Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Aiding and Abetting Evil

"Evil is like a shadow. It has no real substance of its own; it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it." ~Shakti Gawain

"There is hardly a man clever enough to recognize the full extent of the evil he does." ~Francois De La Rochefoucauld

Last night I had the opportunity to go to a local bar/pool hall and shoot a few rounds of pool with a good friend. He’s a smart person with a good heart who has displayed both compassion and integrity. I try to have these admirable qualities and avidly seek in others. I like to think I’m doing pretty well at those.

My abilities in pool playing however are severely lacking.

Even though I understand the concepts of how to line up the balls, bounce them off the walls, aim low to make the ball stop short, etc. I almost always seem to somehow miss my mark by just a bit. I try to be a good sport about it, but I find it quietly infuriating.

It turns out this friend grew up around a bar that a family member owned and spent some quality time (hours upon hours, for years) perfecting the skills of the game. While I enjoy pool, I’ve played very little of it in my lifetime. I’m not the most practiced or proficient player but I enjoy it and accept frequent loses (unless the other player accidentally bags the eight ball) but I admit I’d like to be good at it. I hate to fail at anything.

By the second game he begin watching more closely the way I’d carefully line things up only to have something bewildering go wrong upon execution. A no-miss shot would refuse the hole it was only cementers from, going sideways instead of straight.

He identified that I was holding the end of the stick too far from my body and with a death grip instead of loosely generating momentum with it. This was causing my arm to swing slightly sideways in a nearly in-perceivable way knocking the balls millimeters in the wrong direction.

After making the necessary adjustments my game improved immediately by leaps and bounds. I went from being an embarrassment to being a contender. He was my hero for the night.

As the night was rounding out though, we took a break to get more quarters and he went off to talk with a girl who was holding a black bag. Curious about what looked like a business transaction I went over to investigate. I was horrified to see that the girl was giving away flavored chewing tobacco in exchange for his contact information to send him additional advertisements and freebies.

It may be because of the wholesome healthy minded way I was raised but it’s always crushing to discover a friend do something disastrous to their health and making choices that will hurt their hope for happiness in life.

What was most confusing about this was I knew this friend didn’t chew or smoke. What was going on?

It turns out that he was signing up for the free t-shirt they give away online. He planned to give the tobacco to friends at work.

I try very hard to not make judgment about other people. I know I am riddled with faults and character flaws and want others to treat me compassionately in spite of them. But I strongly believe that we should use our strengths to help others with their weaknesses.

Confucius taught that “The man of noble mind seeks to achieve the good in others and not their evil.”

As a peer counselor and drug educator in high school I frequently talked with teens and kids who had chemical abuse problems or grew up in families where those things were a way of life. I saw how it hurt their lives, damaged their bodies and self esteem and in some cases destroyed their families. I truly believe that science is still only beginning to get through to people just how harmful those substances are.

Just like “Friends don’t let friends drink and drive”, I believe the mark of a true friend is someone who takes the substances away from their buddies, not giving them more because “well they’re already choosing to use them”.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.” If you love someone, as friends should, you do not contribute to their making themselves sick and unhappy.

I was sad and even angry that this person I admired was supporting an incredibly toxic company that perpetuates death, disfigurement and disease, all for the sake of a free t-shirt.

My god, if he wanted a free shirt that badly, I’d buy him one!

The quote "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," by Edmund Burk has been made quite popular through online social networks like MySpace.

I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. History is abundant with horrific atrocities that have happened because one person chose evil and too many people around them stood by and passively allowed it.

I was taught and still believe that you should take a stand for truth and right even if it means you stand alone. I could not ignore the painful sadness I felt believing my friend was compromising his integrity for temporary popularity with a few work buddies and a free t-shirt.

It might make me a nark, a rat, a tattle-tale or any number of other things, but I would rather have someone I care about be angry at me or even get in trouble with the law if it puts a step between them and an action that will hurt them or someone else. I would rather be seen as the unpopular goody-goody and keep my integrity intact rather then aiding and abetting evil.

“What is evil? Whatever springs from weakness.” Frederich Nietzsche

I wanted to plead my case to this friend that wearing a shirt advocating something you yourself don’t do because you know it’s dangerous is hypocritical. That doing business with these companies pushing designer death hurts not only those old enough to accept the consequences of their decisions, but also the unborn, young, elderly, disabled and the helpless to tell their care providers that the choices they are “free” to make are killing them too. That giving dangerous and addictive chemicals to people you care about is a betrayal of that friendship.

We live in not just a country but a world that thrives on people copying what those perceive as attractive and successful do. How many people wanting to emulate him: children, teens, other guys and young women who never spoke with him to discover he doesn’t smoke or chew, might decide it’s a cool and sexy thing to do, and struggle to beat the addiction for the rest of their lives in part because they saw this attractive and charming guy wearing a t-shirt advertising tobacco?

Cicero got it right: “They do more harm by their evil example than by their actual sin.”

I said a bit on this to him, but knowing that being preachy often makes a person just feel more rebellious, I allowed my actions to relate my frustration with his decision.

It was evident in the way I played the next few turns, slopping balls around and hardly paying attention to what I was aiming at, if I was aiming at all; ignoring all of his useful and correct advice. I know everyone has free will. But I also believe that we should influence those around us to make good decisions. I certainly would want those who care about me to try to interfere if I start doing something or continued doing something that is at the most basic level: stupid and bad. Or worse: dangerous and hurtful.

Last night I had the opportunity to go to a local bar/pool hall and shoot a few rounds of pool with a good friend. He’s a smart person with a good heart who has displayed both compassion and integrity.

He didn’t let me down. More importantly, with a little reminder that everyone needs sometimes, he did the right thing. I watched while without a word he threw the tobacco away.

“Our character is but the stamp on our souls of the free choices of good and evil we have made through life.” John Cunningham Geikie

1 comment:

schwarzefahne said...

I am reminded of the 1989 blockbuster "Glory". I watched this movie with my father as a boy, and subsequently as a young man years later. While my father took the time to mock and degrade the movie and the African-American soldiers portrayed in it, I looked for the text quoted in the opening scene of the movie:

"...Thank you for sending my volume of Emerson. His words come home to me like truth. 'A deep man,' he says, 'believes that the evil eye can wither, that the heart's blessing can heal, and that love can overcome all odds.' "

I believe any free-thinker, conservationist and humanitarian would enjoy reading "Beauty", or any other publishings by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The man was well beyond his time, as his work still may be. I can only hope that man might one day learn to see the world as he did.