“Well sir, I guess there’s just a meanness in this world” – Bruce Springsteen, “Nebraska”
“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.” – William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), Seven
“Nothing baffles the schemes of evil people so much as the calm composure of great souls” – Comte de Mirabeau
Warren Kinsella is a former advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and continues to assist the Liberal Party of Ontario during its election campaigns – to put him in West Wing terms, he’s a wartime consigliere. I read his blog frequently and don’t always agree with him (not to sound like the Dos Equis guy here) but respect him for several reasons: one of which is that he says liberals should always be full-throated go-for-the-gut liberals, and another is that he believes in the nobility of always fighting for what is important. (He is the lone liberal voice on Canada’s pathetic Fox News clone Sun News Network, which gives you a sense of his willingness to take the fight to the enemy’s turf.) The other day he posited that he thought the human race was evil and beyond redemption. He cited the examples of the Syrian massacre and a particular website which offers video of disturbing violent acts (which I’m not going to link to for obvious reasons). Clearly, if you want to go down that route, there are thousands of examples more. It’s one of those arguments that you’ll always find more evidence to support if you need it – like “politicians are corrupt,” “democracy doesn’t work” or “Jersey Shore is a blight on society.”
I don’t subscribe to this thinking, because it’s the easy way out. (And in fairness to the usually spunky Warren, he could have just been having a bad day or been thinking about the world his kids are growing up in.) To me, it’s throwing up your hands and surrendering before you even strap on the first shin pad. It’s saying that principles do not matter, values are not important and attempting to live a civilized, moral life is futile. It’s looking at the world’s douchebags living high off the hog and wondering why the hell we’re trying so hard not to be them, with the idea that our way is better for the soul, when we’re getting screwed by the universe anyway while they reap the rewards. Like the worker ant who dutifully and nobly carries food back to the colony day after day only to be scorched to death one sunny afternoon by a smirking brat with a magnifying glass. But it’s ground that I don’t believe the human race as a whole can afford to concede. It’s not a world I want to live in. Indeed, it’s not a world that would live very long.
On Star Trek and its successors, you’d often find the crew visiting planets where everyone wore the same outfit and shared the same opinion. Absent was the dichotomy that defines humanity – the extremes of light and dark and good and evil that share contradictory space inside the soul. The same heart that loves one hates another; the same species that cherishes beauty creates ugliness. But it’s important not to forget that despite the increasing societal obsession with what is worst about us (fostered by media companies trying to scare you into buying things you don’t need), we have truly done some remarkable things in our relatively short time in the cosmos. We have forged incredible works of art, literature, music. We have crafted a society of laws and good governance. We have cured devastating illnesses and been able to shift the focus of our existence from mere survival to the enrichment of our spirit and of our collective consciousness. We have even taken the tiniest of baby steps away from our world into the endless realm of possibility that lies beyond. Why, when looking at this evidence, should we continue to base our opinion of ourselves on the abysses rather than the apexes? Are we really no better than the very worst of us? Are we all hovering forever on a tipping point of evil, just one fragile breath away from unleashing our inner Hitler?
No goddamn way. Call it what you will – even dare to call it faith. But to say humanity is evil and beyond redemption is to admit I am evil and beyond redemption. And I am better than that. I know I am. I know we all are.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece criticizing the conservative moguls funding attack ads against the President of the United States. I submitted it to The Huffington Post and was surprised that they liked it enough to feature it prominently on their Politics page. The response was quite staggering, with what I’d say was probably a 3 to 1 ratio of comments supporting what I had to say versus condemning it. And the ones who condemned it certainly didn’t mince words. But I don’t regret writing the piece. It was something that I felt needed to be said, and a lot of people agreed with me. (Interestingly enough, not that I can claim any responsibility, an article subsequently appeared in Politico where these right-wing sugar daddies are now complaining that they are being picked on, apparently forgetting that one of the tenets of free speech is the right of everyone else to tell you you’re being a dick when you say something they don’t like.) I’ve accepted that I’ll never be a billionaire or wield the kind of influence over the masses that some really awful people do. But my voice will always be my own, and that is something that cannot be purchased from anybody else. And I will continue to use it to advocate the world I want to see, the world I know we can attain, with every single breath, until I can no longer speak. It’s like that wonderful poem from The Grey: “Once more into the fray, into the last good fight I’ll ever know.”
The bastards will not grind me down.