The More “Ultimate Context” I Promised: Part I: The Battle Between Good and Evil is an Inevitable Consequence of the Emergence of the Civilized Creature

Summary: It is important, I have asserted, that Liberal America recognize that what we are up against on the right is best understood as an “evil force,” because seeing it for what it is will likely inspire people to respond to it in a more powerful way. But many in Liberal America don’t believe that there exists anything in the world that warrants being called an “evil force.”

The following is addressed to those people. It is my intention to show and to explain how it is that the dynamics of the human world produce — in a wholly naturalistic way — forces that are coherent through time and that spread the patterns of brokenness and thus warrant the term, “evil forces.”


“The battle between good and evil” is fundamental to the human saga. Again, this can be shown in a framework that is not dependent on faith-based assertions but can be demonstrated in a naturalistic framework founded on what science has shown about the story of our species.

“The battle between good and evil” is central to understanding human destiny because we are the species that created an unprecedented circumstance that introduced a new kind of brokenness to earth’s living systems.

After three and a half billion years of the evolution of life on earth, we have become — in comparatively very recent times (10,000 years) — the one species to have crossed a crucial threshold of extricating ourselves from the niche in which we evolved biologically, and gaining what looks at first glance to be freedom. Namely, the freedom to invent our own way of life.

It is inevitable that the emergence of a civilized creature out of a biologically evolved system of life will impart into that system a significant impetus of brokenness. The rise of civilized societies – i.e. entities whose ways and interactions are not part of the biologically evolved order that gave rise to the civilized animals within them – introduces a new force into the world. With no order to regulate the interactions among this new kind of living entity – neither a biological nor a human-created order would be able to encompass the system of civilized societies – a new kind of disorder breaks out.

(The logic of this, and its implications, are explicated in this piece, “Why Civilization Has Developed in Such a Tormented and Destructive Way.” This is the first chapter of my book, The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.)

This made it inevitable that that system of civilization would be the arena within which the forces of Wholeness and those of Brokenness would contend for long ages to shape the destiny of that species (and of the living system generally).

In other words, “the battle between good and evil” is an inevitable consequence of the emergence of a civilized creature. That would be true anywhere, regardless of the nature of the creature to make that breakthrough.

That has been true here on earth, with the emergence of homo sapiens into civilization over the past 10,000 years. But also, if there is in the cosmos anywhere else some other species that has crossed that same threshold, escaping from its biologically evolved niche, that same sort of battle between good and evil will form the central challenge of that species as well.

(Once again, for those who want to judge the likely plausibility of my claims in a less time-consuming way than reading the longer exposition of these ideas to which I linked above, their source of these claims can be assessed through the portrait presented in “How Credible is Andy Schmookler? Answered by His Wife Using the Words of Others”.)

Asserting the inevitability of the emergence of a force of brokenness may well seem dark. But there is a profound and hopeful implication of this analysis that warrants being repeated for emphasis: This inescapable impetus of brokenness is a function not of the nature of the creature, but rather of the unprecedented circumstances emerging from the breakout from the constraints of the biologically evolved order.

The frightening record of history, therefore, is not the indictment of human nature. Through the ages, our traditional religions have condemned us for our inherent sinfulness. We would be wiser to see ourselves as having been plunged into an impossible situation, making of it the best we can. Humankind has stumbled – because we have the intelligence and creativity to break out into civilization – into a process that inevitably wounds and damages us. Compassion for our kind, not condemnation, is what is called for.

Nonetheless, blameworthy or not, we are caught in this situation in which the life-serving forces of Wholeness are contending against the forces of brokenness. And it remains entirely unclear which of them will prevail.

That impetus of brokenness that entered into the human system with the dawn of civilization continues to ramify through the system. What we see operating in America is a continuation of patterns that have been moving through civilization through the millennia: in our times, these patterns of brokenness have coalesced into the powerful force we see now erupting to damage and degrade our nation. One can trace how these patterns move through time. (And in future entries I will be presenting some of this movement of patterns.)

The patterns of brokenness, driven by what could appropriately be called “evil forces,” endure and move over the generations through civilized societies. They get transmitted from one level to another — from the intersocietal level to the socio-cultural level to the psychological level and then back up, cycling through time — taking a variety of forms, depending on the level. What the forms have in common is their embodying and perpetuating patterns of brokenness.

