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How Evil Replicates And How To Stop It | Stefan Molyneux

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The following clip is taken from a Freedomain Radio podcast on the sexual allegations against Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey.


Listen, this is all my opinion. I’m not a professional; all my opinion. You don’t have to have a miserable life. You don’t have to be tormented and tortured by abuse if you suffered abuse as a child. You don’t have to fear replication, you don’t have to fear reoffending, you don’t have to fear that you’re some massive flesh cage for the dangerous id demon of explosive childhood reenactments. You don’t.
I went through a brutal and violent childhood, most of which I’ve never even really talked about. But suffice it to say, it was nasty stuff as a whole. I am a peaceful, gentle father whose daughter loves him enormously, who I love enormously. And I’ve never raised my voice at her, I’ve never hit her, I’ve never neglected her, I’ve never punished her. There are consequences, which is different from punishment. And it’s a wonderful family life. I have a loving wife, been married for fifteen years. We’ll stay together forever. It’s a wonderful great life and I came from a tortured and violent and abused history. It doesn’t have to be this way. The question is how do you break the cycle? Philosophically and personally I have some things to say about it which I know will be helpful. I know it will be helpful—but difficult.
First of all, you need to identify the evil as a chosen action by the people in your family. That’s number one. You have to specifically identify evil that resulted from free-will choices that your parents made. Let’s just talk about parental abuse. Let’s just say beatings but this would also apply to other things. Let’s say it’s your father. If your father beat you, he chose to beat you and he could have chosen to not beat you. You say “oh, how do we know he could’ve chosen to not beat you?” Well the question is if he had been standing in front of a policeman who he have beaten you? If he’d been in a mall, if he’d been in church, if he’d been in some public place where negative repercussions could have accrued to him by beating you—if he’d really gone to town and pulled out his leather belt and beaten the hell out of you right in front of a policeman—did he ever do that? Of course not. I’m not talking about genuinely insane people because insanity is different than evil.
So if abuse was hidden in your household then your parents, your father in this case, had the perfect and absolute capacity to not abuse you. Why, how do we know that? Because he didn’t abuse you in public he didn’t abuse you at a parent-teacher meeting. Did he go around and punch you in the head right in front of the teacher? No. I bet you he was all kinds of civilized. Maybe a couple of evil stink-eye glances about what awaited you when you got home but I bet you he was perfectly civilized in those kinds of situations. And people wouldn’t guess, wouldn’t imagine, wouldn’t know what he was capable of behind closed doors.
So when you can control your behavior in public that means you can control your behavior which means unleashing your evil in private is a choice. You are perfectly capable of not abusing but you choose to abuse when you won’t get caught. And this is a fundamental defense right. If you say you’re insane then you should not avoid trying to be caught. But the moment you avoid trying to be caught you’re not insane and therefore you are evil. If you can control your own behavior in public it means you don’t have to abuse, you don’t have to be an abuser, which means if you enact it in private it’s a 100% perfect free-will, free-choice enactment of evil. It is a self-indulgence that kind of abuse. Any kind of abuse. Again assuming that it was hidden. So if it was not known to others that means it is evil not crazy.
Now, Kevin Spacey’s childhood was evil and monstrous and horrible. I have no doubt whatsoever that Kevin Spacey’s father’s childhood was monstrous, horrible and abusive. So then we say “Ah well, my father who beat me himself had a terrible childhood. No, it’s not enough. And here’s the most dangerous thing—if you make that excuse what you’re saying is a bad childhood means that you can be forgiven or it can be understandable or there is some justification for you being abusive as an adult.
Your father lives within you. The child is the father of the man. Your parents live within you. We are not individuals we are, what I call the mecosystem, we are an ecosystem of competing perspectives—which is why we debate with ourselves, why we argue with ourselves—which is why people who do horrible things often hear parental voices yelling at them. We have a competing ecosystem of personalities and perspectives in our minds. We are not one thing. It’s like saying a jungle is one thing; no a jungle is an ecosystem and we are a mecosystem, our identity is complicated. It’s why people can write plays, because they are more than one person. Go read Eugene O’Neil’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night—a play that cost him so much emotionally he demanded it never be performed until it was ten years after his death about his morphine addicted mother and his addicted father… So we are complicated.
