The rough translation of the great Roman Italian poet’s line from The Aeneid (VI, 95) goes something like this:
DO NOT GIVE IN TO EVIL, BUT PROCEED EVER MORE BOLDLY AGAINST IT.
A beautiful sentiment, no?
Of course, there is no such thing as supernatural evil. There isn’t a Satan or a Devil or whatever. But there is real evil, and there are really evil people. Yes, evil exists.
Virgil, writing roughly 100 years before Christ, dedicated his life to philosophy as expressed through poetry. In particular, he became one of the earliest to pin down the tension between the one and the many, between the aspirations of the larger organization (in this case, Rome) and the individual.
Interestingly, tu ne cede malis was adopted in Vienna by a young Ludwig von Mises, the great knight of the Austrian School, serving as guiding words to his life.
Two parts to it, really.
First, do not give in to evil. Evil is EVERYWHERE. It is a consummate part of our modern life. We’re constantly being prodded, poked, manipulated by groups and people. Everyone wants our time. Everyone wants our mind. We’re to give in. We’re to go along. We’re to believe this or believe that. Why? Well, because everyone else believes. To not give in to evil takes a hell of a person. You have to hone that skill. You have to be able to stand against the herd. And sometimes, you have to declare your separation from the entire world. People are capable of doing this at various times in their lives. When they’re young, they go through rebellious phases of one kind or another. But that is not the spirit of Virgil’s line. No. To rebel for only the sake of rebelling is essentially meaningless. Standing against the world means living that way permanently. Very, very difficult, but sooooooo important in the process of becoming an individual.
Second, proceed ever more boldly against evil. Resisting evil is hard enough, but a fully human being continues through unbearable obstacles. She is the Jew who laughs haughtily in the face of the concentration camp guard. He is the business man who refuses to give up his vision even though everyone tells him he is mad. She is the woman who will not allow her beauty to speak for her. From the simple to the complex, moving through evil people, evil situations, evil organizations is what makes for a fulfilling and great life. It is the measure of who we are.
I have given in. Too many times. And when I didn’t give in at various times, I didn’t boldly challenge evil. In every instance, I look back in complete shame at my moral impotence.
Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children.