Southern Views

Those who speak the truth, who unmask and show their listeners what is underneath, are often hated, reviled, hounded and killed.  Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, is still hated by many because he stripped away the mask of segregation and demanded that dignity be restored to his people…. in order to do this he often quoted from both the Old and New Testaments of the bible.  He would not be silenced and the fear and rage he engendered was great; for to ask a culture to look at its collective undersides is dangerous business.

The truth he brought us to was not an unknown truth, it was just put aside.  Evil becoming ordinary and so the worst kind of prejudice was made the law and achieved respectability…. well, it did for those who benefited from this social evil.  For anyone who belonged to the majority class, the stronger element in our society (white, in this instance), a conversion of some kind would have to be endured, if participation in this kind of unjust system was participated in, when the call for change was responded to.  So yes, it is understandable that Martin Luther King was hated and eventually killed.  That is what happens to those who show us sides of ourselves and our cultures that we do not want to look at.   I have no doubt that if I grew up in the South, let us say in the ’40s, I would have been just as racist as anyone else.  For we are each a product of our time and we are each called to grow beyond it, though it is a long slow process for those who walk that road.

Jesus said an interesting thing to his family in the Gospel of John 7:7:  “The world cannot hate you but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil”.  We all know that there is much wrong not only in our own cultures, but actually in every culture throughout history and perhaps it may be getting worse in some ways.  Evil seems to be that which consumes all that is around it, objectifying everything, seeing and valuing things and people on a scale that is narcissist to its core.  This kind of thing is so common that it is fact considered normal and good, or perhaps unavoidable, which at this time in our history and evolution seems to be true.

Perhaps in fact, the most important project in our lives is to “love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves”.   So everything that is done, no matter if it is approved by our prevailing culture and yes perhaps even our different religions, if not based on the above, is in fact evil; that which sucks the life out of others.

The bottom line  in capitalist countries is profit; everything else is secondary and actually unimportant.  Products are often presented for our consumption that are in fact dangerous, yet these companies have the legal right to advertise whatever it is they wish to foist on the public.  The long term effect is not considered as important.  Would that be a form of evil?   Foods presented on Saturday mornings TV directed directly at children so that they will pester their parents to buy these ‘snacks’, even though they have long range health consequences, that will only tax our health system further in the future.  Is this life affirming for all involved, or is it manipulative and destructive?  Does this show love towards the audience that is in some instances brainwashed into buying and perhaps becoming addicted.  Fast foods, which I love by the way, are loaded with fat and salt, the intent being to make those who eat it addicted and to come back for more.  Yes even though these companies know that the food is bad for those who eat it.  At least in the quantities that they want them to eat, for advertising is directed towards the unconscious and not the conscious mind; it is a form of indoctrination.  Would this be considered evil if in fact it has no concern for those who eat their product, but are only interested in their money?  Again, we can become so used to the evils around us that they become normal.  I am certainly not free of the blinders that keep me from truly seeing how self destructive much of what we consider culture today is and I am also blind to how I often keep that system going.

Beauty products are perhaps no better.  Magazines of all kinds, based on fantasy, will often show on their covers both men and women who are impossibly beautiful, with brushed up photos, and bodies oiled, or fitted with clothes that never seem to fit that way in real life.  People suffer greatly from this kind of thing.  For many actually believe that these images are based on reality and the harm it causes seems to be spreading for both men and women.  Perhaps one percent of the population who are very beautiful and handsome, are made the norm for those who actually read these magazines and believe them.  Those who publish this kind of thing know what they are doing, yet, the bottom line again is profit, and human life is secondary.

So is the world evil?  I think yes, on the level in which we use, abuse and manipulate one another, it is.  That also goes for politics I believe. While it is true that we are all responsible in how we react to cultural manipulation, I am not sure how far that responsibility goes.  Our cultures are like our skin, we can just go along, not thinking, just living and perhaps in the process dying in more ways than one.  From all indications, I don’t see things getting better, or our society becoming more humane and caring.  I also think this is normal for just about all cultures.  I only say that because there may be a place where the needs and rights of the individual, as well as for those who have families are respected and considered sacred.  I know there are enclaves where this is done and these groups are often mocked because they wish to separate themselves from the craziness that is considered normal by the many.

