September 29, 2012 by P. J. Toscano
Harry Reid has stated publicly that Mitt Romney is not the face of Mormonism http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865563351/Is-Mitt-Romney-the-face-of-Mormonism-Sen-Harry-Reid-says-no.html .
But Mormonism has more than one face. In a prior post I identified seven of them http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/the-new-mormonism/ .
In my view, Romney undoubtedly represents at least the face of corporate Mormonism. I wish in this post to raise the following questions: How much does the face of corporate Mormonism resemble the face of the Romney campaign? And how much, if at all, does either of these faces resemble the face of evil?
I believe in evil. I have even developed a definition of it:
Evil is the knowing, willful, intentionally self-serving, and persistent or horrendous exploitation of any imbalance of power by which the more powerful maintains control of the less powerful by exercising authority without adequate accountability and by taking actions, making definitions, creating rules, or rendering judgments that are unfair, unequal, and non-reciprocal in order to take advantage of the inexperience, ignorance, fear, confusion, weakness, or delusion of the less powerful for the principal purpose of perpetuating the power imbalance that feeds the demands of the more powerful and their institutions without regard to the needs, rights, entitlements, dignities, or empowerment of others.
This definition is long and perhaps not yet in its most elegant form. But it is necessary to distinguish evil from ordinary and occasional criminality, wrongdoing, greed, stupidity, or insensitivity. The distinction in the definition turns on the words “knowing, willful, intentionally self-serving, and persistent.”
Not every crime, tort, breach of contract, or other wrong is necessarily evil or perpetrated by evil persons or institutions. To be evil, the act must be exploitive. And it is not enough that it be perpetrated with knowledge because a person can act knowingly but not willingly. Thus, the exploitation must be knowing and willful. Additionally, it must also be intentionally self-serving rather than merely coincidentally so in order to distinguish acts of violence done defensively or excusably from those done maliciously or opportunistically. Finally, to distinguish the extraordinary nature of evil from ordinary human nature, the exploitation must be persistent (as in serial killings or systemic as in a legal system that discriminates invidiously) or horrendous (as in a single, massive terrorist attack on bystanders).
It is easier to define evil, however imperfectly, than it is to understand the characteristics of those who do evil. This is due partly to the portrayal of evil in movies, where it is often imbued with drama or melodrama. In reality, evil is mostly banal. The most familiar late 20th century icons of evil are Hitler and the NAZI party, the names of which almost automatically conjure images of dictatorial fist-shaking or elegantly uniformed goose-stepping, events that happened relatively infrequently when compared with the banal slamming of rubber stamps onto documents of deportation and extermination, undramatic and unphotogenic acts of bureaucratic evil that occurred with Teutonic efficiency thousands of times a day throughout Germany and its occupied territories during the period of the Third Reich.
So what are the banal characteristics of those most likely to commit evil? My list is set out below. The more of these characteristic had by an individual or institution, the more likely that such is evil:
1. A lack of self-doubt coupled with an attitude of unshakeable certainty regarding one’s worldview, belief-structure, or agenda.
2. A lack of compassion coupled with a narcissistic obsession for power, privilege, or leisure.
3. An avoidance of self-deprecating humor coupled with a penchant for ridicule often of a despised or pitied underclass.
4. An urge to export information while rejecting knowledge that is not exploitable.
5. An habitual resort to cruelty to or contempt for others as a means to cover one’s ignorance.
6. An inability or unwillingness to forgive others coupled with one’s own self-righteousness.
7. A persistent neglect of facts and pragmatism in favor of ideology.
8. An inability to read multiple meanings in a single text or event (that is, a lack of irony) coupled with a thirst for sentimentality.
9. A habitual avoidance of oppression by the exertion of coercion.
10. A tendency to focus on the petty (“straining at gnats”) while overlooking the serious (“ignoring the weightier matters”).
11. A demand for good manners and courtesies in others in order to soften, deflect or neutralize criticism and truth-telling.
If these characteristics define the face of evil, how does that face compare with the face of corporate Mormonism? With the faces of the Romney and Obama campaigns? With one’s own face? With the face of one’s own campaigns, institutions, and even hopes and aspirations?
What think ye?