Thursday, November 14, 2013

Evil


Evil is coeval with mankind. 

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) said repeatedly in his widely studied Canterbury Tales, “Love of money is the root of all evil.”  How much can we alter that statement today, six centuries later?

When Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) made his unforgettable Doctor Faustus utter the following lines:
            Had I as many souls as there be stars,
            I’d give them all for Mephistophilis,
he created a character who would be perfectly at home in our own time with all its plethora of sensual delights.   

Now, how evil are sensual delights?

Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” said Shakespeare’s (1564-1616) witches in Macbeth.  They were expressing something much more than an epigram on hypocrisy or political chicanery.  If we want, we can even apply the epigram to many of the contemporary sensual delights.

We can apply that witchy epigram, moreover, to a lot of things today. 

The law today, for example, protects the foul.  Even in the days of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the law wasn’t any better.  He said, Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.”

Can you guess who wrote the following lines?

The different forms of government make laws, democratic, aristocratic, or autocratic, with a view to their respective interests; and these laws, so made by them to serve their interests, they deliver to their subjects as ‘justice’ and punish as ‘unjust’ anyone who transgresses them…

Plato wrote it about 2400 years ago in The Republic.

There has been no escape from evil for mankind.  So what’s to be done?  Should Greek philosopher, Epictetus (55-135 CE), be my inspiration?

When Epictetus was a slave, his master used to treat him with consistent cruelty.  One day the master chose to entertain himself by twisting Epictetus’ leg.  “If you go on,” said Epictetus calmly, “you will break my leg.”  The master went on, and the leg was broken.  “Did I not tell you,” Epictetus observed matter-of-factly, “that you would break my leg?”

4 comments:

  1. Men may come and men may go but evil will go on for ever...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Thanks, Maniparna, for adding that Tennysonian touch to my humble blog.

      Delete
  2. Evil permeates us. Period. The only way to get rid of it is to get rid of humankind.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely right. And thanks for consoling me :)

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