We always want the lesser of two evils, but we wind up with evil either way. It is not a pretty picture.
“I have carefully examined the two evils facing me,” said one valiant sport, a real self-starter, “and I have decided to select the greater one just so I can see what I am made of.” He went on to great victories over himself and the evil he faced, perhaps knowing that if the greater evil were not dealt with first, it would become insurmountable. Better, perhaps, to let the lesser evil lay while the major one is tackled.
“It is always wise to choose the lesser of two evils,” said a more cautious man, “since the lesser evil can be dealt with quickly, leaving all my resources and undivided attention to focus on the greater, later.” That is, if there is a later. Not an illogical choice, either, as one may not actually possess the resources to deal with the greater evil at the moment. If it can simply be held at bay, or avoided, the lesser may be first defeated.
Nevertheless, one must choose, as the least attractive version is to have both evils in one’s face at the same time, allied in a conspiracy of evil, a vast conspiracy, conspirators conspiring clandestinely or openly (some folks refer to this as a plan). Conspiracies abound, some evil, most not.
All organizations are conspiracies. Corporations are conspiracies of a sort. So are governments. So are schools. So are labor unions. So are churches. So is your local book club. So is the little league team. None of those things seem conspiracies, as they do not seem inherently evil, but ask the mother of the child that sits on the little league team’s bench and never sees the field, much less an at-bat, and plenty of evil will be revealed. Ask the avid gardener who never won the coveted yard-of-the-month sign to display on his lawn, awarded previously to all the other members of the local garden conspiracy. There is no doubt a vast right-wing conspiracy devoted to undermining the vast left-wing conspiracy, and vice-versa; these are called political parties. Just as no poker player reveals his hand before its time, conspiracies never reveal everything they are about, thus some of the activities of the most innocent of conspiracies are clandestine. No charitable organization (conspiracy) ever publicized, “We have plenty of money in the bank, so we don’t need any more,” even when they did have and didn’t need, thus concealing the true nature of their status. Is this not clandestine?
Why is it that our choices continually fall to the lesser of two evils? Where is the good choice? Where is the choice that has unimpeachable integrity? Honesty? Straightforwardness? Clarity? Those choices so often seem unavailable to us, as if hidden amongst dusty brick-a-brac on an out-of-the-way shelf containing mostly useless items among tchotchkes, precious but useless, and the generally useless, we often wondering why we can’t seem to throw them away: The empty pint mason jar with no lid, the old kerosene lamp with no globe and no wick, the rubber-suction cup pencil sharpener when no pencil is to be found anywhere; perhaps we may need it in the future: the Barbie doll dress, the plastic army man or two, things from a childhood we no longer possess but still seem to possess us, as if we could return to it. All these things are perhaps remnants of times when our choices were not limited to evils, as evils were not visible to us, the young and innocent.
Perhaps we see evils everywhere and tolerate them because evils have grown inside us, and we fertilized them with bad TV, bad internet, bad news sources, and bad books. Okay, I take back the bad books part, since books are something a whole generation seems to be unfamiliar with, having been trained from birth to have a maximum focus of six seconds. From where will the next generation of Faulkner readers come? Will Herman Melville become obsolete like William Blake? Will they all become just one more old, dead, white guy, like Shakespeare, with no value to a modern society, as if the greed, envy, malice, unbridled ambition, and avarice ensnaring Shakespearean characters are no longer faced by the more technologically savvy modern men?
Perhaps the green-screen movie is vanquishing the novel. What a horrid thought. The images produced in green-screen movies are painstakingly crafted for us by others, and not nearly so vivid as the ones our own minds produce through the suggestions of words, at least not to me, though I daresay the green-screen movie is a greater evil than a trashy novel. What will become of our imaginations as virtual reality seizes what is left of our once-imaginative brains? What will become of our relationships with each other as we lose the ability to be still and not be stimulated? What, then, will we think about? Will we only think of how to immediately obtain our next artificial stimulation, seeking it out as if it were a fully furnished apartment, right down to the plastic cutlery and Styrofoam plates, as if life were a free pass to a deluxe version of Motel 6, if there be any such thing, with us not required to make any choices? Freedom from having to make decisions is no freedom at all; it is its inverse.
I suppose we like to make our choices, but we insist on being free from their repercussions. Never in the history of mankind has anyone been free from the repercussions of their choices, but that seems to be the new demand. If we are free from the repercussions of our choices, then we must by definition have no choices. That is a dark, dark place.
So, I will face the two evils. Being naturally lazy, I will likely choose the lesser one and put the greater one out of my mind for as long as I can; but it will be back there, lurking, waiting for the next time choosing comes around. It could be that the merry-go-round of life allows me to finally grab the brass ring, which, unfortunately, may have no prize anyone wants….for with the brass ring comes the greater evil. It’s like Monty Hall gone bad. It’s like the newly bankrupt Power Ball millionaires. Things are not always what they seem.
At least, deciding which evil is the lesser of the two gives me much to think about, though being able to recognize both as evil is a great blessing.
A wise person, perhaps a politician, once said, ”Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” At least when they are close you can keep your eye on them.
“Say, Demosthenes,” hailed his suburban Athens vineyard foreman, “what are we going to do with all these grapes? They’ll turn to raisins if left on the vine, and no one wants raisins, or the birds will get them. And they’ll spoil and turn to vinegar if we pick them and don’t process them, and even fewer than no one wants vinegar, if that’s possible”
“That’s not possible,” said Demosthenes, thinking that the mathematical skills of his foreman were lacking, and surveying his acres of ripe grapes, knowing that something must be done and done fast, and he could not stand the thought of eating another grape. “We’ll make wine,” he said in a flash of inspiration. “That way we won’t have to haul useless raisins to market, nor try to sell vinegar to those who have no need for it: rather, people will come to us to get the wine, eliminating our transportation costs .”
He quickly calculated the number of amphora it would take to secure the proper fermentation, the number of smaller amphora it would take to properly store the wine, and how much he could expect in return as people came from all around to purchase his wine, and how much extra he could earn for delivering it to local taverns and restaurants. Thus, a conspiracy was born, as Demosthenes and his foreman laid out a plan to manufacture and distribute wine all across greater Athens.
A couple of millennia later, some fellows in the Kentucky hills had similar conspiratorial ideas as the thought of how inefficient it would be to haul their corn crop down to the market to sell for a lesser value, since folks were willing to travel to the hilltops and pay top dollar to obtain their concentrated corn juice.
There is nothing new, including having to choose between two evils. Choose as best you can. If you choose poorly, you will know it soon enough.
I’m sorry! Did you think I was writing about the election?
©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp