I have a theory that there are two types of people in the world: those who assume that other people are devils, and those who assume that other people are fools.
The Devil and the Fool are two powerful archetypes that are engrained in our cultural consciousness. Both characters appear regularly and prominently in our movies and television shows, our books and our plays. They have been around so long that they are even depicted among the primary characters of the Major Arcana in the Tarot deck.
In fact, take a look to see how these characters are shown in a standard Tarot deck. It’s very interesting.
The Fool is shown walking along, head in the clouds, blissfully unaware that he is about to walk off of a cliff. He is purposeful, he is poised, and he thinks he knows where he is going. But because he takes in nothing from his surroundings, he is actually on the brink of disaster. The dog is there, trying to warn him that he is on the wrong course, but the Fool will not follow any guide but the clouds and the sun in the sky. He thinks he already has everything that matters, bundled up and tied to the end of his stick. Why would he bother looking at the world around him, or listening to the warnings of others, when everything he needs is already tied up on his shoulder?
The Devil is shown sitting on his thrown, immobile, with his servants in chains at his feet. He is the ultimate embodiment of evil for the sake of evil: he will do harm just for the sake of doing harm, his goal is to make others completely bend to his will. He is lazy and unmoving: he sees no reason to walk around when he can force other people to come to him. He holds fire, the symbol of ultimate destruction, in his hand and he is not afraid to use it if it will help him to get his way. He seats himself poised above the earth, and demands to be worshiped. Anyone who does not worship him is met with hatred, and the Devil will not stop until such people submit or are stamped out.
Both the Devil and the Fool are destructive, but for completely different reasons. The thing is, even though their motivations and personalities are so different, in the real world it is often very difficult to tell the difference between a Devil and a Fool.
When someone does something destructive, what is your first instinct? Is it to label the person as a Devil: someone who is simply mean and malicious and does not care what he destroys? Or is it to label the person as a Fool: someone who is simply clueless and ignorant and does not know what he destroys?
The Fool doesn’t know he is hurting you, and the Devil doesn’t care. When someone hurts you, what is your first thought? Do you usually assume the person is mean, or ignorant? Do you assume the person is a Devil or a Fool?
In personal relationships, the end result can often be the same. You can fall off a cliff because you were walking next to a fool, or you can end up in chains because you were too close to a devil. Either way, you end badly. Sometimes you have to ask yourself: if I am being hurt, does it even matter if the person hurting me is a Devil or a Fool?
Now look at society writ large. I think that conservative political policies tend to be rooted in the assumption that people are Devils, while liberal political policies tend to be rooted in the assumption that people are Fools.
The liberal wants laws that assume that a person’s intentions are ultimately good. Human beings are all on a quest, walking along with their bags over their shoulders, and they simply need a little help along the way. A liberal thinks the government should not be so focused on preventing evil things from happening, because a liberal at his core thinks that bad things usually come from ignorance or pain, not malice. The liberal doesn’t believe in Devils, you see: he is focused on the Fools. If only we can teach people to watch where they are going, then they will not fall off the cliff. If only we can get those poor Fools to recognize how to make better choices. That is where government can help, thinks the liberal. The government can help to teach Fools to change their path away from the cliff.
The conservative, on the other hand, wants laws that assume that a person’s intentions are ultimately evil. Human beings are creatures of evil temptations and evil desires, and if left to their own devices they will be mean and lazy. A conservative thinks the government should not be focused on helping people to make choices, because a conservative at his core thinks that people’s instinctive choices are often evil and wrong. The conservative doesn’t believe in Fools, you see: he is focused on the Devils. If only we can protect ourselves from all of the people out there who want to enslave us, we will be ok. If only we can stop people from acting on their immoral and evil temptations and desires, then we will be ok. That is where government can help, thinks the conservative. The government can help stop the Devils from enslaving and sodomizing each other.
So which archetype do you think best describes the majority of the human population? Which role for government do you think is most important? Which problem is the biggest problem that needs to be solved?
Is the human race, as a whole, a race of Devils or a race of Fools?