Cruelty for ‘good’ reasons

As amazing entertainment as The Lord of the Rings is, it will lead us astray if we take it literally. First, people will rarely do ‘evil’ knowingly. The Nazis and Pol Pot never saw themselves as evil, quite the contrary. The Romans never saw their gladiatorial games as evil. The real source of destruction is usually from people who believe they are fighting for good causes. Hitler believed that he was creating a more perfect and noble society with more perfect people – and he was a vegetarian because he hated cruelty to animals! It’s the individuals who justify their actions in this way who are the most worrying. This is certainly true on the international stage. To my mind, George Bush’s refusal to veto the use of such torture techniques as ‘water boarding’ (immobilizing an individual and pouring water over his or her face to simulate drowning) is an endorsement of cruelty. Such behaviour is concerning, too, because Bush has had all the privileges that come from having had a Western education and human rights. And he professes to be a Christian when it is obvious that, if Jesus were here today, he would never endorse torture. Yet in his own heart, Bush believes he’s doing good and defending his country. Remember the well-known saying: ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ So we have to be careful because we often can’t see the archetypes working through us.

Paul Gilbert in The Compassionate Mind, 2009

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