Good versus Evil

Earlier this week, I stirred quite the hornet's nest with a silverogosphere allegory about Dave the Dung Beetle, which focussed on the themes of evidence, faith, responsibility and accountability. Warren followed up with some thoughts on being both right and wrong at the same time. So it falls now to me to try to complete the trilogy with a look at 'good' and 'evil'.

Good and Evil, the relationship between them, and the struggle for supremacy of one over the other, have been classic themes for as long as there has been writing. The first great epics of Greek, Roman and English literature (the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and Beowulf, respectively) can all be read through the good/evil prism if one chooses to do so, and it is a solid theme throughout the Bronze Age Semitic anthology of foundation myths and other tribal fiction that we now tend to refer to as 'the Old Testament'. Its Iron Age and 7th Centuary CE sequels are similarly popular reads thanks in part to their use of this theme. And Shakespeare is probably primus inter pares regarding the manipulation of an audience's emotions through an examination of good and evil, in plays such as Macbeth, Hamlet and Richard III.

Culturally, then, homo sapiens has a brain that seems to be 'hard-wired' to see - and, crucially, represent - the world in terms of good and evil. Modern popular culture is replete with such examples, which all cater to this peculiar taste of ours. It's easy to see why: black and white is always simpler (and arguably more attractive) than shades of grey. It is easier to judge than to understand. And it is far more motivational to feel that one is in a position of 'good' in a fight against 'evil' than if we were forced to accept that we are in a complex and ambiguous position battling another (equally) complex and ambiguous position.

The problems associated with such a narrow perspective are legion. By any objective measure, the Third Reich was 'evil', and the Allies 'good'. But Goering and Hitler (for their deluded and psychotic part) considered Jewry to be the ultimate evil in the world, and viewed the world from their campaign for 'goodness'. The bombing of Dresden by the Allies was widely seen in Germany as an act of Evil, which they took as further proof of the righteousness of their own path. In truth, both sides committed atrocities, and both sides felt they were fighting on the side of goodness. I of course endorse fully the traditional view, as it would be abhorrent (to me) to think in any other way. But to do so is to frame the world from one perspective only, which is a tactic that rarely leads to greater understanding either of events or between peoples.

My favourite quote about religion is by Steven Weinberg, who said, "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Although I agree with the thrust of this, I think one can sometimes also substitute the word 'dogma' for 'religion', as it is clear that political, racist or other ideological dogmatism can serve just as well as religion in draining a sense of perspective from the mind.

'May the Force be With You' - General Dodonna

So, to Star Wars, one of our favourite-y-ist things ever, ever, ever. Conscious, perhaps, of the ambiguities and complexities discussed above, George Lucas needed to create a world (actually, a galaxy) in which the greyness was truly removed, and only pure good and pure evil could remain. The baddies were very, very, bad, and only motivated by a personal lust for power over others (the Emperor, Darth Vader), personal enrichment (Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt), or cruelty for the sake of cruelty (Salacious Crumb, EV-9D9). The goodies, on the other hand, were truly good, motivated only by a sense of justice (Leia), the welfare of their friends (Luke), or spiritual completeness (Yoda, Obi-Wan).

It's fabulous stuff, seen by seemingly everyone on the planet (except Monsieur d'Arc, who is a curmudgeon about those sorts of thing) and it works so well not in spite of the fact that audiences don't need to wrestle with ambiguities, but rather because of it. Put simply, anything that allows one to feel a woosh of moral certainty, a feeling of being on the 'right' side, or of battling something truly wicked, well, that's something which is a valuable commodity. Rarely in our own lives and personal relationships are we given such surety, so we naturally crave it.

'Do or do not. There is no try' - Master Yoda

How fitting then, that such striking, non-morally challenging, imagery is frequently co-opted by those who wish to provide moral or political certainty to others. I will never forget the time when a friend, who felt (unfairly, I still maintain) that I had betrayed him, said to me, "you Lando". Had he said "you Judas", I doubt I would have felt nearly as vexed. And although Darth Vader has a certain caché, who wants to be Jabba the Hutt? [No offence meant to the third of GM's five ex-wives - Ed.]

