Recognizing the Face of Evil


September 29, 2012 by P. J. Toscano

          Harry Reid has stated publicly that Mitt Romney is not the face of Mormonism  .

          But Mormonism has more than one face. In a prior post I identified seven of them  .

          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.

12. Hypocrisy.

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?

4 thoughts on “Recognizing the Face of Evil

  1. gomw says:

    I don’t think Romney is evil but I see in him some of the characteristics included in your definition. I also see some of them in myself. Frankly, as a believing and practicing Mormon, i find him a threat to the progress of our Church. Initially, I saw him as confused by his ambition and the advise of his political advisers. I saw his “flip flops” as they are called as his having a problem trying to be someone he was not or championing issues in which he didn’t really believe.

    The captured tapes tell me different. I’m afraid he was being totally honest and expressed his true attitude. I wasn’t as concerned with his lack of understanding of who the people in his 47% are but his portrayal of them as people who are there because they are lazy and want someone to take care of them is as far from Christian as you can be. Even if they are, we are still commanded to take care of them. But I have some in my family, too many, that fall in the category of paying no taxes. The pay no taxes because they can’t get work or work for such low wages, they aren’t required to pay taxes. Paradoxically, some will vote for Romney! One is a grandson who was deployed in the oil wars five times and was prevented from leaving the service through the stop-loss program. He is now going to school on the GI Bill and is one of Romney’s parasites living off the government.,

    Yes, I think the real Romney has stood up and I’m am thoroughly disturbed, not only by the mindless support because he is a Mormon and must be good, but even more by the apparent agreement by too many members with his nomenclature, as it were, of the 47%. Sometimes I feel like I am in a foreign land when I am at church. I pray, literally, every night that our leaders do not openly endorse him.

    One of the questions I ask my Mormon republican friends is: “Since there is a priesthood holder running for president, God will make him president if it is his will. Will you accept his defeat as an act of God?” So far, none have been willing to make that commitment. Frankly, if he wins, I am not ready to make that commitment.

  2. LDSDPer says:

    Another excellent post!

    I will read this again and again–

    I am frustrated with myself, because I do believe that Romney is evil, and I find it hard to believe that I can have this opinion when all (most) around me believe that he is a righteous man–
    I self-doubts are disturbing my sleep at night–*some humor*

    How can *I* believe a man to be evil whom so many believe to be good?

    How can it be that someone who looks SO good can be evil? I have heard so many reports of his ‘service’, and yet that doesn’t seem to make up for the malignant things he has done–

    I have inspected my soul numerous times over this–

    but I believe he is evil. I don’t know how he could have gotten into his present position without knowing what he is doing. I watched the youtube of his speaking with the MD sufferer about medical marijuana, and I saw his self-righteous narrow-mindedness. I read the article about his heavy involvement with Monsanto, and I saw his avariciousness–

    I am at odds with my fellow church members in my own ward. My spouse and I share the same beliefs/political opinions, and we have studied this long and hard, trying not to be self-righteous about it–

    and we are losing long-time friends over it–

    It seems that, lately, a requirement for belonging to our ward is to discuss the virtues of having Romney as a president in the foyers, hallways, SS classes, YW/YM and priesthood classes–and to pray for the ‘success’ of the American troops overseas . . . –one of our closest ward friends is pro-Romney but has been disturbed lately by so much obvious hatred of Islam displayed during SS classes; on that we agree wholeheartedly with him–

    the only member of our family free from this is the one who teaches in the primary–

    we dread going to church before the elections, and we dread going after–

    because we are told that a vote for anyone other than Romney is a vote for Obama, and above all, *we* must get ‘rid’ of Obama.
    We are not Obama supporters; we are not happy with his pro-war presidential decisions–

    but in our opinion(s), he is certainly no worse than Romney and perhaps better, because he does not have access to the Book of Mormon.
    Romney should “know better”?

    Indeed, so we believe–
    and here we are–
    Thank you for this; I’ll be sharing it with my spouse later–

    very well done–

    • AV says:

      I know how you feel and being one of the only ones who can see the evil in the world around you, when everyone seems to not be able to see it.

      But the ancient prophets in the BoM saw our day and prophesied that such would happen today, that everyone in the Church would become corrupt and deceived to support and do evil, except a rare few.

      The foretold latter day apostasy of the Church has happened, it happened right after Joseph Smith’s death, when part of the Church was taken over by apostates like BrighamYoung and other leaders who fell for whoredoms like polygamy.

      Joseph Smith had continually warned the Saints his whole life of polygamy, telling them that it was a whoredom and an abomination and abuse of women. He warned them that they would be damned if they fell for it, yet so many refused to listen to him and thus they lost their Prophet and many were led astray by false prophets like Brigham Young.

      Joseph Smith never preached or practiced polygamy, though most people today easily fall for the lies, rumors and hearsay that he did, but there is no proof of it. But there is tons of documented and published proof by Joseph himself during his lifetime, that he preached and fought strongly against it. But few believe him, most would rather believe lies about the Prophet Joseph Smith.

      We must rely on the Holy Spirit and stay true to the BoM and the original D&C that Joseph Smith gave us, not the changed version that BY had printed. For he cast out many vital truths and put in many falsehoods to lead the people astray.

      It is the disposition of most people to fall for false prophets and think they are true prophets, so we must make sure we have the Holy Spirit as our guide and judge everything said and done by anyone against what the scritpures say. And wait until Christ and Joseph Smith return to re-establish the true church and gospel here on the earth. Until then we can only gather together as families and friends to teach each other the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as Joseph Smith taught it.

  3. Forest Simmons says:

    I think of evil as intentional efforts to frustrate God’s work.

    Many mortals, including Romney, are instruments of evil without being aware of the full ramifications of their actions.

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