Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"External Authority": Source of All Evil?

Who was Hitler’s external authority? How about Stalin’s? Charles Manson’s? These three weren't mere enablers of evil; they perpetrated it on a grand scale. Their parents must have indoctrinated them to obey some external authority, no?

What’s that? Sometimes evil does its own thing? So maybe cultivating your own inner authority doesn't turn out so hot either, eh?

“No one has the right to trespass against another’s person or property. Ever.” This principle sounds reasonable enough to me. As a Catholic, I find it surprisingly compatible with my obscurantist morality. Perhaps in this case my parents' indoctrination to obey “external authority”—the Old and New Testament writers, Christ's Sermon on the Mount, and the hierarchy of the Church--didn't turn out so bad?

Then again, perhaps an external authority freely embraced becomes an internal authority? As far as I can tell, *it is internal*. The Pope has never threatened to sic his Switzers on me.

The Randoids seem to endorse some version of the Non-Aggression Principle. What, then, do we do with their views on warfare? They insist a “civilized” nation has the right--nay, the *duty*--to perpetrate wholesale civilian slaughter on an "uncivilized" nation. It all sounds rather uncivilized to me, but what do I know? My ethical system isn’t rational and objective like theirs.

Whom did the Randoids' parents indoctrinate them to obey? And how is I turned out so much more peace-loving than they?  

The late Christopher Hitchens issued screeds perpetuating black legends linking Christianity to violence. Ironically enough, he proved an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War, even as the last two popes condemned it. How do we explain the conundrum? Perhaps Hitchens' parents indoctrinated him to obey secular "liberal" democracy to keep the forces of Islamic darkness at bay?

Then again, maybe "external authority" and parental "indoctrination" have nothing to do with it. Maybe it's all about human choice, action and volition. Maybe evil results when people become overly attached to their version of the Greater Good, however defined, and start trading the rules of common human decency in the interests of expediency.


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