Dec. 16 (Saturday)

The Yin & Yang of Morality
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Introduction

If you’re exploring the Politix 101 series, you’ve been introduced to morality, which is commonly condensed to good versus evil. But what are good and evil?

Morality Word Cloud

No, that isn’t a trick question. Some people think feeding the poor, protesting against war and protecting the environment are good things, but there are others who think all those things are evil. There are even laws against feeding the poor and protesting in some countries.

Are there any things that are absolutely good or evil, or is it all just a matter of opinion?

In fact, there are things that just about every person on Earth would regard as evil. And if people around the world were given the facts instead of propaganda, and if they sat down and carefully thought about those facts, they could probably come to an agreement on at least some other moral issues.

Nevertheless, life is far too complex to see entirely in black-and-white. There will always be moral issues that can be best seen as shades of gray. That will become clear as we explore good and evil...

I. Good

In the political arena, good manifests itself largely through the concepts of honesty, fairness, justice and charity. Sadly, in many countries, a government might be considered good if it simply isn’t corrupt.

Honesty

One of the most sacred words in any language is truth. Truth, logic and reason are the foundation of science (including political science) and philosophy both. Applied politics revolves around truth or non-truth, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

Honest/Dishonest Synonyms*

HONEST: all right, artless, authentic, bona fide, candid, certifiable, certified, conscionable, conscientious, decent, direct, echt, ethical, forthcoming, forthright, foursquare, freehearted, free-spoken, frank, genuine, good, guileless, honorable, ingenuous, innocent, just, moral, naive (or naïve), natural, nice, noble, open, openhearted, out-front, outspoken, plain, plainspoken, principled, pukka (also pucka), real, respectable, right, righteous, right-minded, righteous, scrupulous, simple, sincere, stand-up, straight, straightforward, sure-enough, true, truthful, unaffected, unguarded, unpretending, unpretentious, unreserved, upright, upstanding, up-front, veracious, virtuous

DISHONEST: crooked, deceptive, deceitful, defrauding, double-dealing, duplicitous, false, fast, fraudulent, guileful, lying, mendacious, rogue, shady, sharp, shifty, underhand, underhanded, untruthful

*See Merria-Webster: Honest and Dishonest for tips on precise usage.

We might think of honesty as a measure of a person’s truthfulness. People with a reputation for truthfulness are considered honest, while those who lie are dishonest. It’s even possible to be dishonest without lying; simply withholding the truth is a form of dishonesty commonly called a lie by omission (also continuing misrepresentation).

“Single-issue candidates” are a variation on the lie by omission theme.

Similarly, a person can speak the truth and still be dishonest if that person’s actions are dishonest. For example, Obama is one of countless politicians who have said that law, rules and peace are important objectives even while breaking the law and committing war crimes.

People who say one thing and do the opposite, are commonly called hypocrites. Of course, politicos commonly lie simply to confuse or misinform the public. A general lack of truthfulness is called dishonesty.

However, it’s important to understand that some people can say things that aren’t true because they’ve been misinformed or simply erred. Such people may be ignorant or brainwashed, rather than dishonest. Even the most intelligent people can make honest mistakes as well.

Truth

Truthfulness is a synonym of honesty, but what is truth itself?

Truth is essentially facts, or information. We obtain some information through experience; for example, we might learn that fire is hot when we put our finger near a match. Other information is obtained from other people, either by word of mouth or through a variety of media.

Our well being and even our very survival depend on accurate information.

People who make an effort to share information with reasonable accuracy are said to be honest. People who deliberately falsify or manipulate information, or who don’t share information at all, are dishonest.

Transparency

Lots of powerful people claim to be honest, fair, just and generous, or charitable. But how can we know if they’re telling the truth? Transparency is a big help.

In politics, transparency is roughly synonymous with openness, rather than operating behind closed doors or in secrecy. In other words, transparent political systems give us the information and tools we need to prove that politicians are either honest or dishonest. A lack of transparency can be an indication of corruption.