Now we also universalize. Whatever rule we apply to our parents will be consciously or unconsciously applied to ourselves. So if we say well our parents did bad things but they themselves had bad childhoods, what you’re saying is if your parents abused you—if your father abused you in this case—then you’re saying I can do bad things in the future but I had a bad childhood so it’s okay. Or it’s not as bad, right. See, if you give your parents forgiveness you give yourself PERMISSION, you understand how this works? And you cannot give yourself permission to reenact evil. To become evil. There is no excuse. None whatsoever. If you give no excuse to your parents you give no excuse to yourself. If you give free-will to your parents you get free-will for yourself. If you give evil to your parents you get to drop the burden of evil yourself. Somebody’s got to hold it.
If you say, “well they did the best they could with the knowledge they had” how is that falsifiable? What’s the null hypothesis? How could you disprove it? It’s impossible. It’s a standard of forgiveness and self-erasure. Because whatever you justify in terms of the evil your parents did to you, you are then punishing yourself for being angry about it. Because anger, in the face of that which instead should be understood, is an irrational and immature response. To get angry at the sky for raining is ridiculous. It’s irrational. And so if your parents were nobly struggling under the burden of their own childhood and unfortunately lashed out against their better judgment and did the best they could and you should forgive—then the natural anger you have about being violated gets recast as immaturity and pettiness. And you don’t get a chance to use that anger to build healthy barriers and boundaries and choose better people in your life as an adult. It’s toxic, in my view. It’s a toxic and destructive perspective.
If you forgive your parents then you give yourself permission to reenact. So you give them 100% free will. You take away the excuse of their bad childhood. What that does is it gives you 100% free will and choice and it takes away the excuse of your bad childhood. You have to have high standards in order to improve and you can’t have high standards for yourself and low standards for your parents, that’s just another form of abuse, you understand.
So you give them 100% responsibility and they did evil to you, if this is what happened. And this liberates you from the cycle of history. This breaks the chain. This breaks the cycle. This gives you a choice. But you cannot take in your mind, in your heart, in your soul—you cannot take more choice than you are willing to give to your parents. You cannot take more moral responsibility than you are willing to give to your parents. It’s impossible. Logically it won’t work. It can’t happen.
What this means, logically and emotionally, is that you sit down with your parents and you say “you did me wrong. You were responsible and here’s why.” And if they say “Well I don’t remember” you have to trust your own memories and your own experience. And you also have to say “was the excuse called ‘I don’t remember’ available to me when I was six or seven or eight or ten years old, or twelve or fourteen? When I was a child was it enough for me to say when I had done wrong “I don’t remember. I forgot”?
Now if you as a child were not allowed that excuse but were punished anyway because the parent remembered, well that’s interesting isn’t it? Let’s say that you were eight. And you forgot what time it was and you came home late. Or you forgot you were supposed to pick up something or you forgot about a particular rule or you forgot. Were you allowed to say, “I should be forgiven because I forgot” or “I forgot therefore nothing negative should occur to me”? I have no responsibility because I just forgot.
If you weren’t allowed that excuse as a child then your parents can’t be allowed that excuse as adults. If your father when he was thirty beat you when you were eight despite your protestations that you forgot, but then when he’s fifty say “well I forgot about beating you, therefore no negative repercussions should occur” then what he’s saying is that an eight-year-old has higher moral standards and responsibility than a thirty-year-old or a fifty-year-old. Because you will punish the eight-year-old for ‘I forgot’ but the thirty-year-old or the fifty-year-old can make that repercussion magically go away by saying ‘I forgot’.
You cannot have higher moral standards for children than you have for adults. No excuse that you were denied as a child can be claimed by your parents as adults, you understand? Not one. Because that is to say that an eight-year-old has a moral responsibility of 10 but a thirty-year-old or a fifty-year-old or a sixty-year-old has a moral responsibility of zero or one or two. Come on. Come on.
Children have less moral responsibility than adults. And so this is another thing. You cannot rationally offer any excuse to your parents that was denied to you as a child. If they punished you, despite protestations of innocence as a child, then they cannot claim as a way of getting out of what they did protestations of innocence as an adult. I mean they can, but you shouldn’t accept it. Because if you remembered and they claim to forget. And of course claiming to forget, ugh. This is the Kevin Spacey defense. I claim to forget. I forget. I forget. No. No, it’s not enough.
