It is my observation that the bulk of human evils lies in the taking of that which does not really belong to the taker. Let me count the ways:
- Taking conclusions, opinions, or beliefs that are not fairly derived from reality.
- Taking unvetted hearsay as a valid source.
- Taking an argumentative position that is based on something other than reality.
- Taking advantage of another person’s ignorance or weakness in a matter in order to supply false information or impressions.
- Taking credit for the accomplishments of another.
- Taking blame for the misdeeds or faults of another.
- Taking personal credit or pride simply for belonging to a group that is supposed to be good.
- Taking credit for success in a matter where one’s diligence is still incomplete.
- Taking on an air of innocence when one is guilty.
- Taking on an air of ignorance when one knows.
- Taking on an air of knowledge when one is yet ignorant.
- Taking on an air of certainty when one cannot be rightly certain.
- Taking on an air of non-responsibility when one is responsible.
- Taking on an air of responsibility where one has no rightful responsibility.
- Taking a sense of entitlement to carry on in one’s errors or indiscretions, rather than correcting or ceasing them.
- Taking on a “label” of self identification (or of public reputation) without being an authentic representative of that label.
- Taking pay for work not done.
- Taking advantage of a lawless government, such as with unconstitutional entitlements, employment, disbursements, or protections that unfairly serve one’s special interest.
- Taking pay for a product or service known to harm the buyer.
- Taking the property of another without consent.
- Taking a win/lose deal (as the winner).
- Taking unauthorized authority over others.
- Taking advantage of a position of authority in order to exceed one’s rightful power or privilege.
- Taking a leisurely time to admit and to right a wrong one has done to others.
- Taking the attitude that one’s own needs and desires outweigh those of others.
- Taking an attitude of exemption from the rules and expectations one assumes upon others.
Take a moment and ponder a world in which none of the above were practiced any longer. Then consider whether any crime or injustice, no matter how great or small, could exist in such a world.
I have a hard time imagining one that could.
Though man can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that he should do it. Nor does it follow that reality will have a kind response to his every choice. For example, a man may step off a cliff, but if he chooses to do so, the realities of gravity and the canyon floor will greet his decision most severely in short order.
If I may wax metaphoric, our very Universe is woven from reality. To my knowledge so far, there does not exist in all the Universe one single unreal thing—with one exception. And that exception lies in the imagination of man. Man can imagine all manner of unreal things, including both good and bad—including reality-responsible solutions to real problems, as well as lies and injustices. Just because man can imagine a thing does not mean, however, that everything he imagines has a natural or rightful place in our Universe any more than the man-caused Fukushima radiation contamination has any natural or rightful place in the Pacific Ocean and the US Pacific Coast.
Man can imagine that he knows more than he knows, or deserves more credit than he deserves, or is better off than he is, but this does not make it so. He can even imagine that the unfair fulfillment of his own desires are worth someone else’s loss, but this does not make it so. He can imagine ways to make billions in profits by harming others, or even how to conquer the Earth for himself and his friends, but this does not mean that he has any natural right to do such things.
In short, far too many strive against the very fabric of the Universe: reality. They strive not to believe the truth about themselves. They strive to continue calling themselves one thing when they are yet another. They strive in their imaginations to justify and to defend that which cannot be rightly justified or defended in reality.
What real being, however, can lay any rightful or natural claim to unreality?
Could there possibly be any vainer existence than that? To have spent one’s years upon the Earth being irresponsible to reality, and taking unreal treasures for oneself from the vault of imagination while being a pauper and debtor in the realm of reality—is this not an indication of being unfit for the Universe in which we live?
If the “takers” (by which I refer to those who take what is not rightfully theirs) are allowed to operate unchecked, they will consume the societies in which they live. Is there even one society in the entire history of the Earth that did not prove this?
It is important to understand that most humans are “takers” to some extent. And to whatever extent they do not “take”, it may not be a matter of enlightened principle so much as of pragmatic self preservation. That is, they refrain from doing that which will get them thrown into jail, but continue to do that against which there is no such threat. Such a person, therefore, will not steal your cash (criminal theft), but he will sell you his used car while concealing some of its known issues, so as to get an unfairly-high price for it. He will not punch you in the face (criminal assault), but he will spread lies about you. He doesn’t find reality itself to be a compelling guide for his life, but only the fear of incarceration or other negative consequences.
The Good News!
But then there are the exceptions: those humans who take the high road—those who recognize the reality of humanity: that we are of a higher cognitive order than the other species, and that just because we can imagine a thing, it doesn’t make that thing either real or right.
Astute observation shows us that human imagination is a tool for coping with reality—for finding better ways to deal with things—for solving problems. It is not well used, however, for the long-term pretense that certain real problems do not exist. Even so, many go on for years imagining that they are well informed when the reality is that they are not. And many imagine that they are not as unhealthy as they really are—or that their personal behavior does not hurt people as much as it really does.
Do people have a right to engage in this sort of irresponsible-to-reality imagination as a way of life? Some would argue that because they can do it, they have a natural right to it. But how can such a right be considered “natural” when nature itself exists in the very realities that such imagination denies? I hold, therefore, that such anti-reality use of the imagination is anathema to nature every bit as much as is the pollution of our ecosystem, the ruination of natural species via genetic modification, or the killing of babies yet in the womb.
If people have a “right” to engage in this sort of imagination, then it follows that they have a right to harm other people, for harming others is inevitable for people who engage in this behavior. In this matter, we have an advantage, however, for it is already a widely-held principle of fair play that no person has a right to harm another, except in defense against or punishment for some encroachment upon justice.
It behooves us, therefore, to do a little logical backtracking: If it is wrong to harm another—if that is a truism by which we are content to abide—then it is wrong to engage in the sort of cognitive activity that leads to hurting others.
I contend that everything on the list above unjustly harms others. Therefore, I contend that no one has a natural right to these behaviors. So where lies the bulk of human evils? It lies in the deliberate escape from reality. The taking of that which is not rightfully ours is the telltale sign that such escape has already occurred in the mind of the individual.