Ironically, many people who claim to be political activists have remarkably little to say about themselves. This is in fact a lack of transparency that reveals many of them to be fakes.

Fairness

Fairness has a similar meaning to equality. You might think of it as a sort of balance.

Fairness-Unfairness

We expect people to be fair in the sense that everyone should follow the same rules. Yet life is very unfair. For example, people who are unattractive don’t get the same breaks that attractive people do. Tall men have many advantages over short men. People who are born rich have a huge advantage in life.

This presents us with a problem: should we feel compassion for the less fortunate and lend them a hand?

It’s obviously impossible to make life fair, but many people feel that government or other institutions should address some of the broader inequities, especially problems that have their root in “evil” — whether it’s in the form of government corruption or societal prejudice. People who believe this often say that government should help level the playing field.

Two of the biggest problems that are addressed to some degree by many societies are financial hardship (particularly poverty) and bigotry — particularly racism and sexism.

Many political activists similarly promote fair trade over free trade, which is designed to help the rich exploit the poor. Many people have likewise come to see that free speech doesn’t always guarantee fair speech.

Justice

Justice

While fairness implies following rules that level the playing field, the term justice usually comes into play after someone breaks the rules. The injured party usually wants justice, which is typically extracted from the other party as a form of punishment.

The opposite of justice is “just us,” where us represents the rich and privileged people who get justice at the expense of everyone else.

For example, if a corporation pollutes a city’s drinking water, citizens will likely sue the corporation for damages. If justice prevails, the corporation may pay a heavy fine. It might also be forced to clean up its act and take greater precautions against polluting the environment. Sadly, corporations are increasingly above the law; in other words, it’s very hard to bring them to justice.

Charity

No matter how fair and just a society is, there will always be unfortunate people who fall through the cracks. More advanced societies have safety nets that take care of such people. On the other hand, more corrupt or materialistic societies may show little compassion for the unfortunate.

For example, there are more homeless people sleeping on sidewalks in Seattle, which is swimming in wealth, than in all of Cuba. Such a striking contrast makes intelligent people question Seattle kingpin Bill Gates’ claim to being a philanthropist. At the same time, it makes people think twice about claims that former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is some kind of monster.

While citizens in most countries are expected to look to the government for justice, charity is frequently viewed as a community function, though government may be involved to some extent.

II. Evil

The opposite of good is bad, and if it’s really bad, we call it evil. Some people are seemingly born evil. However, even apparently good people are often led astray by emotion, poor judgment or circumstances beyond their control. For example, poor people might be forced to steal food for their children.

Dishonest or illegal behavior, especially by powerful people, is commonly called corruption. The general goal of corruption is to acquire money (or other forms of wealth) or power, or to avoid being held accountable for such behavior.

Corruption can have a ripple affect, often impeding the performance of government and entire political systems. Corruption is rampant in virtually every major institution in the United States, and the effects can be seen in everything from an army of homeless people to crumbling infrastructure.

Organized Evil

A lone criminal may plan a crime in advance, though criminals often take advantage of unexpected opportunities to rob or harm someone. The damage such an individual can do to society is generally limited.

However, groups of evil people are capable of far more corruption, evil and damage. The bigger the group, the bigger the problem.

Corrupt groups and institutions generally plan crimes, or conspire, in advance. Their crimes may force them to lie or conspire again to cover them up. Thus, crimes may seem to grow bigger and bigger, just as Pinocchio’s nose grew longer every time he lied.

Conspiracy

Conspire is the root of the word conspiracy, a word many people can’t handle. They think only kooks believe in conspiracies swirling all around us.

In fact, conspiracy is a legal term. People are convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit a lot of other crimes all the time.

The shocking assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was a landmark event for conspiracy theory. Puzzled by many odd things surrounding the event, millions of people took a closer look at the incident. More intelligent people learned to combine research and logic in coming up with credible theories to explain the deaths of not just President Kennedy but a number of other people associated with Kennedy who also died mysteriously.

