When we hear of monsters we think of the alien, the otherworldly, the strange and unexpected. When we explore a notch deeper, we imagine those archetypal fears common to all of us on a survival level: the fear of the dark; of the dead; fear of the unknown; fear of being eaten; fear of the Other.
Last week Giselle mentioned her suspicion of the black/white absolutes: Good and Evil. She questions whether or not these poles actually exist. Perhaps they do exist, but not as opposing poles. Instead, they’re lying side-by-side within us.
The Christian fundamentalist feels he’s doing a righteous and holy act when he shoots an abortion doctor or blows up a clinic. His supporters label him a hero, a preserver of lives. How hypocritical in our terms, but he, and the world he associates with, believe he’s doing the right thing. They can recite biblical passages to render useless any self-examination of their own actions.
So too with the uneducated Islamic militant who gives his life in a suicide bombing. His primary basis of knowledge consists of hand-selected quotes from a single ancient document. But in this man’s own conscience, he’s doing his part in making the world a better place. As a martyr, maybe he’s thinking of heaven for himself. In his perception, he’s not only making the ultimate sacrifice; he’s doing a favor for mankind in the process.
Religious dogma is not the only guilty party. Atheist conventions of thought produced the communist doctrine that caused such havoc in 20th century Eurasia. For that matter, the far right Hitler thought he was making the world a better place. He’s a monster, just as Stalin was. Together, these monsters conceived, propagated and exacted disaster after disaster in the name of righteousness. The evil was there, cuddled up right next to the altruism.
Of course, I’m noting extremes here, and perhaps that’s the point. It’s the system of values that embrace the absolute acceptance of extreme behavior that leads us to those horrors.
Dogma requires an uncompromising confidence in certitudes. As a world, we’ve been in a nonstop forward intellectual thrust since the Renaissance. Lately, our understanding of the physical world has accelerated at an unprecedented pace, with the results benefitting mostly those in the upper end of the economic spectrum.
Now, the capitalist “Market” has acquired the authority of a god. “Remove all regulation, and the ‘Market’ will take care of itself,” they tell us. “Just have faith,” they say.
What happens if this disparity in knowledge and understanding becomes even greater? Those people in the lower income societies will receive even less of an education. Power will continue to concentrate in the upper echelons.
Those relegated to ignorance, become ever more vulnerable. As always, power will use that ignorance to preserve its own dogma. A likely scenario could be the dawning of a new dark age. Whether it’s Christ, Allah, or an economic idealism run amok, in the eyes of the believer, it’s all exacted in an air of absolute certitude in the path, as well as unwavering faith in a common goal.
So perhaps the monster is not so otherworldly after all. Maybe the idealistic human spirit, operating without the benefit of critical approach, could be the culprit.