The Monster Within

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“Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens, and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function. The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing — may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self-righteously. Don’t forget.”    – Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

I think about places like Auschwitz and Hiroshima quite often. I also think about “smaller crimes” to humanity, which are committed every day. I think about places that have been touched by violence and hate. Is there any place on this planet not tainted?

I, like most, see myself on the side of the oppressed. I, like many others, have been oppressed and violated — my boundaries blurred.

I think of these things not to feel sorry for myself or pity others or even to sympathize. I think of them to remember each person is capable of evil. Great evils don’t just happen in some far away lands. It is within each one of us — much closer than we’re comfortable.

The greatest threat or danger isn’t some terrorist far away, it is a denial of our own potential for evil. Denied, unknown, buried deep within, it lurks, at any moment ready to explode. That is danger. That is a real threat.

When tragedies occur, people ask why. Why did it happen? Why did they do it? Why was it possible?

If you do not know the answer to these questions, you have not become familiar with your own evil. You have not explored your own selfishness and greed, your hate and the violence pulsing through you. You must become familiar with the dark, because THAT is where you will find your light.

It is not enough to be good or decent, we must do the inner work these times require. The good you think you are isn’t the real good, the real light within. To find it, you must dive into the depths of your own darkness, and face your own fears about yourself.

2 thoughts on “The Monster Within

  1. I have a very difficult, often times ambivalent relationship with the atom bombing of Hiroshima. I can stand back and see it as an appalling act, a political expediancy to prevent Russia from entering the war in the East, to prevent a further land grab as seen by the Western Allies. I can see the inhumanity of proving the outright destructive power of atomic weapons by a mass slaughter of civilians with countless others dreadfully effected by the radiation poisoning that went on for decades after.
    But my father was just out of training as part of the Parachute regiment in early 1945 and had bene given his papers to fly to Florida. There he was to join with the American 8th airborne to prepare for the assault on Japan. The leading troops where statistically his chances of survival were tiny. The bomb stopped his posting in its tracks, ended the war much earlier than anyone has suggested and kept him safe. Millions of others, both troops and civilians would have died had the conflict continued. As many as killed in Hiroshima? As many Japanese? As many civilians. No one can know.
    But the slaughter in say Auschwitz for me is very different to Hiroshima for these reasons. I understand why that won’t be the case to others.
    I wish I could see all mass slaughter in terms of evil and an unanswerable why. But I know i can’t. I know the motivations of the US and Allied decision-makers deciding to drop both bombs wasn’t merely to shorten the war to save lives, there were other factors. And I’d be the first to acknowledge the responsibility of those self same Allies in creating the conditions in which the war started to begin with. But in Summer 1945, with the horror of the deaths that would follow and assault on Japan very real, I’m still not sure I can condemn it.

    1. I think what you’re saying, Geoff, illustrates my point quite well. Our view of evil is so black and white, everything in life is a shade of gray. The more we explore that and try to understand, the less suffering there will be in the world (at least theoretically).

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