Conspiracy theory got an even bigger boost with the 9/11 “terrorist attacks.” Someone obviously conspired to hijack airliners and attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon (though the best evidence indicates the Pentagon was never struck by an airliner). The only questions are who and why? The government’s explanation simply doesn’t make sense.

Favoritism

Have you ever heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together”? In fact, evil or corrupt people do tend to seek out other evil people, for reasons that aren’t so hard to figure out.

If you were a Mafia kingpin, would you hire an honest person as a bookkeeper? Of course not. You would hire an individual who’s corrupt, like yourself.

Better yet, you’d probably hire a friend or perhaps one of your best friend’s friends. Such selective hiring is called favoritism or cronyism. (A crony is a close friend of someone powerful who is unfairly given special treatment or favors.) When people hire their relatives, it’s called nepotism. Such shady hiring practices help explain why it’s possible for political bodies like the U.S. Congress to be wholly corrupt, without a single honest person.

Governments and other political organizations often favor men. For example, no woman has ever been elected as President of the United States, and only a very few have been elected to the U.S. Congress. Organizations that heavily favor men are sometimes called good ole boys clubs. Or we could just say they’re sexist or gender-biased.

Racism is another major factor in cronyism. How many members of U.S. Congress can you name who are white males, most of them rich?

People who hire cronies or relatives may be said to be stacking the deck, although stacking the deck can also refer to other practices, such as writing laws in a way that favors corrupt interests or hamstrings the public.

Degrees of Evil

Don’t stare too deeply into the abyss, lest the abyss stare deeply into you.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” His words are popularly paraphrased “Don’t stare too deeply into the abyss, lest the abyss stare deeply into you.”

In other words, anyone who spends too much time fighting evil runs the risk of becoming evil himself. One could also entertain a slightly different interpretation: When you study evil, you may risk depression, fear or anxiety.

Iris Chang, Nanking’s Mystery-Shrouded Voice

Iris Chang was a writer who undertook a very somber assignment. During World War II, Japanese troops entered Nanking (now Nanjing), China, where they embarked on an orgy of rape, torture and murder that is hard to comprehend. The Japanese killed over 300,000 people and raped tens of thousands of women, a war crime that exceeds even the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in sheer horror.

Haunted by her grandparents’ stories of their escape from the this living Hell, Chang traveled to Peking, where she interviewed survivors. She told their story in The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1997).

Chang wrote two other books documenting discrimination against the Chinese in America. She was working on a fourth book about the Bataan death march when she committed suicide. Perhaps no one was saddened more deeply than the survivors of Nanking, for Iris Chang was their voice. The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall added a wing dedicated to Chang.

Why did such a talented writer with such an important mission kill herself?

The obvious conclusion is that she was simply deeply depressed by all the terrible stories she had heard. She had suffered a nervous breakdown that her family attributed to constant sleep deprivation and heavy doses of psychologically damaging prescription medication. But Chang left three suicide notes which tell a different story. The first note read,

“I promise to get up and get out of the house every morning. I will stop by to visit my parents then go for a long walk. I will follow the doctor’s orders for medications. I promise not to hurt myself. I promise not to visit Web sites that talk about suicide.”

The next note was a draft of the third:

“When you believe you have a future, you think in terms of generations and years. When you do not, you live not just by the day — but by the minute. It is far better that you remember me as I was — in my heyday as a best-selling author — than the wild-eyed wreck who returned from Louisville. ... Each breath is becoming difficult for me to take — the anxiety can be compared to drowning in an open sea. I know that my actions will transfer some of this pain to others, indeed those who love me the most. Please forgive me.”

The third note included:

“There are aspects of my experience in Louisville that I will never understand. Deep down I suspect that you may have more answers about this than I do. I can never shake my belief that I was being recruited, and later persecuted, by forces more powerful than I could have imagined. Whether it was the CIA or some other organization I will never know. As long as I am alive, these forces will never stop hounding me.

