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Updated: 2017.11.20 21:48
 
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Inside the Political Shell of “Evil”
[ Issue 157 Page 11 ] Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 00:24:07 Jae Hwan Jeong Staff Reporter jeong7331@kaist.ac.kr

We sometimes recline away from our rational selves to make room for ambiguity — we know that committing to a stance can be a self-deprecating act and must assume neutrality to shy away from being judged. In other words, we attribute happenings to subjects that hinge on a far less solid basis as we can see from the articles or speeches that say the “evil has taken over” or one was “cut short of luck”. The context of such semantics are more often than not during times that would otherwise unveil the bona fide position of a meritocracy or, to put it directly, compromise power. The Roman Catholic Church in the 13th century created the Inquisition to convert apostates and prevent others from falling away, leading to the demonization of outsiders who were described to have engaged in witchcraft. The demographics that were hammered for witchcraft were concentrated on women who were poor, old, or ill, and a careful thought on the societal problems that girded these women would insinuate a deeper problem that placed the blame on the bureaucracy itself. The whole concept of witches and evil during the medieval period had been a safety net for the rulers, to invoke hatred so great it would damage the prudence of the commoners.

We see such political-shaming take place in many different places in many different forms. The microaggressions that have come to attention recently in university lecture rooms as well as the prevalent dating applications that have become the norm are both examples of political shaming that arise from demand for convenience in classification. Perhaps the off-the-cuff segregations are closer to human instincts than we may have previously thought, but the problem is that it is making us insensitive to the verbal tricks and laziness of political bodies. There is no doubt that government bodies utilize subtlety and innuendos to allow themselves a more flexible and calibrated response to a question or a problem — a hackneyed strategy that reflects their lack of resolution without making themselves look stupid. However, it is so overused to a point that we, the audience, have become acclimated to their verbal techniques; we have come to believe that there are more unexplainables than the explainables and that there is more “evil” than loopholes in the legislation. Basically, we don’t seem to question as much as before and just accept the situations as they are, thinking to ourselves, “Maybe there really isn’t anything we can do.” Pointedly speaking, through a series of terrorism and shootings in the world, “thoughts and prayers” have not produced a quantifiable change in the perilous landscape of today’s society. Instead, the aphorism has become an impotent statement of unwillingness to address causes or preventions. As journalist James Hamblin cunningly puts, the justification for this is that during a period of mourning, no substantive remarks should be made.

On Monday, the US’ 273rd mass shooting of the year broke out in Las Vegas, wounding some 500 people and the death toll hitting a striking 58 people. And to this unprecedented epidemic of mass murder, President Trump tweeted: “Warmest condolences and sympathies.” What complemented these cliché words was the president’s call for the expected period of discourse-free mourning. The speech that Trump gave on Monday morning further conjured a sense of avoidance as he blamed “evil” for the cause — a term he used four times in his short speech without a single mention of key terms such as domestic terrorism or psychosis that help delineate the perpetrator. What is in the population’s best interest is duped and replaced with a surreal sense of “evil” that remains to be tackled with unknown means. It is almost as if waging war against evil has a narcotizing effect that we can’t escape from. I mean, who isn’t against evil? The discussion of good and evil recalls the memories of the incidents of 9/11 during which Former President George W. Bush employed similar rhetorics to set the climate for war against terrorism. It’s an irony how not much can be done to actually do away with “evil” but whoever mentions the idea in conjunction with determination to “destroy” it is given credit straight away. What’s more disturbing is what Governor Matt Bevin wrote on Twitter: “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regulations ... You can’t regulate evil.” The thought that evil warrants atrocities halts any tinge of hope we may have had and seeing governors resign from actions due to spiritual causes should arouse hysterical laughter. But what we should pick up from this is more so a reluctance than avoidance — it is the fear of fomenting conflict with agencies that are at the core of the problem. Throughout his campaign, President Trump has consolidated himself as a frank vocalist, not refraining from using controversial terms and slang on any given issue. He was also at the forefront of critics who condemned Obama for his reluctance to affront radical Islamic terrorists. However, the increasing predilection for spiritual causalities have helped flag a subject that Trump may be evading just as much as Obama did with the Islamic group: “gun violence”. Violent outbreaks are carried out through mechanisms that allow access to the violent tools and emphasizing these channels explicitly and repeatedly is of utmost importance in protecting the people. To see even the garrulous Trump refrain from doing so shows the extent to which the gun agencies have a stranglehold on US politics — the true unforeseen “evil” that the majority fails to see.

It may be that debating about gun violence straight after a mass killing is considered callous. However, the accumulated years of inaction and the unconscionable call for silence in the name of mourning and unity should be critically denounced. Just as it is a political act to be outspoken about a matter, so is to keep shut about another. Painting a discussion as being inappropriate is in itself a political act as well. Creating a false line between mourning and being non-negligent to important matters should not be packaged into an oratory tool in one man’s speech to deviate attention. The real evil is our will to condone such silences and the more we submit ourselves to it, the more severe the overall political inactivity will become.

The cause of these political elusiveness is also partially the ideology on which our society is based. Seldom do we come to recognize the ideologies that dominate our lives, and even less frequently do we question how they affect our well-being. The state of affairs today is closely tied to the markets and it would appear dull to discuss politics in the absence of economics in any given discussion. This is because everything is related to providing grounds for competition, which is in turn all predicated on the ideas of neoliberalism. To regulate competition is to be inimical to liberty in the world orchestrated by neoliberalism. The locus of power is in the hands of the people who share the market and even the government is wary of intervening on its own accord as it entails the institution’s credibility being curtailed. To mention a supplier’s name in the same context as a devastating shooting epidemic is not much different from the aforementioned — it is controlling the competition at the government’s will, and neoliberalism does not allow for this to take place. So instead of putting the blame where it needs to be, we can see political leaders describing atrocities as theological manifestations. The debate on gun control is a sensitive issue that is rarely mentioned by politicians in times of need — such is definitely the case for Las Vegas as well. So how do we, as the consumers of neoliberal products and as seekers of transparent politics, balance between the two needs? Lobbying for one means risking the other, and like all goods in life, sacrifices must be made if we don’t want to lose grip on both. The least we can do is to recognize how neoliberal advocates seize crises to impose unpopular policies. Recall after Pinochet’s coup and the Iraq war how journalist Thomas Friedman described the situation as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system”. Furthermore, the increasing privatization of public services is giving markets leverage on the governing body, causing laws to spoonfeed the needs of private investors and not vice versa.

I don’t doubt that in the coming future, we will view the current era as one that became infected with feeble political institutions. To see even the infamous Trump fall short of his usual tantrums and resort to evasive semantics should scare us. It may sound off-the-book to suggest this, but to see through situations, citizens need to be informed ahead of the media reports or the political plugging. We need to actively gather momentum to push for change before another crisis escalates. If we stay as listeners and blame “evil” for matters that are rooted far deeper than they appear, we will never be able to prevent disasters, let alone another mass shooting. Although the recent shootings may be more pertinent to the US than other countries, the overarching theme looms over the whole globe and we all need to stay vigilant. It’s a superficial war against terror and the solution to it lies within the system of our current doctrine. Next time we hear another leader blame “evil” in the throes of a disaster, let us not forget that there is a whole iceberg of “evil” that needs to be addressed down under.

Jae Hwan Jeong Staff Reporter Archives  
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