Good and evil exist

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Jason Miko

In my previous columns on what it means to be a Macedonian conservative, I have expounded on issues of gratitude as well as the wisdom found in the old ways and tradition, and the idea that, alas, there are limits in life, and that limits, boundaries, and rules are necessary in life, and that as humans, we are indeed part of the “crooked timber of humanity,” and that moral standards exist and are necessary for the proper flourishing of society.  In each of these columns, I have then applied those thoughts to the Macedonian conservative.  In this column, I want to focus on a fundamental truth, which is this: the conservative understands, accepts, and acknowledges that good and evil are real and that they exist. They always have and always will.

Former Russian dissident, Gulag survivor, and cancer survivor – and probably the greatest writer of the last century – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, writing in “Waring to the West” (1976), states “In the twentieth century it is almost a joke in the Western world to use words like ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ They have become old-fashioned concepts, yet they are very real and genuine. These are concepts from a sphere which is above us. And instead of getting involved in base, petty, shortsighted political calculations and games we must recognize that a concentration of evil and a tremendous force of hatred is spreading throughout the world.”

He continues, writing “Among progressive people it is considered rather awkward to use seriously such words as ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ But if we are to be deprived of the concepts of good and evil, what will be left? Nothing but the manipulation of one another.  We will sink to the status of animals….”

Canadian clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, writing in his book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” makes the quite obvious observation that “…people have a great capacity for evil, as well as good….” and Solzhenitsyn reminds us that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”  Over 2,600 years ago the Old Testament Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

What happens when people no longer believe that good and evil exist, or worse, call “good” “evil” and “evil,” “good?”  Going back to Solzhenitsyn, we find that the manipulation of one another ensues and we sink to the status of animals.  Do you doubt this?  You have only to look around you to see that state of mankind when concepts of good and evil disappear and are no longer used or it is considered impolite to say such things. 

(For a brief, and visual explanation of this, please watch “Where do Good and Evil come from?” in this video (in English) by Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College.)

A proper understanding of life is guided by a recognition that good and evil do exist.  And since evil exists, we are all – men, women, and children – flawed and fallen human beings, capable of both good and evil which cuts right through every human heart as Solzhenitsyn reminds us (the “crooked timber of humanity” as I discussed in my fourth column).

How does all of this then apply to the Macedonian conservative? For starters, when leaders – in whatever area of life, be it elected politicians, the bureaucracy, civil society, the media, business, education, and even culture – when these people tell you that something is false when it is absolutely true, or, the opposite, telling you that something is true when it is patently false (in other words, when they lie), then they must be confronted because the lie, all lies, are evil and left unchallenged, they perpetuate more evil and to agree with the lie, or to even allow the lie to go unchallenged is wrong because it is never ending, and it only grows.

In “Live not by lies,” Solzhenitsyn’s last essay before being exiled to the West in 1974, he explains what we must do to liberate ourselves from these lies: “Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.” Think about that the next a politician, bureaucrat, or the media tells you an obvious lie – or even a “clever lie,” one told with a grain of truth in it.

In an interview towards the end of his life, Solzhenitsyn said, “Life may be bitter, but we are stronger, because we can stand it. If you can’t influence anything on a large scale, you should influence by doing your work as good as you can, preserving your family, and helping those around you….to live not by lies is an eternal principle.”

The Macedonian conservative, understanding that good and evil are real and exist and that to live by lies is a terrible, awful, way to live, should therefore be heartened by the truth that, even if you cannot influence anything on a large scale, as Solzhenitsyn says, you can influence your family, your friends, your neighbors, your community and thereby your country, by “doing your work as good as you can, preserving your family, and helping those around you.” 

Medical professionals have used the body’s physiological changes as the basis for a definition, while psychologists and mental health professionals have used emotional and cognitive changes. The spirit of this project was taken by William H.

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