This is the 25th chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can read the chapter online here, and, as I hope you will, support Mr. Eisenstein’s work by buying the book here.
Given how pervasive and deep-rooted the structures of scarcity and struggle are, it is no wonder that we bear their imprint on our own psychology. How do we free ourselves? Their grip is so total that when we try, we risk only strengthening them further. For example, when I asked, “How do we free ourselves?” did you expect that to do so would require some hard effort, some monumental effort of self-transformation? If you think it is going to be hard and began either to steel yourself for the effort or to turn wearily away from it, then you are subject to a habit of struggle.
And do you feel chagrined or defensive about your subjugation to that habit, or are you proud of having “passed the test” at being free of it? Either way, you are in another habit of separation, granting or denying conditional self-approval. If you don’t measure up, you are not good enough. Self-judgment, a crucial ingredient of the war against the self, is one of the most common habits of separation……
….Decades of research, going back to the Milgram experiments of the 1960s, belie our sanctimonious belief that if I were that CEO, that politician, that brother-in-law, that ex-spouse, that teacher, that addict, that inexcusable person, then I wouldn’t have done what she did. Ask yourself, what kind of person would deliver painful, even life-threatening, electrical shocks to an innocent subject as part of a psychological experiment? Surely only a very bad person would do that. Surely you wouldn’t do that! Well actually, as it turns out, “you” would. Or at least nearly everyone did in Stanley Milgram’s lab when the right conditions were present and the right excuses, the right story, was available. “Surely it can’t be wrong if a Yale scientist with a white coat is in charge.” “The subject did volunteer for this.” “I’m not the one responsible, I’m just following instructions.” More broadly, the thought that anything monstrous could be happening in a laboratory, decked out with the regalia of science, at a prestigious university, was so dissonant with the prevailing Story of the World, with society’s consensus about legitimacy and propriety, that one volunteer after another turned the knob up to max and pulled the lever.
The question in the background was how to explain the fact that the Nazi Holocaust was carried out by bland bureaucrats like Adolf Eichmann and legions of quite ordinary people who had led commonplace lives before becoming SS officers and concentration camp guards. How to explain the “banality of evil”? I will return to this question later, because if we are to let go of the War on Evil, we must be able to reframe evil in a way that motivates some other kind of action. Because one cannot deny that some very horrible things are happening on Earth. These things must stop. I am not suggesting, here, that we close our eyes to what looks like evil. I am suggesting we open our eyes even wider to the situation—which is the story that immerses us—that generates evil to begin with……
music: Afro-Celt Sound System, “Riding the Waves“
Susan Shann: “The Final Word“