At the global level, one of the chief patterns is war, rather than peace. At the social level, one of the chief patterns is injustice, rather than justice. At the psychological level, one of the chief patterns is a lack of integration – unreconciled psychological conflict — in the psychic structure of the members of civilized societies that require their members to internalize demands hostile to human needs and nature.

The way such patterns of brokenness get transmitted is sketched out more fully in my book-in-progress, soon to be on the web, What Liberal America Should Understand about Evil.

All of these are in play in America today.

And all of these are up for grabs in terms of the larger human drama. The battle between the forces of wholeness and those of brokenness (good and evil) has not only been important to where we in humankind have come from over the millennia. But just as importantly, the outcome of that battle remains unresolved regarding where humankind is heading.

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  1. the life-serving forces of Wholeness are contending against the forces of brokenness

    So, comrade do-good, just when does brokenness’ death serving become too much? When it serves death to a nation-way? When it serves death to a class-way? When it serves death to a spirit-way?

    Say, did you know:

    * [Jerry Falwell’s] father was an entrepreneur and one-time bootlegger who was agnostic. His grandfather was a staunch atheist.
    * In 1979, Israel rewarded Falwell with a private jet. Two years later, he received Israel‘s Jabotinsky Award for his support.

    Hmm. Tell me about brokenness again.

    • Just a quick introduction of this Uno Hu to our readers. I know who he is, and we even met once during the campaign. That, actually, was pleasant enough. But otherwise, this “Uno HU” (clever name, I actually like it ) is continually sending in comments in a most hostile spirit. He’s attacking me from the left, if I read him correctly, which I’m pretty sure I do. What I don’t understand is what it is that I’m doing, or what he sees me as representing, that leads to such hostility.

      It should be pretty clear that I’m a sincere guy who is working hard, using such skills as he has, to help things move in a good direction, and I understand it. Why the sneering hostility? How do you see me that justifies your continual efforts to make me feel bad.

      Tell us all. Make your case against me.

  2. “What I don’t understand is what it is that I’m doing, or what he sees me as representing, that leads to such hostility.”

    Disappointment? With your stubborn claims to insight but foolish dismissal of that of others? With your politics of evil-good balance which has proved so un-prophetic?

    Is coddling fundamentalists and cuckoo-conservatives getting you anywhere? Your theoretical analysis of their evil leaves out much detail of their own political manipulation. It’s almost as if you approve that which you do not reveal.

    Having a fondness for the warmonger Zbigster condemns you as well. You’d like a good hegemonster, as you’ve said in other ways. You’d approve a fraudulent hierarchy whose “wholeness” has long been discredited.

    I recall at our one meeting that you dismissed my high-ranking the threat of the MIC. Is it now sane to dismiss their threat? No. It is your hegemonster politics that cause you to deny in public what is obvious.

    Given your habit of poorly addressing one weakness in an “argument”, I will forego increasing the targets you will miss.

    • Well, I do my best. Uno Hu. And if it is I, and not you, who are the fool in this situation, I don’t see what sense it makes to treat someone you see as a fool in the hostile, contemptuous way you treat me. There’s something broken there, and when the clock strikes thirteen, one questions not only the thirteen ring but all those that went before.

  3. Every day, ALL DAY LONG, Fox News Contributors regularly spew Hate Speech against Democrats and Liberals, calling them “Appeasers” of Terrorism, “Anti-American”, “Socialist”, “Marxist”, “Fascist”, “Communist”, “Kooks” and “Traitors” – simply because they believe that Government has a responsibility to protect the public not only from the threats of war and terrorism, but also the threats of disease, unfair discrimination, unsafe consumer products and corporate exploitation.

    All you have to do is look at the “Manifesto” of one Violent Fox News Fan, James Adkisson, who killed two and injured three others in the Unitarian Church in Knoxville TN.

    “This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book. I’d like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn’t get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It’s the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.”

    “I thought I’d do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me….Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I’d like to encourage other like minded people to do what I’ve done. If life aint worth living anymore don’t just kill yourself. do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals.

    Does Falwell deserve no credit for these terrorists?

  4. I will give Uno Hu some slight credit, the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) needs to be restrained and both Democrats and Republicans bow to the MIC. Now I do not say the MIC needs to be eviscerated, but it definitely needs to e constrained because it tends to excess and rewards those who pay it obeisance with money to silence it’s critics. IMHO, if you take Federal money, because of the conflict of interest, you should be barred from lobbying directly or indirectly.

