Stephen Metcalf’s article in Slate: Not Here: If we’re truly serious about stopping massacres like Aurora, we need to cure our addiction to evil.
I’m captivated by Stephen Metcalf’s July 27, 2012 piece Not Here: If we’re truly serious about stopping massacres like Aurora, we need to cure our addiction to evil.
Metcalf reminds us that Superman was an imaginative response to fascism in 1939. Evil was just ramping up at the time to a proportion no one could imagine. That Holocaust is still an ultimate example of evil.
In 2012 we are searching for a sense of moral righteousness in a time of alienation (ironically, the solitude of social networks), in a nation where every hero has lost his luster. We are disappointed time and again by the people we want to solve the extremely complex issues that face us (the sordid alcohol, drug and sex lives of politicians and public personalities we don’t really want to even know about, the economy, the environment, the Middle East, the Euro…to name a few). Where is truth?
Metcalf offers a perspective on civil massacre (as contrasted to massacre in war) and the cultural phenomenon Captain Cook brought to us running amok as he described in 1770 the murderous behavior he found on the Malay archipelago. So the Malay came to stop such behavior just as more “civilized” people started. Men with the three identity issues of “narcissism, persecution, resentment” and an arsenal of weapons demonstrate the deadly times we are in.
Meanwhile, one truck crashes and kills an equal number of immigrants, kids are dying every day in urban warfare, and around the globe deadly weapons sales perpetuate violence and civil wars. Where are the superheroes to make those stories grab our imaginations?
Metcalf quotes Hannah Arendt, “Only the good has depth and can be radical.” Arendt found Eichmann to be a small man, an uninspiring man, banal. We want our evil to be magnificent when actually it is so easy with an automatic weapon or a truckload of fertilizer. Heroes are all of us working in our everyday lives to interrupt a racist joke, help kids to talk through emotions, invite a neighbor to dinner. We are the deep community members at the root of this society. We are the radical good.