What Are The 10 Greatest Evils of Our Time?
By Jon Huer
Korea Times Columnist
I am going to list what I believe to be the "10 greatest evils" of our time, both in Korea and in the U.S. Surprisingly, in these matters, Korea is an eager imitator of the U.S., more copiously in some areas than others. Let me try to explain :
EVIL 1. EFFICIENCY: Efficiency is the overriding principle of all modern scientific and technical operations. It is simply humanity's longest-running aim of getting things done as easily, as quickly, and as cheaply as possible. Why walk 10 miles when 1 mile will do? The trouble begins when this principle, which applies to "things," is applied to human beings. The Nazis proved they were the world's most talented managers of humans-as-things up to 1945. The Nazi masters exterminated six million Jews at 10 cents per body, one-hour per death, with only one-percent surviving. That's efficiency! Today, the U.S. is leading the pack, with Korea far behind but envious, for the title of the New Efficiency Master of the Universe.
EVIL 2. ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment is evil simply because it is one-hundred-percent wasted ― popular historically only among those at the very top and very bottom of society who had absolutely nothing to do. The top people had nothing to do because they were rich, and the bottom people because they were too poor and unemployed. So the two useless segments of society enjoyed slaves slaughtering each other at the arena, laughed at stupid jokes told by fool-jesters, and avidly watched people juggle many things at one time. Today, these slaves, fools and jugglers have evolved into our role models and heroes. People who see themselves as the "leisure" class, both American and Korean, try to make up for their empty and lonely lives with all varieties of entertainment, waiting for their death in utter emptiness and loneliness. As they have less and less to do with each other while alive, they die perhaps with a remote control in their hands.
EVIL 3. DEMOCRACY: Democracy means self-government, which means you govern yourself. This concept works only if you are free and independent as a citizen. In both the U.S. and Korea, citizens are beholden to two masters: one enslaving their economic life with jobs and credit cards, and the other controlling their inner lives and relationships with drugs called entertainment. Economically, we must serve our masters so that we keep our jobs and credit cards; culturally, we are completely dependent on those corporations (say, the Oprahs and media masters) who keep us drugged and separated from other citizens. This fact makes all of us extremely gullible to government propaganda and commercial advertisements. Instead of self-governing citizens in a republic, we are all addicts and slaves who think we are free!
EVIL 4. FREEDOM: Freedom is what created the American Republic in 1776 and Korea in 1948. Except it was not called freedom in America, it was most often referred to as "liberty." For liberty, the threat was tyranny, most often the tyranny of government ruled by the king. Resisting the threat required that all believers of liberty united as brothers. Today, this concept of liberty has been completely replaced by the concept of "freedom," to do whatever one wants to do, and not to do what one doesn't want to do. In this conception of freedom, it is all about one's self, one's own freedom, in competition with all others. While liberty unites all, freedom makes everyone the enemy of everyone else. In the U.S. this war takes place with guns in every home and lawsuits for everything. Guns aren't in every home in Korea yet, but its concept of liberty is already beginning to change to freedom, with lawsuits becoming Korea's favorite pastime (100 times the number of Japan's). Thus liberty liberates; freedom enslaves.
EVIL 5. ADVERTISEMENT: Advertisement is used for one purpose only: To make people do things against their will and against their own good. Since everything advertised is merely for the advertiser, anything that is designed, produced and advertised is an evil thing. No truth is ever advertised; no mother's love is ever advertised; no God's mercy is ever advertised. In essence, we can imagine the Devil himself advertising, with all his gadgets and tricks. Most of the people most of the time today define their likes and dislikes, their present and future aspirations, their aim of life, good and evil, their political and spiritual leaders, their role models and heroes, their minute-by-minute meaning of life, all according to what is best advertised. Nothing good or true is ever advertised, only evil, and only what is advertised is what we find worth having. Hence, consumers end up being the Devil's best customers.
EVIL 6. PLEASURE: We mistake pleasure for happiness and bring upon ourselves nothing but misery as a result. Pleasure is pursued alone and enjoyed alone, even when done with others, such as at a ballgame. Happiness is created when we do things with each other as brothers and neighbors. But pleasure's progress is relentless and overwhelming in its appeal to our senses. We choose what pleases us the most, and choose from things that are offered to us as entertainment and fulfillment. But because all pleasures come as commodities we must work like slaves to make the money to buy pleasures. All pleasures must end when the meter runs out, and we must restart the cycle all over again, until we die in misery and loneliness--and boredom. In this cycle of pleasure and misery, the U.S. leads, with Korea following.
EVIL 7. CAPITALISM: The original meaning of capitalism, as conceived by Adam Smith, was that people would ``trade" things for things so that everyone would benefit from this exchange, an entirely free and "natural" activity among equal persons, necessary to human prosperity and well being. This condition of equality and freedom was closest to being ideal in 19th century-America where land was open, everyone owned a gun and government was minimal. Today's so-called capitalism is in name only, as products are forced upon us through advertisement and monopoly and we consume what we neither want nor need, piling up debts individually and as a nation. Adam Smith would be the first one to deny this as his vision of a "capitalist" nation or a free trading people.
EVIL 8. INFORMATION: Information is not knowledge if we define knowledge as something that serves us on longer terms. Information, now fashionably tied to information technology, is a piece of something we need for the moment and discard as soon as we know it. It can come from headlines, front pages, or gossip. By its nature all information comes as bits, as it is sought and needed only for that particular moment of our need. Once our need is served, it is discarded as we go after another piece of information to be acquired and discarded. Nothing in information is permanent or serves our permanent life-interest; it is a here-one-minute-and-gone-next existence. In the Information Age, our life is lived as pieces and our knowledge is temporary, and our lifestyle is styled as garbage-in, garbage-out.
EVIL 9. RELATIVISM: As the end result of many decades of modern and post-modern change, relativism simply says there is nothing clearly right or wrong, just or unjust, good or bad, sacred or profane. Everything is relative to its time and place, says the relativist. This turn of mind fits the democracy and consumer-choice that prevails in our time, which says everything is one's choice. But money and power are never part of our choice, nothing relative, as their value and possession are absolute. Some have it absolutely and many don't have it absolutely. Relativism that says everything goes and everything is possible, and everything is mind over matter, and so on, works like a drug on our minds with false power and choice. Relativism perpetuates childishness, fantasy, and misunderstanding of reality in its believers.
EVIL 10. PSYCHOLOGY: Psychology, we are told, is the study of the human mind. This field has become important in our present generation simply because our world, both in the U.S. and in Korea, has become a ``psychological'' place. We used to be interested in things ``physical," like survival, comfort, convenience, material economics and food production, fighting wars and defending one's country, and so on. If we bought a pair of shoes, we tried to pick the best pair that would last the longest and at the cheapest price. Today, things we enjoy are not physical things at all, but psychological states of mind. It's all in our minds, and it's all how our psychology works. Naturally, our new masters are psychiatrists, psychology researchers, counselors, advertisers, entertainers, efficiency managers and the like. These psychology-masters are so good with their trade that we remain their mind toys most of the time.
Okay, these are my "10 greatest evils" of our time. What's on your list?