Seeing Evil

Emma knew that Clinton was complicated and evil because her fellows Sanders supporters told her so.   Trump, though, seemed simple and human, so she voted for him, even though she is a transwoman who ended up supporting a party that has made many actions directly against queers like her.

We live in a culture where we are trained to pick out what is different, what is wrong, what is weak, what is bad and what is evil about other people.    We beat on how they fall short, on the times when they failed, betraying us.

This is what we grew up with, a demand that we be who others expect us to be.  We were to eliminate our differences, be ashamed of our limits, and strive to be normative, fitting the role we were cast in.

Todd Rose’s “The End Of Average: How We Succeed In A World That Values Sameness” is all about this shattering and abusive pressure.   Rose knows that the only way we can succeed is by bringing out our unique strengths, by revealing our own light, not by trying to comply with imposed expectations and focusing on eliminating difference.

If human accomplishments are valued by how we hide and spin our failures, rather than by how our risks and commitment was moral, brave, honest and lead to better outcomes, well, then people will always avoid the possibility of being seen as queer, flawed and complicated.

My sister is being pressured and threatened at work because she is who she is, an incredibly committed and smart introvert with a powerful work ethic rather than who the bosses up the chain think she should be, a swinging dick extrovert who forces her reports to also become aggressive, demanding, driven  and compliant in their actions.

How you make hourly workers who have toiled for years with the routine work of keeping a store stocked and ready into big balls players is beyond her.   It’s beyond anyone, really, because if they were that ambitious, they wouldn’t still be putting out dress shirts everyday.

Instead of valuing her strengths, working to use them more effectively, she is told that maybe she doesn’t really belong because she doesn’t have the blood lust.   Can those managers above her see how she quietly trained new people, solved problems, got the best out of staff?   No, because they are not looking at what she actually brings, only at how she doesn’t match the imposed expectations of their demanding bosses who want bigger and more aggressive because they are sure that will bring them the success they need to satisfy their demanding bosses.

This is a culture focused on lack and deficiency, which makes it a culture focused on spin, defensiveness and blaming.   Rather than coming together to find better solutions a diverse team can implement, we end up trying to impose canned rules and then looking for a scapegoat when they don’t succeed.

We look for deviance which we mark as damage, valuing the shiny people who look nice over the messy ones who actually waded into the fray to take the risks and get things done.

We look, in other words, for evil.   Who is to blame for our failures, who needs to be pounded into line, who caused the loss?

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Peace never comes from looking for evil, from avoiding the complex, from trying to impose your simple and fundamental rules on others.

The quest for perfection, in an organization or in a human, is not the quest for eliminating all identifiable weaknesses, rather it has to be the quest for balance, for grace and for cooperation.   There is no one perfect answer, no matter what people who live by the book may tell you, there are only good, effective answers that work in the current context, taking stock of current needs and long term costs.   Every choice comes with a price — saying yes to one thing means saying no to another — and making those trade-offs always demands compromise and attention.

We do the best we can, which means focusing on getting better, making better choices is always, always more useful than focusing on eliminating failure.  God, grant me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Confusing symbol with meaning doesn’t mean we make things better, only that we miss the possibilities which are right in front of us but are beyond the fearful limits of our current vision.   Simple may be comforting as it purges complexity and it’s complications, but the world our creator left us is is full of spectacular connections and nuanced interactions.

Knowing what you are sure is evil is standing for the negative, standing for judgment and sickness.    Being open to the good that exists within the messy choices is standing for the positive, standing for possibility and empowerment.

I have been judged and found complex, overwhelming, challenging and evil.  My difference is confounding rather than valued, scary rather than enlightening. People already know what they want, and I am not it.

Those people will, in the end, have to live with the results of their choices.   They can either take responsibility and learn from the outcomes, or they can look for someone to blame, wanting to purge the evil which blocked their simple and beautiful dreams from coming to fruition.

If they are seeing evil, though, it is doubtful that they will, as so many masters of antiquity have told us to do, seek that evil within themselves.   Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

After all, there is always another scapegoat whose destruction should remove the evil we see, even if that evil is located inside our own eye.