“Days before I left for Louisville I had a deep foreboding about my safety. I sensed suddenly threats to my own life: an eerie feeling that I was being followed in the streets, the white van parked outside my house, damaged mail arriving at my P.O. Box. I believe my detention at Norton Hospital was the government’s attempt to discredit me.”

The closing chapter of Iris Chang’s life is at once deeply saddening and intriguing. Two weeks before she took her life, she was reportedly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a diagnosis she rejected. She also reportedly suffered ill effects from fertility treatments. Did a lethal combination of depression, health problems and medications simply make Chang paranoid?

Some people think Chang’s revelations had made too many waves, and her continuing research may have threatened to embarrass not just Japan — a major economic power and U.S. ally — but the U.S. itself. She was committed to the Norton Psychiatric Hospital with the assistance of a mysterious “Colonel Kelly,” whose presence she stated had frightened her severely. Some researchers think Iris Chang was drugged while at Norton. (See Suicide or Political Persecution? The Mysterious Deaths of Ernest Hemingway and Iris Chang, GlobalResearch)

In summary, Iris Chang may have simply been too frail for her calling, or she may have been effectively assassinated with drugs, just as powerful forces dispatched Che Guevara with a bullet. Either way, her passion for uncovering truth makes Iris Chang an enduring hero.

Another heroic yet tragic figure who figures prominently in The Rape of Nanking is Minnie Vautrin, an alumnus of the same school Iris Change attended. A missionary and educator, she saved thousands of lives in China during the Japanese occupation. After leaving China, Vautrin suffered a breakdown before committing suicide in 1941.

Yet another hero or Nanking was John Rabe. Iris Chang recalled that “John Rabe and his diary are the most important testimonial and eye-witness of the Rape of Nanking.” Oh, yes — Rabe was a Nazi party leader. His story is told in a German movie, John Rabe: Oskar Schindler of China. You can see frightened people hiding from Japanese bombers under a Nazi flag @ 1:15 in this clip.

Some might call Iris Chang a coward for committing suicide rather than stand up to her demons. But we will never know the identity of those demons, and it’s hard to believe a woman who had relived the Rape of Nanking over and over only to charge headlong into a project documenting the Bataan death march was a coward. For millions of people, Iris Chang can never be anything but a hero, and her loss is both very sad and a call for more people to find a cause bigger than themselves.

Please believe in THE POWER OF ONE. . . . Do not limit your vision and do not ever compromise your dreams or ideals.
Iris Chang

There are many videos focusing on both Iris Chang and the Rape of Nanking online.

One very disturbing example is photos of people who have been tortured or killed in wars. Don’t worry; there are no such photos in the Politix 101 series.

But even a written description of a man with his intestines hanging out or a child with his head blown off is pretty grim. So try to imagine what it would be like to see the real thing.

We’re talking about extreme evil, and it’s important to understand that it isn’t something that just happens in remote corners of the world. The people who order soldiers and terrorists to commit these monstrous acts are the very people you vote for, the soldiers you support. The media also play a major role in making such acts possible. That’s one of the reasons people who work for the media are popularly called media whores.

The people who sit on your local school board may not be involved in the death industry, but they don’t hesitate to ruthlessly exploit children. And there are almost no school board members in the U.S. who are speaking out against such exploitation. If your school board allows military recruiters into your children’s schools, then your school board is indeed involved in the death industry.

Hear No Evil, See No Evil

Hear No Evil

Most U.S. citizens are astonishingly clueless about the corruption that surrounds them. Part of the problem is the endless propaganda that constantly “whitewashes” the most disgusting people. For example, Wikipedia describes Bill Gates and Michael “junk bond king” Milken both as “philanthropists.” Former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell — one of the most hated politicians in that city’s history — is described as a “citizen activist” instead of what he really was: a corrupt real estate developer turned corrupt politician.

Similarly, Google censors and even blacklists web pages that broadcast the truth about corrupt people and organizations. The entire Internet is thus effectively whitewashed.

