might
benefit economically. And using high moral principles as camouflage for their
real intentions -- eroding the credibility of our most fundamental cultural
values in the process.
Please remember we obtain our news through various propaganda programs -- Credibly
Neutered News -- that have been deliberately and explicitly set up to "win the
propaganda war". The "reel" world offers us no assurance whatsoever that what
we hear/see bears any relationship to reality.
The Taliban regime has not been tried in any international court. It has been
tried by what amounts to hearsay -- a trial by media and spin doctors. They
"repress women" -- unlike so many enlightened countries in the west which have
centuries of enlightenment on this matter and no recent history of repressing
alternative voices, mindsets and ways of being.
The Afghans are a proud people with a long history of saying f*** you to whomever
they please. I really honour and respect that. One country came to them from
far away and said "gimme" -- and they responded f*** you, unless you show me
why -- consistent with their tradition and ideology. The people who said "gimme"
would do the same -- do you remember the person responsible for the 16,000 deaths
in Bhopal? Do you even remember Bhopal?
Osama bin Laden may well be totally obnoxious. We have all seen a few video
clips -- any amateur could make them in a garage, let alone an intelligence
service. There are hundreds of web sites about people saying "death to this
person" or "death to that regime". Hyde Park Corner has people wandering around
with such messages on placards.
But again the evidence for him doing anything -- apart from wanting it done
-- would not stand up in a normal court of law, as many have observed (especially
after the trial in the media). But the coalition denies this. Has anyone heard
a hard admission of responsibility for September 11th -- or just approval for
it interpreted immediately as being admission of responsibility? And even if
he claimed it, would that make him guilty if -- mad as he is claimed to be --
he might merely be propagating that illusion of his achievements and that of
his network, whose existence has been proved to whom? Any lawyer could have
a field day with what is being passed around as evidence obtained with "physical
assistance" -- supposedly repugnant to western civilization.
What about all that funny evidence suddenly filmed in houses in Kabul -- just
lying around -- passports, manuals and organization charts of no interest to
the security services! It may indeed be evidence -- but it may indeed be planted,
if it served the interests of a coalition that has claimed it is prepared to
use "any means". Remember the criteria for proof of criminal activity : motivation,
And if he is in some way mentally deranged, as the UK government has claimed,
this too would affect his trial. Hence the need for a trial in deepest secret
-- as under totalitarian regimes -- for the most wanted man in human history!.
Western civilization will never live down the appalling shame of it -- a denial
of everything it claimed to stand for.
Does Osama really exist or is he a myth our society has needed to create to
purge itself of its own demons? But we are witness to the biggest man hunt in
the history of civilization against a person for whom there is very shaky circumstantial
evidence -- less than is available for some other notable people responsible
for massacres (some with Nobel Peace Prizes), who many would like to keep nameless.
And in the process thousands are being bombed, wounded and displaced.
The worst feature of the whole business is not those named terrorists or what
they may have been responsible for -- in anticipation of a trial - - but the
damage to due process of law in modern civilization and to the credibility of
our leaders and institutions. Poor old UN -- what is left of it as a peacekeeping
Individuals and peoples are assumed to be guilty on the most dubious of grounds
-- because someone powerful claims to know without doubt that they are guilty.
This harks backs to the days before modern systems of law. Do we have reason
to have confidence in people who make such claims? Do they have any motivation
for distorting the evidence? Do they have the opportunity to do so? Have they
the means to do so?
So some of us "know" without any doubt that Osama bin Laden is guilty and we
"know" the Taliban are guilty -- who needs a trial under such circumstances?
We "know" that bin Laden, etc were responsible for September 11th. How many
crazy groups claim responsibility for murders etc to attract attention? As to
whether there are other well- known individuals guilty of causing more deaths,
or other people operating repressive regimes -- of that we have nothing to say.
In fact we may find it very convenient to do business with them and provide
them with an ethical laundering service to reframe their own repressive activity.
What deals have been done in the pursuit of our demons?
It is only too convenient for our western society to have nasty horrible people
far away from us who need to be purged and cleansed - - however much pain it
unfortunately causes -- by the wisdom of the west as the mighty defenders of
civilization, democracy and freedom. We need people like Osama bin Laden who
are so terribly, terribly evil and demonic in our eyes that, by our efforts
to eliminate them, we can prove for all time how unquestionably very, very good
and moral and ethical we are -- for we have no other way of proving it to anyone,
especially ourselves (and certainly not by our token efforts to assist others
Of course the fact that we hear videos etc in which Osama bin Laden condemns
the west as evil and demonic may well be necessary for the psychic health of
his peoples too.
There is a strong case for coming to terms with the evil hidden within our
own societies and within our own actions. Nancy Caro Hollander, for example,
consider the idea of evil as a core element in the United States-supported authoritarian
cultures that ruled throughout Latin America from the 1960s through the 1980s.
She also explores their legacy in the contemporary corporate globalization agenda
that today assaults basic human rights, working people's standards of living,
and the natural environment. (see The
Suit Behind the Uniform: An Evil Partnership)
Defining others as evil is absolutely the very best method of guaranteeing
-- in one's own eyes at least -- that one is oneself morally superior and not
in need of any improvement. It is good to be able to devote all available resources
to "war on terrorism" and avoid use of the same resources on problems closer
to home -- such as the quality of dialogue on this profoundly challenging topic.
Our tragedy in this dialogue is that we buy into this rubbish and have no way
of moving beyond it or envisioning anything better -- which is why we are stuck
in it. But will we learn anything by simply replicating the wider conflict in
our treatment of each other?
It is amazing how no one understands how everyone is misguided -- except me
N. Altman and J. Tiemann. Evil: Toward an Integration of Religious and Psychoanalytic
Frameworks. Mind and Human Interaction: Windows Between History, Culture,
Politics, and Psychoanalysis, 11, 2000, 2, pp. 145-155.
Nancy Caro Hollander. The Suit Behind the Uniform: An Evil Partnership. Mind
and Human Interaction: Windows Between History, Culture, Politics, and
Psychoanalysis, 11, 2,
p. 108-118 (Theme: Defining Evil) [text]
- 911+ Questions in Seeking UnCommon Ground: and protecting the Middle Way
from Binary Thinking, 2001 [text]
- Enabling Creative Response to Extraordinary Crises, 2001 [text]
- War against Terra, 2002 [text]
- And When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians,
- Being Bushed: multiple personality disorder in a globalized
religious flatland, 2001 [text]
Doug Linder. Searching for Evil: an examination of the nature of evil and
its persistence in the American legal system. 2001 [text]