Drone strikes, kill lists, murderers and torturers approved for high office. Austerity for the poor, record profits for the rich. Truthtellers shackled, liars lauded, ignorance exalted, cruelty and callousness gilded with righteous piety. Everywhere, goodness is driven to its knees, and this brutality is not decried but celebrated.
As in that age of iron that lowered over our forbears during dark night of the Thirties, you see faces once thought kind and kindred turn suddenly feral. Fear is behind it, but not just fear: also a self-hatred for what fear has turned them into, a self-hatred that cannot be borne and so is turned outward, thrown outward, into harsh projections of hatefulness, violence and desolation.
The avid embrace of what was once denounced, or the sad but "savvy" acceptance of the "lesser evil": this is what we see at every turn today among ourselves, among those we thought were our own, and sometimes, maybe -- when the lowering is darkest, heaviest -- in mirrors as we pass. When the lowering is darkest, when the soul is lost. In them. In us.
What do you think goodness is? Some commodity, a material substance that can be wasted utterly, atomized, made inert? Do you think it is a thing, that can be destroyed, organic matter that can die? Do you think it is an idea that can lose its force, its coherence, its context, can be rendered quaint or antiquated by time's passing, or by any suppression or negation? What do you think goodness is? Goodness is like fire: it is a process not an entity, not even a mental entity: it is process, it is relation, it exists only in the moment of its enacting, in the moment of ignition, of relation, where matter and energy become one, become nothing, become all.
Goodness is like fire, but it is not fire, because the matter it feeds upon is existence itself: inexhaustible, in all of its uncountable coalescences of innumerable elements -- right down to the quantum switchings in the invisible cores: rising, decaying, recombining, rising again, decaying, recombining, on and on, in every direction, at every level, until the end of whatever time is, if whatever time is has an end.
Fearful, damaged creatures rule us. It is because they are more fearful and damaged than we are that they want to rule, that they aren't content with mere images of projected self-hatred (like so many of their sycophants and followers). No, they must have the viscera in their hands, smell the overpowering stench of death, hear the wail of suffering, see the damage, the destroyed body that is the image of their own soul. They think that in this way what is fearful and damaged inside them will be expelled. But of course, the opposite is true; the hateful damage is only increased, exponentially, the rot grows deeper and deeper inside them.
This is what our politics is, this is what power is: the maniacal attempt to overcome relation -- to blot it out, stop the endless process, put out the fire, and impose a deadened stasis on the reality that pains them so.
But this is impossible to do, because the flame of reality cannot be extinguished. Individual points of consciousness can be destroyed -- an abysmal, irreplaceable, inconsolable loss -- but not the always-changing, rising, falling, recombining process that is reality. What do you think goodness is? Goodness is reality, it is Being itself. Evil is the attempt to quell reality, to quell goodness, to stop it, arrest it, indefinitely detain it, to beat it, terrorize it into submission, to assassinate it, sequester it, to make it go away somehow and stop reflecting back to us the damaged thing we have become.
But this cannot be done. It cannot be done. Goodness can lose, but it cannot be defeated. It can be balked, but it cannot be quelled. In every single moment of existence, the choice for goodness is there. Every single moment -- the choice. And you can make it at any point, you can begin the process of accepting, enacting, igniting goodness at any point, even the darkest and most degraded.
Sometimes we don't have the strength, of course. Sometimes we don't know what's working on us, turning us away from reality, the process, the flame, drawing us down into hatefulness, into the dead world of projection. Sometimes we know, but can't control these forces. As I once wrote elsewhere (nothing new under the sun), "moments will be lost, moments will be won; this is the imperishable way." This is the endless task of consciousness, of being alive in reality.
(And "goodness" here does not mean "goodiness" or righteousness or any kind of bloodless, lifeless thing. Goodness is the impulse or action that moves in relation, the impulse or action that does not abstract, exploit, dehumanize the other, does not solidify them, but moves, flows in empathetic relation to them. You can have a hell of a good time in that kind of flow.)
In any given age, the lowering clouds can bear down more heavily than in others. Ours is indeed a very hard age, another age of iron. It is an age of loss, of grievous loss -- but it is not the age of defeat. Reality remains, the process goes on, the choice for goodness is always -- always -- there, no matter what.