Quota Systems

Another problem is a “political quota system” that many people seem to have burned into their brains.

Most people would concede that there are a few corrupt politicians out there. However, many people will tell you that they aren’t really evil; they’re just clueless or misguided. Many people believe there are at least one or two Congressmen who aren’t corrupt. Most will probably tell you there isn’t a single U.S. politician or CIA agent depraved enough to throw acid in a little girl’s face; only Muslims are evil enough to do something like that.

Similarly, everyone knows that Watergate was a conspiracy, but many people can’t believe that something as big as the 9/11 terrorist attacks could be a conspiracy — even though someone had to have secretly planned the attacks. And how could anyone believe conspiracies occur on an almost daily basis?

People who concede that the U.S. political system is very corrupt may still defend the U.S. as a fundamentally decent country. Few would compare any U.S. politician to Adolf Hitler and the “Nazis” (National Socialists), who are commonly portrayed as the most evil people who ever lived. Merely displaying a swastika — the Nazis’ emblem — can get one landed in jail in some countries. Merely questioning mainstream historical accounts of WWII can get people thrown in jail or labeled racist.

It’s important to understand that no individual or group or people has a monopoly on evil. It’s also important to understand that the Germans have been consistently demonized since WWII. Many people who have taken a fresh look at WWII see the British and the Americans as the aggressors. And how could Germany have been any more racist than the U.S., with its segregated military, Native Americans locked up on reservations and Japanese Americans locked up in internment camps? After the war, black veterans weren’t even allowed to vote!

Similarly, we should understand that the current war on terrorism is a big lie that paints Muslims as evil, while the countries that have joined forces to torture and murder them are good. The very scope of the big lie about terrorism is so enormous, many people simply can’t fathom it, similar to the fabled blind men who struggled to identify an elephant.

Crimes Against Nature

We know that hurting other people is evil, but what about hurting animals? And is it evil to chop down trees or pollute air or water?

We can sidestep some of these questions by noting that pollution hurts people. Therefore, pollution can indeed be regarded as evil.

That’s a very logical statement, but it doesn’t sound very passionate, does it? Do we only care about people who breathe air, or do we also care about air-breathing plants and animals? Should we care about the atmosphere itself? What about soil?

Earth Rights

As scientists learn more about Earth, people have increasingly come to regard it as a living planet, sometimes called Gaia. At the same time, Earth is increasingly impacted by an ever booming human population, pollution and other related problems.

It’s only logical to protect the environment, for everyone’s sake. But some people go further, claiming that animals have rights. Some think plants and even Earth itself have rights.

In a sense, they’ve rediscovered what people knew long ago. Many aboriginal peoples around the world still believe that animals, plants and even rocks have souls or spirits.

Bolivian President Evo Morales dropped a bombshell when he began lobbying the United Nations to sign a treaty recognizing Earth as “a living entity that humans have sought to dominate and exploit, to the point that the well-being and existence of many beings is now threatened.”

In January, 2011, Morales enacted a Law of the Rights of Mother Earth which describes Bolivia’s natural resources as “blessings” and grants the Earth a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities; and the right to be free from pollution. The language, “and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered,” is a clear slap at genetically modified food. The law even established a Ministry of Mother earth.

Of course, the UN will never adopt Morales’ proposal. But Morales has still scored an enormous victory, opening people’s eyes and perhaps helping launch a new environmental movement. After all, the global environment is under unprecedented assault. And if corporations can have the same legal rights as humans, why not Nature?

Whether or not Morales’ ideas are good is a matter of opinion, but it’s hard to imagine anyone calling them evil — except the rich people who may be forced to stop exploiting the environment.

What do you think?

III. Moral Gradients

We’ve taken a look at honesty, fairness, justice and charity, all of which have moral opposites. Let’s take a quick look at a few other moral gradients.