I am not being alarmist in this; it is the way of the world.  Cultures move towards self destruction, all one has to do is read history to see that.  It happens over and over again; like revolutions do in our times.  The new guard becomes the old guard, because the one most important thing we can do, that is life giving for everyone, is to simply love others as we do ourselves.  I say ‘simply’ but that is obviously not true.  The human heart has limitations, and our love and concern are for the most part focused only our extended family no matter how large or small that is.  This is understandable and not evil in itself, unless others suffer because of it.

I don’t have any way to change things, except perhaps to work on my own heart and in doing that to allow grace to use me and to also expand my ability to love others as myself, which is a work in progress, believe me.  We are like children with lots of toys and we want more than everyone else, for what fun is it if everyone has the same things…right?

What are we here for?  Are we just meat, waiting for death?  Do we have a soul that is meant for something else?  Do we in fact have a relationship with God, or does God have a relationship with us?  Apart from the contempt often showered on believers, I think these questions are important and need to be pondered.  How are we connected, if at all?

I am biased of course, I am a Christian and so I tend to lean towards my relationship with Christ Jesus as that avenue of grace that allows not only me, but hopefully all of mankind to eventually grow in the ability to truly learn “to treat others as one wants to be treated’.  Which takes self knowledge to do that; for to know how one wants to be treated takes quite a bit of self awareness and comprehension.

I am not pointing fingers at anyone, except perhaps at me, for in the end, in writing, I believe the author is often fighting his own demons.  I too am part of my time, one of the many who often go for days or weeks without thinking about how I am actually living out my faith.  If my faith can’t help me to grow in freedom, to allow me to think for myself and to have values that are life affirming, then I fail, not only myself but my loved ones and also the culture and times I live in.  No I don’t need to point; all I need do is look in the mirror to see what is reflected back.

Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.

  1. Well, it’s difficult for people who do not know themselves, to love themselves, much less a neighbor to whom they can’t relate. There seems to be a link missing in some brains so that the individual cannot reflect on his/her own behavior. And, not being able to reflect, there’s no opportunity to reject or change it. Such people just react to their immediate environment and don’t even give a thought to it being part of a wider whole. People can’t be expected to see the forest, if they don’t know what a tree is.

    Let me give you an example. As far as my mother was concerned, a tree was a large object in her yard which dropped either needles or leaves which she had to clean up and hated. If the tree had been struck by lightning or been snapped by a hurricane, her response would have been that it shouldn’t have been there to begin with. Some people have similar responses to people they don’t know and don’t like. Will their responses change when they get to know them? It is argued that’s the case, but I’d suggest it’s unlikely of people who are incapable of knowing.

    There were, by the way, many people who grew up in the South without sharing the exclusive sentiments of their relatives.

  2. Mark Dohle

    Thanks Monica for your thoughtful comment. About your last sentence; I agree, though not totally. Some forms of racism can be gentle and even kind, but it is based often on the assertion (not always conscious) that other races are inferior and needed to be treated like children. I think that many liberals (though not all, nor the majority, fall into this category). Prejudice is something I think we all have and they can come to the surface when under stress. People know that any kind of pre-judgment is false, yet the irrational tendency to do just that, still hangs on to the most enlighten of our race, I not being one of them, the enlighten that is. Prejudice is not the problem; bigotry is, for bigots actually believe, that their narrow hateful judgments of other races and religions, or of the opposite sex, are in fact true.

    People know when they are cruel or unjust towards others, for none of us want to be treated in certain ways or looked down up, or lumped together with some group. The golden rule is not some pious saying leading to good feelings, but leads to knowing how one wants to be treated. Many learn from being on the wrong end of the prejudice issue and from that learn compassion for others who are also victimized by this cultural evil. No easy answers to this, for unconscious forces have a strong hold on us and control us more than many would want to believe. Perhaps the reason I am responding this way is that I in fact, still sturggle with the irrational tendency to lump others and then judge em all.


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