So sitting down and talking to your parents about the wrongs they did to you is important. Because you need to give them the opportunity to remember and to apologize and to give you the sweet release of unburdening yourself. And it doesn’t fix things but it can give you some relief. Now if they withhold from you acknowledgment of the wrongs they did then the abuse continues. Because if they deny the experience that you had of being abused then they are further burdening you with unreality, with a feeling of craziness. They are refusing to take the honorable burden of admitting that they did wrong to you. And that is a continuation of the same abuse that happened as a child.
Abuse gets more sophisticated as parents age, you understand. This is the great tipping point, particularly for boys of the teenage years. You get into your teenage years and suddenly your mom is not finger-wagging down but she’s finger-wagging up. You punch down; you nag up. That’s the way it often works with moms in particular.
I know people get upset when I talk about this. I’m afraid that’s why I talk about it. If you’re getting a massage for a sore back you kind of want them to work the part that’s sore because that’s the part that needs to get better. And the mom chose the father. And the mom, if these claims are true, the mom chose the father and chose to stay with the father and have children with the father. And pounded on the door when the father was about to rape the twelve year old boy and then walked away. And stayed with him.
And you can see the little verbal dig at the end of her life. So the father dies. Mom calls up the son who the father raped and said, “You don’t have to bother coming to the funeral.” That is venomous. That is nasty. And yet many people will view her as a victim. No. No. 100% MORAL AGENCY for everyone. It’s like that Oprah show; you get a car. “You get free will. You get free will. Everybody gets free will!” Because that way you can choose your future. You can plot your course you can make it different. You have something to avoid, something to recoil from. When you place 100% free will in the category of evil on people you recoil from them. You move away from them.
Now the question is what if they apologize and try to make restitution. My particular perspective and this is an individual basis thing—it didn’t happen with me. But I will say this. There’s a sort of rule of thumb that says you need seven times the good for every bad. Like if you have a bad day with your wife you need seven good days just to break even. So if you had twenty bad years with your parents by that rule of thumb you’d need 140 perfect years with your parents to even it out. Even if we don’t count the fact that first impressions tend to be just a little bit more lasting than later ones.
Restitution generally occurs when you can be made whole.
Right so restitution is when ehh, it’s fine. Let’s put it in the past. It’s fine. It’s not great. It’s not bad. I’m at the tipping point of it’s okay. So that of course is the question. Can restitution be provided for an abused past? Well if your parent breaks your toy and then buys you another toy and then takes you out to a restaurant that you love and says sorry you’re kinda okay. There’s restitution right.
If your parent snaps at you and you’re like oh I’m so sorry. I’ve actually had conflicts with people in my life where I’m actually happy that the conflict occurred because it gave us great progress—great knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It made us more secure that it wasn’t going to happen again. So restitution is when you’re okay.
Is restitution possible for certain crimes? I don’t mean should it be pursued or can it have any kind of benefit, but is it really possible? Let’s say some drunk driver drives over your beloved dog. Is restitution really possible? Will anything make it so you’re okay with that happening? Somebody beats you for ten years in your childhood. What could they do that would make you say yeah it’s okay I’m fine with that now?
This is why you don’t continue to do wrong to people because at some point you go over what you can recover from. At some point you go right over that cliff, you go right over that waterfall and you can’t come back up. That’s why when you do something wrong to someone you kinda have to freak out and your really have to correct it right away. You know, you walk a mile in the wrong direction and it’s just extra time to go back to the right.
But if you do wrong to someone day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, at some point you’ve passed the event horizon of restitution. Because nothing that you can do will make it okay. Let’s say the father was still alive. Let’s say the mother was still alive for the Spacey family. What could they do at this point—Kevin Spacey’s 58 his brother is 62. What could they do after this lifetime? What could they do where the brothers would say yeah we’re okay with it now. “Yeah, you know it’s evened out.” The guy didn’t even have kids. Terrified because he’d misidentified the cause.
So these are all of the challenges and the dangers. Forgiveness for parents, forgiveness for evil is permission for yourself. When you do that much wrong to people, when it can’t be recovered from, love and often the future of the relationship is dead.
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