Empathy vs Apathy

EmpathyApathy

People who are apathetic aren’t necessarily corrupt, but their lack of interest in the political process greatly aids the corrupt people who hold power. In many cases, apathy can be regarded as a form of selfishness. You might compare an apathetic non-voter to a housemate who doesn’t help wash dishes or take out the garbage.

Though there are many exceptions, apathetic people tend be very ignorant regarding political issues.

Humility vs Arrogance

HumilityArrogance

Arrogance can be described as a feeling of superiority that often leads people to believe their apathy or selfishness is perfectly OK or even righteous. During the colonial era, white Europeans manifested an arrogance that led them to commit shocking atrocities against people who lived in the colonies they ruled.

Even today, whites often feel superior to minorities. Many white U.S. citizens in turn feel superior to whites living in other countries. Such extreme arrogance has inspired the term American exceptionalism. Yet even American exceptionalism may be trumped by the arrogance that manifests itself in the Jewish community, variously known as Jewish exceptionalism, Israeli exceptionalism or Zionist exceptionalism.

Courage vs Cowardice

CourageCowardice

Many people refuse to do their civic duty or even discuss politics because they’re cowards. Politicians and other powerful people use many strategies to intimidate such people, effectively silencing the majority of citizens in many countries.

Generosity vs Greed

SharingGreed

Many people vote for politicians they know are corrupt because they know (or at least think) they (the voters) are somehow profiting from corruption. Alternatively, some people fear that reform could somehow impact their financial situation.

Such people are simply too selfish to care about other people. Apathy can be seen as a type of apathy. However, other selfish people are far from apathetic as they eagerly campaign for their favorite corrupt politicians.

Moral Relativism

Few people are 100% courageous, generous or greedy. Most lie somewhere between the extremes of sainthood and pure evil.

But what about the moral values we expect people to respect? Are they absolute values, or can we see them in shades of gray?

U.S. conservatives often accuse liberals of embracing “moral relativism.” Liberals, on the other hand, typically accuse conservatives of seeing things in black-and-white.

In fact, life is far too complex to navigate in black-and-white. Not surprisingly, no system of laws can be perfectly moral. In fact, quirks in the legal system sometimes mushroom into obscene miscarriages of justice.

As a partial remedy, judges often have some room to maneuver when sentencing people convicted of crimes. In some cases, they may show lenience, but in other cases they may punish a felon to the full extent of the law.

Some public officials, including the U.S. President, also have the power to pardon criminals. Unfortunately, this power is often used to pardon cronies, rather than innocent people who truly deserve to be pardoned.

IV. Exploiting Good and Evil

Unscrupulous people can exploit morality in many different ways. Let’s take a look at whitewashing (the process of making bad people look good) and demonization (making people look bad).

Whitewashing

Whitewash

Your worst nightmare is someone getting black paint on your spotless white fence.

Just joking! All you have to do is get some white paint and paint over the black paint.

In politics, whitewash is a metaphor meaning “to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Somewhat synonymous with censorship, it is especially used in the context of corporations, government, the media or other organizations.

Whitewashing is obviously immoral, but what does it have to do with exploiting morality? In addition to (or instead of) effectively erasing or hiding evidence of a crime, the criminal(s) is often painted in a positive light.

Consider Michael “Junk Bond King” Milken, the Jewish financier who gained fame as the epitome of Wall Street greed during the 1980s after he was indicted for racketeering and securities fraud. Amazingly, the first sentence in Wikipedia’s article about Milken describes him as a philanthropist. One of the most prestigious education awards is the Milken Educator Award, named for the Junk Bond King himself.

Presidents George W. Bush and Obama rank among history’s greatest war criminals as well as chickenhawks. Yet they’re both promoted as patriots, another example of whitewashing.

Entire nations and races may whitewash themselves. For example, many white U.S. citizens think they’re God’s chosen people, while many Jews instead think they’re God’s chosen people.

