I love this above quote from Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, but I wonder what the real consequences might be of attempting to enact its words? I say this because I wonder, if her eloquent sounding statement actually has any “real meaning” when we consider the possibly undefinable words it relies upon, “good and evil.”
If the end of evil, in the name of good, became a reality, would the basis for many of our best adventure stories vanish like fog in the morning sunrise? In our most dramatic stories and plays, from ancient times onward, it is essentially the battle between good and evil that occupy center stage, despite the actor’s exuberant strutting and stammering. Not to say there would not be enough to write about. Just living, surviving, exploring, advancing society and technology, challenging the limits of our existence, reaching out to the beckoning call of the sea of space, to name just a few……….. would surely be enough to write about. Just one type of “evil” would vanish, that being the actions of one being or group of beings, against another of opposing opinions or values.
This concept of the “end of evil in the name of good” makes me wonder what is “evil?” How do we define “evil?” We won’t touch this much right now as it has been debated for centuries and appears clearly unresolved to intellectual thinkers, though perhaps not so to religious ones! Yet, Marie, personally, had no problem with expecting that evil could be defined by someone; If not, her quote makes no sense!
If we step away from living entities performing evil what else is evil? Is there evil? One enticing thought that comes from this discussion is can we define death as evil? Perhaps it is unjust to call death an “evil” after all, we don’t know what death is because we don’t know what comes after it, just before it (at least other than by faith). However, this is a whole other subject and likely a floating away from the torrentouous sea of thoughts that Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach’s words, seem to have set astorm.
But back to Marie. How many times can you look back on history and see that a war was fought in the name of “good,” but that good appears to have been very one sided? Perhaps that means that one sided good is another name for “evil.” In fact this appears to make a lot of sense, when you give it some grey cell time. Does that mean that whatever we do as a nation that we declare is “good” has to be seen by all as good to truly be good?
One of the salient issues of our era, at the moment, is Islamic terrorism. Islamic Terrorists claim that they are on the side of good, and those whom they are attacking are evil. The West, mostly Christian and Jewish, in its essential values, sees it the other way around (for the most part). We do not often deny that we have made some poor decisions in our effort to “rescue” other nations from the villainous grips of tyrannical leaders. History is replete with good guys waging war on evil. We hope history will see us as the good guys. Maybe Marie’s statement is nonfunctional because of its dependencies? Should we consider perhaps that forceful actions taken in the name of “good” are the issue and not the definition of good? In that case, evil might not be done if warfare was not allowed!
If only we could agree to ban war as a method of “overcoming evil” can you imagine how we might resolve our differences? We might even be able to throw out trying to define good and evil. Martin Luther King, amongst other good company, championed this concept. It does produce results, even without a martyr.
Perhaps a potentially better statment (though longer) than hers might be considered.
- “Little evil would be done in the world if evil never could be done in the name of good” might become…
- “little evil would be done in the world if warfare, of any sort, was not permitted in an effort to replace perceived evil with perceived good.
Warfare is also not so easy to define. Is economic warfare war? Is political manipulation and destabilization of nations war?
If we could ban “warfare” of most types, it could potentially make for a great story. However, considering that the “natural order of our universe” appears to be the survival of all living creatures who are dependent upon a hierarchy of species dominance and a food chain, it strains credulity.
Somewhere in our universe I know this story is being played out. Ah…but to witness it in person and learn its secrets! My long and slowly upcoming story currently labeled “The Carrnegg” is an attempt to visit this time and place.