The imagery also serves well those who wish to portray themselves as the underdog: the little guy taking on an awesome external force (and winning!). It keeps hope alive of victory, and adds in a dash of heroism, which appeals to the vanity in us all.

And it separates us into 'do-ers' and 'non-do-ers'. Who will stand up and be counted? Who will defend their rights? Who will fight, even if the chances of success are slim?

'I copy, Gold Leader' - Red Leader

One of the reasons behind the success of various sites on the silverogosphere is the colourful use of such imagery. The world becomes neatly divided into good (Sprott, Butler, Wynter Benton [until recently], and Turd Ferguson) and evil (Blythe Masters, George Soros, Ben Bernanke, the Screwtape Files). A fight is being fought - not just for economic safety, oh no! - but for goodness itself. And, from the Odyssey and Beowulf and Shakespeare, we know that evil never prospers. So who would not want to join such a just and noble cause?

The master of the use of this imagery is Turd Ferguson, who borrows wholesale terms from the Star Wars trilogy, with the "Evil Empire" being the best known. In fact, Evil Empire (EE, having earned its own acronym amongst silverites) has become virtually synonymous with JPM-C. As has 'the Death Star' for the COMEX. Even when not explicit, the terminology is there ("join the Turd Alliance", etc.) It is, of course, quite deliberate, and is also very well done. Even for the sophisticated and critical reader, it has the effect over time of creating mental links between buying gold and silver and cherished childhood memories. Of bat-shit crazy right-wing-ism [I'm sorry, but it often is - Ed.] and fighting the evil Sith (such as liberals).

It makes entertaining reading, and is great for making people feel part of a community. But the downside is that it adds once again to the idea that the world exists in black and white, and that that includes the investment world.  

'I find your lack of faith disturbing' - Darth Vader

The problem of this obsession with the Evil Empire is that it rather makes one's fans feel like they're part of the Rebel Alliance; the flip-side being that anyone who isn't in complete agreement with you must therefore be on the Dark Side. And once labels are applied, rational debate quickly dies. What is never done is a pause to consider things from the others' perspective.

The demonisation of Blythe Masters on the silverogosphere is, to me, one of the most distasteful, misogynistic, cruel and infantile aspects of the community. I have seen comments expressing a desire to rape her, wishing her to get various cancers, wanting to throw acid in her face, and calling her a 'bitch', a 'whore', and a 'c**t'. Often the word 'Jewish' is appended before or after these epithets. Now, do I have a lot of respect for someone who has devoted their life to creating fiendishly complex financial instruments that have the sole purpose of creaming off productive wealth from society? No, I don't. Do I respect someone who raises millions of dollars a year for breast cancer charities? Yes, I do. Do I like the sort of person who takes legitimate hedging tactics and uses them to further destabilise markets? No, I don't. Do I like to see a strong, ambitious, woman rise in a notoriously sexist industry through talent and hard work? Yes I do.

It's complicated, isn't it? Regardless, virtually no-one (serial killers, child molesters and the Third Reich aside), deserves such a level of vitriol and ad hominem assault. JPM-C is able to do what it does because the legislation is not in place to stop it doing so. So attention needs to shift to the politicians.

But, again, we are hamstrung in our efforts to do this, because of the filing of everything into the 'good' or 'evil' camps. So, today's big news is that the Supreme Court has ruled that Obama's Health Care bill is constitutional. Reading the silverogosphere today, we see more of the same: Obama is "evil" (less politely said, of course). Now, I do not want to launch a debate on the merits or otherwise of this health care plan - that is NOT what Screwtape is about - we're not political in that sense. But, anyone who is in full control of their faculties can surely not accuse a man who wants to bring health care to millions of people as being 'evil'. Misguided? Perhaps - one can argue that. Visionary? Perhaps - one can argue that. But 'evil'? No, I'm sorry - a sense of perspective is needed here, and it is sadly lacking because the use of imagery such as that described above has helped to polarise people into different camps.