    However a Military is still needed in this world because the brokeness of which you speak exists both within and outside our borders.

    • It is not very often at all that I feel a need to keep a comment that comes in off this forum. For the nine years I’ve been doing this, the overwhelming majority of blockages I’ve enforced have come from fewer people than can be counted on one hand. A couple from the left, a couple from the right. These are people about whom I’ve come to the conclusion –often after the exchange of literally thousands of words, do not have a constructive intent. Otherwise, though there are different points of view, most all the comments seem to be defensible as trying to move the conversation in a good direction. And they show up on NSB. Perhaps I should add that I am back to making such judgments on some things coming in this afternoon. It’s a judgment call, and I’m comfortable about that judgment.

      I’ve grown clearer over the years that I will not let my impulse to include everyone in the search for truth override my awareness when someone is doing more harm than good.

      • It would please me if there could be some discussion here about the content of the posting. It takes things to a level of greater abstraction, but the level of importance is, if anything, greater than with the more concrete postings, like the “What Kind of Christianity is This?” posting, which is closer to the level of what we see directly. If people cannot relate to it, so be it. But it is my conviction that there’s something here that should not be ignored, because it tells us some fundamental thing about the world we live in.

  5. The Military Industrial Complex is a sympton and a symbol of the brokeness of what you speak. So is the noise machine of Fox News. So is the pro-industry and financial Main Stream Media. The Anti-Globalization movement is one part of the side of Good that is also part of the brokeness of what you speak. So are the Liberals who feed the brokeness by giving the Religious a target.

    This will not be an easy thing to fix. I can envision a post brokeness utopian world but the path from one to the other isn’t clear. I think one reason there are few comments is most on this website agree with your post.

    The recent actions of Vladimir Putin is also part of the brokeness. He is using the invasion of Ukraine to mask a bad economy at home and using Russian Nationalism as his hammer. This is similar to what the right wing in this county does. They pronounce anti-Government statements while simultaneously waving the American Flag and adorning themselves with other patriotic items like the flag pins that Sean Hannity wears. That idiotic and dangerous man out in Arizona, Cliven Bundy rode his horse while holding a flag on a pole shouting out his patriotism and then in another video declaring that he does not recognize the Federal Government. This is a clear sign of the brokeness of that side of the political spectrum. Cliven Bundy was even too much for Glen Beck. The signs of the brokeness of our politics are all around us, mostly on the Conservative side, but as I alluded earlier some of the actions of the Anti-Globalists have also verged on the side of brokeness.

    Note, much of the brokeness is attached to that which made the United States the sole remaining superpower. This is why the right clings to it, they do not want the United States to descend from the heights of Superpowerness. They don’t realize that no other state is willing to distort themselves to the level of the United States so major reductions in those parts that feed the brokeness can be made.

  6. Re: The greater level of abstraction… yes, it feels like walking into a SOC 525 class after the last ‘class’ was SOC 101…
    The points in this piece are important … But the level will ‘lose’ a good part of any audience (which is why I always wish this wild move to a larger forum, so a greater number will still stick around.
    Wholeness exists everywhere on a ‘micro’ level…neighbors helping neighbors; individual strangers helping strangers. Brokenness seems to be in the majority at the ‘macro’ level…once we become a society made up of groups, there is the inevitable competition among groups. Were we better off as small tribes that never interacted with one another?

  7. Richard H. Randall

    Uno Hu reminds me of Nietzsche, though he’s not as intelligible to me, Hu’s attacks detract from what he might actually have constructively to say. If he could tone down the hate a bit, I believe he’d be interesting, though anarchy has never been interesting to me.

