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A New Kind of Evil

Edward Tufte -- as photographed by Genevieve LiangIT SEEMS FASHIONABLE these days to point a finger at something rather innocuous and pronounce it 'evil'.

For example, Edward Tufte declared recently in a Wired article that Powerpoint is 'evil'; two colleagues labelled our institution's course management system 'evil'; a churchmate said that the Harry Potter influence on children is 'evil'; and i've called closed-minded people 'evil', especially those who judge things or people based on hearsay, without trying to find out what they are really about.

At first, it was all quite amusing. After a while, something seems amiss. 'Evil' is being trivialised as though 'real evil' doesn't exist in reality. 'Evil' gets equated with minor sins such as 'white elephant', 'silly', 'inconsistent', 'inferior', 'ignorant', or anything else that 'open minds' (or are they 'closed minds'?) cannot stand. Worse, like the witch hunters, Nazis or Klu Klux Klan of old, some people may even demonize and attack viciously what they mistake for 'evil'.

Could this be a kind of evil -- perhaps not so new afterall -- in itself?

HAD A DREADFUL experience last Friday. A sharp-tongued colleague (A.) emailed a stinging insult to me (cc the entire team, including my reporting officer), then later said he "was just having fun" and "that's the way I am". Another colleague, a bohemian amoral type, kept telling me not to take this seriously. Was quite upset for a while, with the second colleague as well, for not advising A. not to do what he did. Perhaps he even approved of it! Contemplated returning tit for tat in various forms. Finally concluded that if that's the way A. is, that's not the way i am or want to be -- i shall not descend to his level.

Maybe he is feeling quite miserable inside to feel the need to find 'fun' in insulting people. Was reminded of what Robert Mckee said during one of his STORY seminars here in Singapore last January, "Comedians, especially satirists, are often very angry men." He should know how it feels, being a very humorous storyteller and a very angry man himself. Mckee added, "Such men learnt through experience that jokes are the best way to make people listen to you on issues that you are angry about."

Just that in this case, it's neither funny nor fair. All i had done prior to the incident was to explain via email why my involvement in the team's training sessions over the past two months had been very low (compared to the rest), and what i'd done to compensate for that. Wasn't blowing my own trumpet or putting anyone down, as A. implied sarcastically.

It's scary how something innocuous like anger over an apparent wrong can turn into prejudice, resentment, bitterness, rage, hate, and even malice. Didn't realise the damage it can do until a series of encounters recently -- an LRSS debate sparked off deeper reading, asking and searching; seeing how 'ugly' other people can become when they lose their tempers with one another; hearing the Sacred Heart song in May; reading a book called Good and Angry by Turansky and Miller, William Blake's A Poison Tree and The Clod and the Pebble as well as Khoo Kheng-Hor's Applying Sun Tzu's Art of War in Managing Your Money.

A quotation from Khoo's book explains why one should not act on one's anger, "No ruler should put troops into the battlefield because he is angry; no general should fight because he is resentful... For an angry man can later become happy, a resentful man become pleased, but a kingdom once destroyed can never be restored nor the dead be brought back to life."

The Turansky & Miller book sums it all quite well, for example:

"[anger] is a gift from God... Jesus was perfect, yet he experienced emotions:
Anxiety: Matthew 26:38-39
Grief: John 11:35
Sadness: Luke 19:41-42
Joy: John 15:11
Compassion: Mark 1:41
Love: John 14:31
Anger: Mark 3:1-5
Peace: John 14:27

"Figure 1: Intensity Levels for Basic Emotions

[Mild] -> [Strong] -> [Out of Control]

Solemn -> Sadness -> Grief
Irritated -> Anger -> Rage
Encouraged -> Joy -> Possessiveness
Bored -> Disgust -> Hate
Apprehensive -> Fear -> Terror
Mistaken -> Guilt -> Failure
Curious -> Anticipation -> Obsession
Distracted -> Surprise -> Amazement
Apathetic -> Hopelessness -> Despair

"It's a lifestyle of anger that the Scriptures condemn.

'An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.' -- Proverbs 29:22

'Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger; brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.' -- Ephesians 4:31

Putting It All Together

When You See...
Emotions in yourself and others, view them as assets to be managed instead of liabilities to be eliminated. Anger points out that something is wrong and needs attention.

Move into a Routine...
Before you react with anger, consider a wise way to respond. Separate the trigger of anger from the response. Wisdom often results from thoughtful reflection. Your choice to respond in a more gentle or creative way may be just the thing that helps a person change.

God created us as emotional beings, and those emotions provide insight into life. However, anger is good for identifying problems but not good for solving them."

by tree#138680 on Sun Sep 07 03 9:59 am | profile



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