'Looks like you've managed to cut off our only escape route' - Princess Leia

Which brings me to the conclusion. Although 'good' and 'evil' can be fun, and certainly make a great way to tell a story, real life is invariably more complicated. In truth, we all have good and evil motivations, and we all have motivations that are seen as good by others (when we think they're evil) and evil by others (when we think they're good). Trying to compartmentalise people through the prism of one's own moral righteousness serves only to destroy a debate and ultimately to lose the very argument that we'd hoped to win.

Call the COMEX the 'Death Star' if you like. It's funny, and memorable. But it adds little value to the advice being given if readers stop considering the importance of the LBM. Call JPM-C the Evil Empire if you like - it's humorous and possibly apposite. But what does that make silver billionaire investors that are behind so much of the pump and dump tactics used on the web that have helped take silver from $26 to $49 back to $26? The Rebel Alliance? Feel free to imagine that you have all the answers, and could do a better job of running the world's biggest economy, but perhaps the skills needed to do so come from all quarters? 

Only the Sith deal in absolutes...


(not included in the original article, but appended later)


Anonymous said...

With huge thanks to Warren for the artwork. Fabulous, as always.


Cottonbelt said...

… well written, thx for sharing your observations – those who can skate psychologically into that zone of ‘perspective’ given all the complexity in play likely transition successfully through (thru:) this historic moment

Funky Tape said...

Honest question for everyone: does anyone actually believe one side will eventually win in the end?

Could it be possible that we're all in this together yet are so caught up in the dichotomy that we don't even realize WHAT the fight is actually about and WHO is really on our side?

Anonymous said...

Well, as a side note, I can assure you Blythe Masters was never the start or cause of silver manipulation at all, she just figured out better ways to steal money from the public with her partners in crime at JPM. We all might want to consider where the "regulators" figure into this conversation. The SEC and CFTC in particular. So much of this internet chat is just noise and a distraction from the root causes of the manipulation in the gold and silver markets. That blame starts and ends at the feet of the Federal Reserve System itself, the US Treasury and the fraud ridden COMEX. And other CB's as well.

It has all been well documented and researched for those who wish to find and read it.

Good luck to all,
Bay of Pigs

Funky Tape said...

Hey JdA - thought you might want to pick up a few sets to commemorate such an epic post!

Only 250% above spot! Keep stackin! LMAO.

mr pinnion said...

Funky Tape

Depends how you define winning.
What will a win look like for (a)the dark side, and (b) the err, bright side?


zilverexmachina said...

fresh round of good versus evil ongoing haha

derek said...

Well done.


Also, really good documentary FLIGHT FROM DEATH covers the "science of evil" ...

Warren James said...

JdA, beautiful wrap-up on this series on perspectives, this is an instant entry to my top 10 list. The more the metals fluctuate, the more this imagery will be invoked.

I liked many parts of your article here, they provide a framework for allowing us to detect the real fraud in the system and not be misled by the colourful muppets in the sideshow alley.

I really hope material like encourages folk to screen the vernacular used by (the rebel alliance) and keep focused on core investment principles (like diversification, risk management, etc).

p.s. just wanted to clarify to readers that my artwork is the photoshop one at the top - the other starwars propaganda posters are borrowed from elsewhere.

Beer Holiday said...

Shades of Grey - the only way to understand star wars (and everything else).

My own opinion of the Jedi has changed dramatically over the years.

We are fed the propaganda that the Jedi are by definition good.

If you stand back and look at the star wars universe for long enough (like a good nerd should), the Jedi are bad guys too.

The Jedi were ideological extremists who dealt in absolutes. The sith: Pragmatic anarchists. They got things (evil things) done, the Jedi mostly sat around with their "Jedi race" dictating how everyone in the federation had to lead their lives.

"Only the sith deal in absolutes" - classic Jedi propoganda.

The Jedi are eugenicists, hand picking their "Jedi race" from those with the most Midi-chlorians.

The Jedi are space socialists, bordering on communists.

The Jedi created Darth Vader: they took Anakin from his mother to improve race demographics (classic "stolen generation" Fabian socialism). And they left her in poverty, and raised Anakin without mother. Their unyielding ideology drove Anakin to the dark side.

Beer Holiday said...

For anyone who likes star wars:

The red letter media movie length "reviews" of the prequels are more entertaining an insightful than the movies themselves, I highly recommend them. Great for a laugh, too.

