Thursday, July 10, 2014

We Allow Evil

I would like to illustrate a thesis.  My thesis is that most of us are allowing bad people to succeed in doing bad things.  Most of us agree on a few basic principles:  It's bad to strike someone without provocation.  It's bad to take something that belongs to someone else.  It's bad to step on someone else's sandwich, juice box, puppy, child, or foot.  It's bad to push someone into a cage, and then lock it so that they can't get out.  It's bad to break a promise.

Most of the things I've described as bad don't seem so bad when certain people such as authority figures do them.  For example, a parent spanking his or her child doesn't seem as bad as anyone else spanking the child.  A police officer pushing someone into a cage and then locking it doesn't seem as bad as someone who isn't a police officer doing it.

It angers me a little bit to see parent's strike their children because it teaches violence and control, rather than reason and self-control.  However, I view this problem as a side-effect of something much worse.  After all, parents love their victims most of the time, not because they can extract resources from the children, but because they enjoy the happiness that those children can feel, and they are fun to be around, and they're family.

It angers me a lot to see police officers taking advantage of this acquiescence to authority because it teaches violence and control rather than reason and self-control.  The love a police officer feels for his victim is laughable when compared to that of a parent for his or her child.  Yes, I hear your "butts".

"But it's their job to enforce the law," you think.  Let's start there.  If I hire you as an assassin, then it's your job to murder someone.  Does that make it right?  Is murder transformed into a morally sound activity by virtue of being a service rendered for payment?  Of course not.  So from where does this objection come?  I think I've got it: The enforcement of laws is what keeps society from becoming disordered.

If it were true that the order in society comes from the enforcement of laws, then I would agree with you.  I don't think it does, however.  As a personal example, I have broken many laws and not had any enforcement action taken against me and my life seems to be a bit more ordered than most.  I have had enforcement actions taken against me, and they are nearly always quite disruptive and disorderly.  I will assume that this is true for most of my readers simply because they were smart and curious enough to read this far.  However, I bet that my assumption about "other people" is different from yours.  I think it's true for most people.  If they are left to break laws willy-nilly, they find a way to have a pretty ordered life, but as soon as law enforcement starts acting against them, it becomes disorderly.

One of the best examples I can think of is the black market.  Black markets exist all over the planet, and they do so only because laws are not enforced.  They may be dangerous and even lethal, but they are orderly for the most part.  Markets that are not orderly, whether in full compliance with laws or not at all compliant, soon disappear.  There are some fundamental reasons for this, I think.  These reasons apply not only to markets, which are simply the aggregate of individual participants, but to the individuals themselves.  In fact, the operations of these reasons in individuals is what causes them to operate on the market as a whole.

When an individual either isn't aware or doesn't care that others will make him suffer for particular behaviors, it is very easy for that individual to undertake those behaviors.  If there's a law against something, a lot of people who would do it otherwise will not do it.  Their true nature is hidden by the law.  Controlling people hides them from us.  The true nature of other people is hidden from us when they are afraid to show themselves.

Additionally, if a law is enforced, then the natural consequences of the prohibited behavior are often submerged in the effects of the enforcement.  The enforcement of laws warps reality so that it is harder for people to understand it.  The learning cycle is broken.  Human beings have a natural learning cycle, constantly at work in infants.  Seemingly random behaviors are willed into existence, and they produce various effects.  The brain of an infant correlates the willed action with the effects in a constant effort to learn how willing can alter reality in a desirable direction.

Enforcement of law is generally based on pain, either financial, physical, social, or some combination of those three kinds of pain.  Pain causes fear and embeds itself in the memory as a warning against repeating whatever actions may have contributed to the pain.  Fear retards the learning cycle.  Pain causes this fear, and law enforcement causes the pain.  This is true for both manmade law and natural law.

Vertigo is an unpleasant feeling that many people feel when they perceive a great distance in a downward direction.  This mental effect is an evolved trait that protects us from the natural law of gravity.  However, there is no punishment for looking down.  The punishment comes from actually falling, and we learn to be more careful, or we become acrophobic, or both.

We also have an instinct to distinguish between pain that comes from another human and pain that comes from the natural world.  As children, we learn the word "blame" and tend to overuse it.  Hell, we keep overusing it as adults too, unless we figure some stuff out, like how blame tends to prevent us from improving ourselves to avoid pain in the future.  But when a punishment does bring us pain because another, an enforcer, whether a parent or a cop or a justice system, has decided that we ought to be punished, we know there is nothing there to learn except fear.  So we learn to fear and be controlled, and our own tendency to reason and strengthen our self-control atrophies.

I am comfortable calling that evil.  We allow it.  Well, YOU allow it, I suspect.  I tolerate it and write essays like this one to try to minimize it.  I'd like to see blame and punishment go away.  They are harmful over the long term.  They weaken people and encourage individual self discipline to atrophy.  They are demoralizing.  They introduce suffering into existence that could have been avoided.  They may prevent some suffering, but there is more joy prevented by them so that the net effect is negative.  They are evil.  Stop allowing them.  Stop engaging in them.