Theoretically, a corrupt individual might start whitewashing his record even before he commits his first crime. Bill Gates is a prominent example of a career criminal whose crime spree is masked by continuous whitewashing. Thus, Wikipedia introduces Gates as a “philanthropist,” and we’re told that he cares about education, the poor and the hungry. Yet the stark reality is staring us in the face: Homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk within view of the tax-subsidized Gates Foundation headquarters in Bill Gates’ home town, Seattle, where public schools continue spiraling downhill.

Phony Philanthropy

One of the simplest, most convenient ways of appearing to be good is to simply donate money to a group or cause. As a bonus, the giver can get credit for the donation when filing tax returns. Moreover, the “donation” could actually be an investment.

Bill Gates
Computer nerd turned global conman, Bill Gates is king of the phony philanthropists.

This practice has been exploited most famously by Bill Gates, who even established an investment firm promoted as a philanthropy — the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With increasing numbers of corporate titans joining the racket, this practice has become variously known as philanthro-capitalism, Philanthropy, Inc. and creative capitalism (a term popularized by Bill Gates). The irony is that Gates continues to grow richer, even while claiming he’s giving away his entire fortune.

A sensational 2007 report published in the LA Times (Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation) exposed the Gates Foundation for what it is — an investment firm allied with some very corrupt and dangerous corporations — and Gates has since drawn more flak over his alliance with Monsanto, a famously corrupt corporation that promotes genetically modified food, especially in Africa. Yet the corporate media still unflinchingly describe Gates as a philanthropist.

Many other rich people have jumped on the bandwagon, claiming to care about the very people they help exploit. Examples include Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie and Sean Penn. One of the most obvious signs of their phoniness is their astonishing reluctance to offer intelligent ideas or criticize evil people. They almost never mention war or torture and may even support war criminals like George W. Bush or Obama.

Demonization

Demonization is essentially propaganda designed to make a person, organization or country seem more evil than they really are. When carried to an extreme, it leads to dehumanization — the belief that the target is subhuman.

Demon

Demonization is often accompanied by racism and epithets. For example, pioneers and soldiers referred to Native Americans as “redskins” during the 19th century. It was more difficult to use racist slurs against white Germans during the two world wars, but Japanese and Vietnamese opponents were commonly referred to as “nips” and “gooks,” respectively.

After World War II, the capitalist powers turned their attention from fascists to the “Red Menace,” as communism was known. A generation of Americans grew up with the fear that Communists were plotting to take over the world, a fear that turned out to be groundless. After the U.S. was defeated by Vietnam (which did not take over the world) and the “Cold War” ended with the demise of the Soviet Union, propagandists needed a new enemy.

The new bogeyman was radical Islam. But no Muslim nations were able to attack the U.S. even if they wanted to.

No problem. Shortly after George W. Bush was elected as President, the U.S. was struck by the infamous 9/11 “terrorist attacks,” which were promptly blamed on Muslims. It marked the beginning of a seemingly endless war on terror that only gets more illogical and bizarre with each new invasion. Even Muslims who defend their homes from foreign troops are often labeled terrorists.

Even bad people can be demonized, making them look still worse. For example, we might assume that Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was evil; after all, he was a U.S. puppet. (A famous photograph shows Hussein shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld.) Hussein allegedly used chemical agents obtained from the U.S. to kill his own people.

But stories about Iraqi soldiers taking Kuwaiti babies out of incubators and leaving them to die were nothing but a lie broadcast by the corporate media.

It’s much harder finding evidence to support U.S. government claims that Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was truly a “mad jackal.” In fact, Gaddafi was probably Africa’s most inspirational leader and one of the greatest heroes of our generation. That would explain why the media published ever more bizarre stories about his tyranny and sexcapades even after his death. Ironically, the stories become harder to believe as they become more twisted.

Latin American revolutionaries like Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez have also been viciously demonized.

The Nazi Vortex

Probably no individual in modern history has been demonized more than Adolf Hitler. The Nazis (as members of Hitler’s National Socialist Party were nicknamed) are popular symbols of evil, and it is illegal to even display a swastika in some European countries.

Few people consider Hitler, the Nazis or Germans in general victims of demonization, for one simple reason: They think all the bad stories are true.