Allston#1 said...

@Beer Holiday,
Thanks for posting the link to the red letter media. The review on Episode 1 is more entertaining than the movie itself :)

zilverexmachina said...

Turd did it again today:

He posts about a friend of a user who has died in afghanistan,

then adds;

"Attn Mods
Submitted by Turd Ferguson on July 3, 2012 - 6:14pm.
Hat Tip!

Please keep an eye on this thread. I DO NOT want any bullshit, anti-US or anti-military propaganda to pollute it following the mention of Fortinbras' friend.

Thanks for your help.

So he basically takes a pro Great Satan, pro war stance, doing this man a great injustice because he died deluded for exactly those crooks. Such deaths are precisely the things that should provoke discussion and not one sided declarations.

Submitted by Moderator Washington on July 3, 2012 - 11:31pm.
Hat Tip!

Endzeit's posts have been taken down and he has been placed on moderation for a few days.

There is a time and a place for everything, but this ain't it.

GM Jenkins said...

pro Great Satan, pro war stance, doing this man a great injustice because he died deluded for exactly those crooks.

Yup, good point. Turd has all sorts of irreconcilable positions swimming around his muddled head. If you're as cocksure as he is that America (and the West) have been taken over by crooks and parasites, not very noble to die for their interests is it?

Anonymous said...


I'm aware that this will sound like utter bullshit, but I spent most of yesterday evening at a house party sat in between two senior officers: one from the Green Berets and the other a very senior officer in Navy Seal 6. Thus goes the life of Jeanne d'Arc...

Anyway, we got into a big conversation about US militarism and the current cult of 'thank you for your service'. At first I felt the need to mask my liberal European credentials and general British squeemishness about such mawkishness. But pretty soon it became clear that they felt even more strongly about this kind of thing than I do.

Supporting the young men and women sent by a nation to fight and die is an honourable stance, and vigorously shaking their hands in an airport is certainly far nicer than how the Vietnam vets were treated on their return. But any nation that chooses to believe that they are 'supporting' their military more by sending them to fight and die overseas rather than having them safely at home, doing assault courses, and having films made about them, sounds like a society that has got its morals in a muddle.

Importantly, the above paragraph is not what I said - it's what they said. As an aside, the special ops guys that I sometimes end up drinking with are often at pains to tell me (as a wishy-washy liberal European) that they are disproportionately Democrat rather than Republican. And disproportionately anti-war. It's the Yahoos (in a Swiftian sense) that seem to be the keenest on making them go overseas to fight, kill and die for corporate and other ethereally incomplete geo-political causes.

Better lovers of what their country should ideally represent [sorry, I refuse to use the word 'Patriot' on grounds of taste and intellectualism] one will never find than the supremely fit and trained operatives of the US special forces.

Unfortunately, that ideal doesn't fit into the narrative of adventurist policy makers and a gung-ho public, so the Yahoos are encouraged to blindly confuse 'death, war and carnage' with 'service and sacrifice'.

And that's not a mistake that any officer in any of the fine US regiments would likely ever make.

The irony is evident.

Anonymous said...

On the Star Wars theme: this video from my favourite Australian rap satirists is pretty good too.

I've posted it before, but they even do one that includes a reference to the gold standard.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that first video is so good (and pertinent), I'm going to embed it in the article... :-)

Anonymous said...

Very, very, very, well, well, not necessary. Fun but not necessary. You had already won the war against the myopic view of the Silver Army by using the ultimate weapons fact and logic.

The whole platform of the Silver argument is scarcity of Silver and price manipulation.

Once you realise that there is plenty of Silver (which nobody wants) in sale-rooms and flea-markets all over the World plus there are no "Cash for Silver" shops you begin to realise the Silver King has no clothes.

Once you realise that just maybe the regular drop in the price of Silver is not Machiavellian manipulation but traders hedging their bets then the World of conspiracy falls away.

Nobody argues that the markets are not corrupt but what the Silver army fails to recognise is that they are not some special case. They want to believe that they and they alone are the centre of some dastardly evil plot that has identified Silver as the key to World domination.

So I sold all of my Silver and bought Gold. Makes much more sense.