    Hi Robin,
    In my response to David R a couple of days ago, I, notwithstanding my respect for Jesus and the Social Gospel, his courage and sacrifice, I didn’t care for his pacifism. (It is instructive that one of the few times he got angry, it was at the ‘bankers,’ of the time.) Well, back on point, General/President Eisenhower gave us the term, ‘military industrial complex,’ as he saw the lobbying and favor coming into play, and as a former professional American Army officer, he new that this was contrary to the way the American people has dealt with the military since the country’s establishment. While I am glad it was a successful soldier who made us early aware of this, I do not believe he was completely correct about this for the following reason: the scope and scale of WWII was like nothing that had happened before, bequething us, by 1947 with an aggressive ideology which ruled half the land mass of the world, and at least half the people. I agree that the Department of Defense is far from right in everything it does: but I think General Colin Powell’s downsizing strategy at the end of WWII was far more intelligent than the near catastrophic downsizing of our forces, and readiness. Still, I’d say we drew down far more than is wise in Europe. Well, if Putin, the new Nazi in Europe, is not opposed, I suspect we will be very busy militarily again. Any force we deploy will be military primarily, not from the State Department, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. The point is, we owe it to the nation, and its future to keep a strong, capable trained military if we hope to manage our lives, in what will probably come to be more dangerous world. If I had my sayso, I’d make universal service, primarily basic military a requirement of system of government. This all professional idea has it’s merits, but there should be a fundamental understanding that there is a civic responsibility to serve and defend the nation which, which serves and defends you. The far right (e.g. Donald Rumsfeld) thinks the military should be a group of assasins (he actually said this). As a progressive liberal, I think the present and long term future of our nation is better served if we keep the Reserve and Active components, and required initial entry and MOS training for all our men and women. Very few exceptions, certainly not for missing wars to study political science, for example. (Bill CLinton and Dick Cheney)
    Andy, I am glad you inserted part about being positive about the necessary brokenness in the form of accomplishment and striving for knowledge and ability. I was getting depressed…..

  8. Richard Randall,thanks for mentioning compulsory military service. I mostly agree although I also realize that there can be conscientious objectors and less than conscientious objectors. So I would add another form of service to the country a’la the works progress agency, Peace Corp or something else. Since military service can be quite dangerous I would even be willing to make the alternative last longer. I have not been in the military but chose not too as I would prefer to go into Physics and felt, wrongly or rightly, that going into the military would put me behind a bit. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would have served in the draft if I were eligible and was picked. If the compulsory requirement were to be law at that time I likely would have selected military service. I am as aware of the terrible things you go through in war but you also forge lasting bonds with your unit personnel. As you may or may not be aware, I grew up on Air Force Bases and my father, at the time he retired was believed to be the most decorated enlisted man in the Air Force. He actually had to get special dispensation because his medal plate was too large and exceeded the space allowed. He also flew more missions in Vietnam than any other gunner. I do recognize the reference to the MIC and where it came from.

    I do not think our military should be eviscerated but the amount we spend is too much and we do need to scale back a bit. I agree that Putin may be trying to make Russia a superpower again. Their military has been, almost in stasis, and much of their equipment dispersed among the separated parts of the old Soviet Union. Yes, Russia still kept the lions share of the equipment. For all Clinton’s faults the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought with the military he left and the Bush Administration got very angry when that was pointed out. I believe in R&D. Currently we plan our military for 2 simultaneous wars. I think we can scale it back to 1 and 1/2 or rather one would be a holding action until we can build up our military again with good technology and good training.

  9. Richard H. Randall

    Uno Hu,
    On your comment about Fox and Falwell: These are despicable people, traitorous, murderous, and not worthy to be Americans, though they certainly are.
    I have seen Andy take these people on for years. he ran for Congress to do so. I don’t understand this attitude: but I sure liked your piece about Fox/Falwell/ADkisson.
    IF you desire to take this to the American people in away to restore sanity and an appropriate civility within the nation, you might consider suggestions on how to get the message out. That is, if your concern is for the nation and the future, and not an intellectual pissing contest.
    Just made comments after reading the NYT today about this domestic terrorist-cowboy who refuses to pay his fees to run cattle on BLM land. He is a study in racist, treasonous viciousness, and is leasing others down that same path.

  10. Richard H. Randall

    Oh, and as a follow up, Andy was critizing the President for his weakness with in 3 months of his first inauguaration. I know, because I was doing the same thing.

  11. Andy, I’m way too far behind now, not having finished your earlier longish post which contained the excerpt from “The Parable of the Tribes” which summarizes support for your claim of inevitability of the conflict you describe here.

    One small comment on this one though.

    I would say something more like “social injustice dominates social justice” rather than introducing the undefined “chief patterns” terminology and saying “At the social level, one of the chief patterns is injustice, rather than justice”.

    If there is an important way in which those two statements are not pretty much equivalent I fail to see it.

    Yes, earlier in the essay you talk about patterns, but it seems to me that talking about an undefined (what is the definition of a “chief pattern”?) and unspecified (what are all of the “chief patterns” at the social level?) “chief patterns” in what should be a “punchy” conclusion which causes the reader to want to read the next installment is confusing, thereby significantly “pulling the punch” so to speak.

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