Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is Evil Crazy?

Yesterday on Manboobz, a new commenter was called out for dismissing MRAs as "crazy."  Her feelings got hurt, and she flounced off the board, which was a shame, because it could have been a great learning moment for her.  It certainly was for me.

For one reason, it reminded me of how pejorative the word "crazy" is, and I should know.  I recently "unfriended" an acquaintance who had commented on Facebook (and I paraphrase here) that I needed to get my head examined before I lost my medical insurance.  Yeah, it hurt my feelings.  And also, was that ever a case of the pot calling the kettle black.  

Suffice to say, I am hardly a paragon of mental health myself.  I struggle with chronic depression and anxiety, and sometimes my girlfriend warns me that I am "going off the deep end."  I have more than a touch of OCD, and have been medicated for panic attacks on occasion. Overall, however, given the genetic hand I was dealt, the circumstances I grew up in, and some of the god-awful choices I have made, I have managed pretty well so far.  But I digress...  

My point here is that I know firsthand that to disparage people who suffer from mental disorders is cruel and unfair.  I know that the vast majority of people with psychiatric diagnoses do not commit crimes and do not intentionally hurt other peopleI know that psychiatry cannot fully address the nature of "evil," nor is psychiatric treatment in itself a solution.

The kerfuffle at Manbooz yesterday, as well as a brief exchange with Zosimus the Heathen (see comments), also made me reflect on how the language we use not only expresses, but shapes, our thoughts.  It was one of my favorite discussion topics in graduate school.  Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, anyone?

Spiritually, I would have to describe myself as a skeptic.  While I enjoy attending church, and often derive sustenance from it, I am not a Believer.  I sometimes envy others their faith even as I soundly reject their attempts to instill it in me.  I don't have a personal conflict with this.  When it comes to religion, I have zero interest in converting anyone else to my point of viewIndeed, I deeply love and respect a number of people (including My Most Beloved) who happen to find comfort and guidance in what I personally consider a lot of hooey.   

However, my lack of belief in supernatural causality does run me aground when it comes to the concept of "evil."  I have found myself labeling much of what I read in the manosphere as "evil."   And I think I need to look at this habit, which is a kind of intellectual "shortcut," a lot more carefully.  What do I mean when I call Roosh or JudgyBitch or Paul Elam "evil" people?

James Knoll, a psychiatrist, recently posted in Medscape:
What most of us label as evil is, in the final analysis, extreme selfishness.  When we lack a clear understanding of something that frightens us, we call it "evil," which temporarily allays our anxiety. Our nerves settled, we believe we have become clear about the nature of the problem, and then we may go about defending ourselves against the "other" we have just created. But this defensive posture may all too easily transition into a preemptive strike -- the result of projecting onto the "other" the aspects of our own psyches that we hate or fear the most.  That a killer considers his self-centered interests more important than your life is not due to some supernatural evil force; it is simply supremely egoistic...  [italics mine]
If anything keeps me kicking, it's the way life continues to remind me that I have so much yet to learn.


  1. I just managed to run afoul of the Manboobz commentariat by complaining about the amount of cutesiness and adorable cat videos where I wanted to see more blistering sarcasm and ridicule. My opinion is kind of meaningless if that's what makes the majority of commenters happy (and I acknowledged as much), but man, those kitty video fans really ran me out.

    I'm still a fan of Mr. Futrelle, of course.

    1. Yeah... well, it's a very established community there, with a core of leading commentators that are "there" all day every day. And they definitely have their own ways of doing/seeing things, rules of discourse, in jokes, passions and tastes. I've been commenting for going on a year, but I still don't feel like I'm "one of them." And that's OK. I accept that I may always be an outsider at manboobz. That's why I have my own blog! As for the surfeit of kittens, hey I like cute animal pix as much as the next person, but there is a limit. At manboobz, though the kitten fetish is a way to defuse tension that surrounds reading the horrible manosphere stuff...

    2. Yeah, I acknowledged that it was a coping behavior in my complaint, and -- you know what -- that's fine by me. I think what bothers me is that it gives the manosphere goons fodder to claim that Manboobz commenters, and by extension feminists, and by extension women, are stupid, frivolous, trifling, immature, etc.

      I'll admit that hardly sounds damning when compared to the sociopaths and pathological liars that run the manosphere. But still. It's hard to not feel a bit of secondhand embarrassment when a troll stomps in and starts mocking the Manboobz comment section.

      Guess it's just not my brand of bourbon!

    3. LOL. Not mine either. (I prefer Jack Daniels.)


Thanks for commenting!