The great paradox of the human race – namely, that we’re so smart we understand just about everything, except ourselves – has never been more striking, or more troubling, than right now.
Today, we understand the physics of an expanding universe and the mysterious behavior of quarks. We know how to create vaccines and custom genes, replace body parts and build space robots. Our knowledge of life and the universe continues to grow dramatically in every field imaginable. Except one.
We don’t understand evil – what it is, how it works, and why it so routinely and effortlessly ruins our lives. Put another way, we don’t understand ourselves. Despite the human race’s extraordinary capacity for invention and progress, we clearly have a millennia-old blind spot in this one all-important area.
Consider: While living in an age of exponential growth in knowledge, 20 to 30 million Americans currently take powerful, mood-altering psychiatric drugs to deal with depression, bipolar disorder and a slew of other “mental health” problems – despite the troubling link between those drugs and extreme violent behavior. Our relationships are increasingly fragile: We can’t seem to stay married – divorce and family breakdown are still rampant. Besides, we’re not even sure what we believe any more. Increasingly, Americans are forsaking their traditional faiths of Christianity and Judaism in favor of witchcraft and other pagan or New Age practices, while angry, in-your-face atheist manifestos top best-seller lists.
Meanwhile, today’s culture of sexual anarchy manifests ever new and disturbing syndromes – same-sex marriage, people attempting to surgically morph into the opposite gender, pedophiles and polygamists striving to ride the gay-rights bandwagon to acceptance, and an epidemic of female school teachers sexually preying on their students.
For many, Judeo-Christian morality, the foundation of Western Civilization for thousands of years, has become a quaint memory.
America herself is in increasing conflict, more polarized than at any time since the Civil War. Politicians routinely tell colossal lies to advance their agenda, and regardless of who gets elected president, government just seems to grow uncontrollably, destroying the people’s freedom, prosperity and contentment. To top it off, a malignant version of a major world religion is replicating ferociously across the globe with a message of radical intolerance, terror and domination, yet the submissive, almost apologetic response of many in the West resembles a national version of the Stockholm syndrome.
Clearly, despite our massive accumulation of knowledge, we’re still missing something essential – an understanding of ourselves and the forces acting through us that mysteriously churn out deception, suffering and, all too often, tragedy.
Most books about evil are written either by theologians, who offer doctrinal explanations of its origin and implications, or psychologists and psychiatrists, who present a more clinical perspective. I am none of these, but rather, a working journalist.
In the news business, a great deal of what we call “news” is, let’s face it, evil. When a mother reads her children a bedtime story and tucks them into bed, it’s not news. But if she drowns her five children in the bathtub as Andrea Yates did, it’s big news. When you’ve reported on personal, political and cultural corruption for as many years as I have, it’s only natural to want to identify underlying causes. Thus, my long-term interest in this subject – rooted not only in my work as a journalist, but also perhaps in being the offspring of genocide survivors and thus having been aware from an early age of “the evil that men do” – has resulted in an earlier book, “The Marketing of Evil,” and now this one.
In the present book, using today’s most sensational news stories as a starting point, together we will explore, as the title says, “How Evil Works” – the actual mechanics, the inner workings, the “operating system” of this most vexing and under-examined part of all our lives.
We’ll explore questions like: How does terrorism really work? (It’s intended not just to frighten and intimidate, but to reprogram our beliefs, per the Stockholm Syndrome.) Why are neo-pagan and New Age religions like Wicca becoming so popular? (America’s increasing disillusionment with Christianity has created a giant cultural and spiritual vacuum, into which alternative religions are being drawn.) Why do so many entertainment celebrities that “have it all” – talent, fame, good looks, wealth, influence – end up self-destructing? (Being worshipped like gods is similar to taking a potent, intensely pleasurable drug like cocaine – it feels good for a time, but inevitably causes tremendous problems.) Why are big lies more believable than little ones? (Everyone tells little white lies, but not big, bold, audacious ones, and so they assume others wouldn’t either – an assumption world-class liars use to their great advantage. More importantly, big lies possess an inherent power to upset us – triggering a key control mechanism.) Why are boys doing worse in school today than girls? (As America becomes increasingly “feminized,” boys, men and masculinity are being subtly but seriously maligned.) Why do we treat mental-emotional-spiritual problems like rage and depression with drugs? (We’ve been seduced by secular medical “experts” who tell us what all egos love to hear: “It’s not your fault.”)
Fortunately, exposing these hidden dynamics to the light of day triggers something truly amazing: Once we really understand “how evil works” – not just in the disasters and mega-crimes that dominate the headlines, but in our own lives as well – evil actually loses much of its power over us, and the way out becomes more clear.
Indeed, facilitating such understanding – and perhaps even some healing, something we all desperately need – is precisely the aim of this book.