However, a new generation of scholars and conspiracy theorists are taking a fresh look at World War II. U.S. Olympic champion Jesse Owen considered Nazi Germany less racist than the U.S., where black people weren’t even allowed to vote until the 1960s. And how could Hitler be more racist than U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, commander in chief of a segregated military? What about the Japanese interment camps and the Native Americans who were confined to reservations?

Even Hitler’s persecution of Jews may be greatly exaggerated. Many researchers say that, far from innocent victims, the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves.

It’s harder to excuse Hitler’s bloody invasion of the Soviet Union. The irony is that Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin is widely credited with killing more people than Hitler — and his biggest killers were Jews.

Whether Hitler was a hero, a villain or a mixed bag, it’s grossly unfair to hold him up as the epitome of evil. Any number of U.S. presidents, from George Washington to Obama, were arguably worse than Hitler.

V. Hate

Now that we’ve learned a little about good and evil and explored a few other topics in the realm of morality, let’s take a look at hate. If love is the language of goodness, then hate must be the handmaiden of evil, right?

Revenge

Hate is associated with murder, torture, rape and war. Hate can turn mere words into weapons. What could hate possibly be good for?

Let’s once again look to biology for an understanding of hate, which we might loosely describe as anger on steroids.

Anger can be a scary and dangerous emotion, but it can also be very useful. If a bully attacks you, you may be forced to defend yourself. When you’re angry, you instinctively clench your fists and square off as adrenaline begins surging through your blood. Anger essentially prepares your mind and body for combat.

Hate is commonly associated with anger, and both often lead to verbal or physical assault. However, they are actually very different.

Anger is both a mental and physical process, while hate is more of a mental process. You can hate someone while peacefully lying in bed drifting off to sleep.

Angry people may lash out with a punch in the face and apologize a minute later. People who are possessed by hate are more likely to patiently plot revenge — and they’re generally less likely to apologize.

Hate is commonly regarded as irrational, as evidenced by the phrase “blind hatred.” But people can also harbor rational hatred.

If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
Malcolm X

We generally hate things that have hurt us very badly, hurt us repeatedly or which we consider a continuing threat. Sadly, many people are brainwashed into hating people who pose no threat at all. Thus, millions of Americans learned to hate Native Americans, then Communists and now Muslims. Ironically, this kind of hate is indeed irrational. It would make far more sense to hate Republicans, Democrats or the corporate crooks they work for. Jews have done infinitely more to hurt U.S. citizens than Muslims, even though not all Jews are guilty.

Hate vs Forgiveness

Depending on one’s perspective, the opposite of hate is either love or forgiveness. It’s hard to imagine love being a bad thing (though it can ironically be just as irrational as hate), but what about forgiveness?

Imagine a school district that’s run by a very evil person who tyrannizes teachers and ruthlessly exploits children. One day this person does something bad to you. You have witnesses, along with documents that prove his guilt. That means you could take him to court and perhaps get him fired from his position. What a great way to help the children!

But you decide a lawsuit would be too much hassle. Besides, you’ve been taught that forgiving people makes you a better person. So you just forgive him and let him continue exploiting children while you feel good about yourself.

Can you understand why some people would call such an individual selfish?

Some of the greatest activists and freedom fighters include Spartacus, Crazy Horse, Geronimo and Che Guevara. All of them passionately hated the evil people who abused their people. All of them fought back, killing many of these evil people. You might think that sounds like a bad thing, but there a lot of victims of tyranny who would tell you to shut up.

To put it in perspective, think of hate as a form of passion. Whether hate is good or bad depends largely on whether it’s an informed and logical hatred.

If you don’t hate the people who hurt the things you love, then you can feel good about yourself. But feeling good about yourself won’t help the victims of evil and corporate greed. Ironically, your lack of passionate anger can actually encourage evil people to continue exploiting you, while destroying the things you love at the same time. If you don’t care, why should anyone else?

Congratulations!