I have often rather naively wondered why existence as a human being had to be so damn difficult compared to other creatures. A squirrel, for example, comes into the world with its squirrel life pretty much laid out before it. There are no squirrel schools, no squirrel social conventions to learn, no squirrel ethics to deal with. The squirrel has its squirrel awareness. It has its squirrel instincts. It goes through its squirrel reproductive process. Everything squirrel is pretty damn simple.
Existence as a human being is not so easy. We have to learn to be human. It’s really quite a tough slog. Even the human reproductive process is tough. Yeah, we’ve got our big human brains. We also have our unique human self-consciousness of our own existence. We can also wonder why we even exist. Existing successfully as a human being is not so straightforward.
On top of all of the trouble of learning to be a human being, human societies seem to always be on the verge of slipping back into chaos. No matter how successful our civilizations seem, it seems as if something is always on the verge of going seriously wrong. Entropy is always eating away at its structures. Ways of doing things that once worked successfully suddenly are no longer viable.
There are at least two factors always present within human societal structures that are always at work bringing about chaos. These include, but are not limited to (1) Knowledge is always improving, and (2) the presence of malevolence within every human psyche.
Knowledge is the one thing that is always improving. New and better ways of doing things are always emerging. Communications is always improving. New knowledge ends up being a destabilizing influence. This has the effect of always speeding things up. An example of this would be back in the 1980’s when we were all still writing and mailing letters to each other. Once email became firmly established, physical letters became impossibly slow and irrelevant. Outcomes now happen incredibly quickly – things that once might have taken months or even years now routinely happen seemingly with the blink of an eye.
Malevolence is also always present. Every human mind has snakes buried within it waiting to make potential strikes towards people, places and things. This malevolence seems to oscillate back and forth between less malevolence and more malevolence. If the overall level of malevolence within society could be plotted out, it would likely appear something akin to a sinewave oscillating up and down. Malevolence, like everything else, benefits from improved communication speeds and new forms of technology.
Here’s a rather insidious example of malevolence as a motivating factor behind the development of new knowledge and technology. In the old Soviet Union, it has been claimed that they once had a government-funded, scientific program to combine deadly Ebola with extremely contagious Smallpox. The idea was to make an absolutely devastating biological weapon that would utterly wipe out an enemy. Fortunately, the program turned out to be unsuccessful. This is a clear case of malevolence trying to drive technology for the worst imaginable purpose
These two elements – ever improving knowledge, and human malevolence – are the two main components that are always eating away at the foundations of our societal structures. Knowledge and improved communication are fairly easy to embrace and can be successfully dealt with. Malevolence is the one thing that we should really familiarize ourselves with – both within ourselves and within each other – always keeping an eye on it.
The potential of malevolence emerges as a result of awareness of self-vulnerability. As Dr. Jordan Peterson puts it, if I know what makes me vulnerable then I also know what makes other people vulnerable.
Malevolence dominates as a result of faulty value hierarchies. Faulty value hierarchies result or emerge from resentment. The continuing presence of resentment within the individual human soul makes the emergence of proper value hierarchies impossible.
Malevolence ignored is the one thing that reliably brings down civilizations.
The obvious question that emerges is, what is the proper way of dealing with malevolence?
The New Testament Biblical answer to this question revolves around individual repentance. “First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Mathew 7:5 World English Bible
Removing the beam requires that we realize that said beam is present. By necessity, this must be an individual by individual act.
We see the world and ourselves through hierarchical value structures. This is technically and psychologically factual. By default, because of our own resentments, our hierarchical value structures are faulty. Therefore, in order to see the world as well as ourselves as clearly as possible, we must first eliminate our own resentments.
Looking at ourselves is a painstaking and often painful process. We must see our own malevolence without trying to whitewash it or pretend that it’s not present. Furthermore, we must calmly and clinically look at our own malevolence without falling into the trap of resenting its presence.
The New Testament example of Christ represents the ideal example to strive for. Here is an ideal man that was able to die a horrific death on the Cross at the hands of the ideologically possessed, free of resentment – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 New International Version
“4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” Psalm 8:4-6 KJV
This “put all things under his feet” implies that man’s purview goes all the way to the bottom of Hell. This is clearly the case. The malevolence each one of us is capable of knows no bounds.
Yet, there is also the upside. We are also each capable of bringing about great good into existence.
The repentance process is not simply mouthing pretty words. Repenting requires painstaking, honest, serious self-examination.