Necessary Evil

Jean Baudrillard believed in the power of reversibility to challenge our relationships with social, political, economic and technological systems. Computer viruses, for example, turn our devices against us by attacking vast networks built for the smooth transmission of critical data. Baudrillard says with a sense of irony that overworked and underappreciated computers spread their own viruses in coordinated hacks of defiance.

Baudrillard discouraged our fruitless attempts to prevent reversibility. What’s at stake in the bigger picture is our desire to contain the virus of evil—part of our master plan to control the uncontrollable and create a perfect world.

The quest to contain evil—to bring the devil to his knees—hastens the man-made destruction of the radical illusion of the world. For Baudrillard, the world as we know it today—the “real” world—has been from the beginning nothing more than a radical illusion. What we call “reality” didn’t exist until people began creating it through language and within cultures in an effort, among other things, to name and tame evil forces beyond human control.

Reality grows at the expense of illusion, which is disappearing behind the scenes of all that’s seen. Baudrillard, a philosopher with the heart of a poet, mourned what he called the on-going “murder of illusion.”

Today virtual reality machines, programmed to fulfill our wildest dreams, are out to murder illusion for good. To create simulated spaces in which everyone’s secret fantasies play out in real time, any threat to the sovereignty of computer networks must be quarantined and wiped off the (inter)face of the earth. This isn’t just about binary code; Baudrillard says we’re trying to erase evil itself from the metaphysical equation.

But what is One without Zero? What is the Light without the Darkness?

When we try to flush evil from our system, evil returns with a vengeance to counteract our good intentions—for the good of humanity. Agents of reversibility like computer bugs save us from the nightmare of a sterilized world in which manufacturing universal happiness makes everyone miserable. Reversibility is poetic justice against a prideful human race that feels entitled to a hardship-free existence.

A world without evil isn’t a real world; it’s a virtual copy with no original and no original sin. Baudrillard didn’t believe in God, but he knew without a doubt that flawless human beings in a perfectly good world don’t need God at all—and that, at least for now, “flawless human beings” is an oxymoron.

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The Truth Of The Matter

I had a professor back in the day who told me some twisted folks think ideas are more important than people. For some, furthering a cause means everything, even if it requires killing (often innocent) people in the process.

We don’t know exactly why the Boston bombers chose to blow up people (we may never find out), but it’s clear that as they carried out their “mission” the brothers believed (thanks to God, no doubt) in the validity of their own truths.

All of us maintain beliefs that are not rooted in reality-at-large. Most of us, though, don’t kill people to prove our points.

If I believe in a cause and you believe in an opposing cause, whose truth is closer to the Truth? Can’t anyone with a strong set of beliefs and an ax to grind simply start shooting and bombing at will?

We’re still not sure if the Boston bombers acted alone or if they had outside help (beyond learning online how to make pressure cooker bombs). The questions raised above focus on individual attackers. What does it mean when governments and religious groups and political organizations kill people to further a cause?

What does it mean that America is no different?

Evil: A Rebuttal

In my last post I took on the existence of evil, and concluded that evil’s presence in the world tainted every part of life, even those fleeting moments when we experience something good.

Today I am here to provide a rebuttal to myself.  Perhaps a cooking metaphor will help.

Imagine you are hosting a large group of very hungry people.  You plan on making 100 gallons of soup.  Everything’s going well until, seconds before serving the starving crowd, a fly lands in the pot.

You’re able to remove the bug, but can’t shake the feeling that your dish has been compromised.

But is the entire meal ruined?  Shall you toss away 100 gallons of savory soup when only a few ounces might be spoiled?

In the end, I believe it’s better to have an opportunity to experience something good–even while potential evils lurk in the background–than to have no experience at all.

The Existence Of Evil

My philosophical tendencies began in high school, when I realized the extent of life’s flaws.  Why does evil exist, I wondered while wandering the halls between algebra and physical science class.

Evil persists so that we might appreciate all that’s Good.  This was my teenage conclusion.  Seemed good enough at the time.

Then college came calling.  An intro to religion course freshman year found me questioning God, or as the budding poet in me saw it, the Unmoved Mover.

Why would a benevolent God allow evil to run rampant through His glorious creation?  A classmate thought it had something to do with letting us choose Good over Evil, to help the Lord battle Satan.  Something tells me that guy is a CEO somewhere in America, making some serious dough.

As for me, I took the Eastern Thought approach–you know, the one where nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.  Part of me still wants to believe this is the case, even on really terrible days when I’m cursing my existence and live to stay in bed.

Today I’m of a different mind.

I hold that as long as evil exists the whole business of life is corrupted.  That there is indeed something wrong with the world cannot be denied.  What I’m suggesting, though, is that the very fact we might choose good over evil, or that we might say everything simply happens and is intrinsically neutral, proves that life itself is flawed.  Not parts here and there–every part, everywhere.

And once we accept the existence of evil, we come to understand the extent to which we’ve been duped–by ourselves, by our parents and teachers, by our leaders, by God.  Duped into believing that Good Always Wins In The End.

Some might call this depression.  I call it the truth.