August 24, 2010


A few years ago, I wrote an allegory. I don’t mean to appear immodest, but it’s one of the most satisfying pieces of writing I’ve have ever done. Unfortunately, I found no market for it. Allegory, a moral tale told with symbols, has gone out of style. Too bad, because the art form still has a place in the 21st Century.

Because we live in a complex world, we can’t presume we will always recognize good and evil.  Circumstances change and so do the meanings of those two words.   To keep our wits about us we need stories, fact or fiction, which keep us thinking about the difference.

Currently, I’m reading a book on the past and present dangers of nuclear weapons. I read a chapter a day because more than that makes me depressed. The development of nuclear power is a history of constantly having to make decisions about what’s good and what’s evil. Jonathan Schell, author of “The Seventh Decade,” writes Dwight Eisenhower created the Atoms for Peace program as a cover to increase the country’s nuclear supremacy. According to Schell, the president wanted pursue nuclear research and used the peace agenda as a means to justify it. The president was afraid of Russia’s rising power and felt our country needed to stay ahead in the arms race.  Was his lie to the country and the world good or evil? 

I’m not arguing the politics of Eisenhower’s decision. Presumably, he engaged in a subterfuge for what he believed was a greater good. But moral landscapes change and what looks like familiar terrain can be an illusion. I read a news report this weekend that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, has unveiled the addition of a pilotless, long range jet bomber to its war arsenal. His justification:

“This jet, before it heralds death for enemies, is the messenger of salvation and dignity for humanity.”

I needn’t comment on this remark. It speaks for itself like “a war to end wars.” This blog isn’t about politics; it’s about language, how we use it and what it says about us. Right now, given the amount of double speak in the world, I’d say language is signaling we might be losing our way. A few allegories to keep us thinking about good and evil wouldn’t be amiss.