About That Ksh

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_(detail)_-_WGA2501I’ve tried so hard to focus on writing, and faeries, and the 12th Century in this blog, and then I had to go and read this.

When one is creating a fictional world one gets to not only create imaginary people, but the value systems they live by. In the case of the Faer, whom I have portrayed as a hunter-gatherer people who survived into the medieval era, I thought hard about creating an alternative to the human concept of “Good” and “Evil.”

There’s a previous post up about vaira, the web of life that sustains us all, invisible to us, but quite real and present to the faer, and today, inspired by the  article linked above, I’m going to write about ksh.

The word comes from JRR Tokien’s elvish language, Quenya, and means “Evil.” So what do I mean by Evil, and why not just use that word? Good and Evil. Clear cut. Defined. Impossible to confuse. After all, we all know what those words mean.

Or do we? Let me give you a few examples:

In an epsode of M*A*S*H, Charles Emerson Winchester III is giddy with delight over a letter from his stockbroker. Why? Because the Kansas wheat crop has failed. And why should that make him happy? Because he invested in Nebraska wheat futures! The price of Nebraska wheat will skyrocket, adding to his already substantial fortune.

So a horrible tragedy–to a Kansas farmer–is a good thing to Dr. Winchester.

You may argue that weather patterns, regardless of their effects, can’t be considered Evil, since weather doesn’t exactly subscribe to human moral codes, so let me try another example.

No doubt you have heard this version of American history: “The heroic pioneers came across the sea, fought against the savage people living here and took this great country for their own.”

They were Good people, right?

Now listen to this: “Evil people are coming across the sea to kill us all and take this great country for their own.”

You’ve probably heard this from the same folks who made the first statement so raptuously. If you look closely, the version of Good and Evil described above boils down to “It’s okay if we do it.”

So I set out on my quest to find a definition of Good and Evil that does not depend upon whether one personally benefits from or is harmed by a particular action.

In fact, the faer would consider the human tendency to define Good and Evil in terms of personal benefit or harm as an expression of ksh.

In the simplest terms, ksh is that which harms vaira, i.e., the web of life that sustains us all. 

So back to Goldman-Sachs. In case you didn’t bother to click on the link, I will quote from the report:

“The potential to deliver ‘one shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies,” analyst Salveen Richter wrote in the note to clients Tuesday. “While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.”

Now let’s look at this more closely. If you cure a disease rather than develop a drug that requires lifetime dosing, it cuts into your repeat business. The company that developed the Hep C cure saw its revenues decline from $12.5 B the first year to a measly $4 B last year.

They say this like its a bad thing. I mean, how can you finance scientific research on a measly $4B a year?

Or another example. To summarize:

Republican Rick Snyder, […]who became governor in 2010 without ever serving in public office placed the city under emergency management in 2011 and forced the city to use a contaminated, filthy river for water. For 18 months,  the Snyder administration ignored all signs that water was contaminated, and the crisis is still going on today. Even more troubling was the fact that the ACLU and Michigan Radio uncovered what clearly looks like a rigged state water test designed to hide the extremely high lead levels.

I can’t help but wonder the response we’d be seeing if it was Syria who retaliated by poisoning the water in an American city.  

All of Flint’s 8,657 children under the age of six should be considered exposed, according to a recent citywide public health directive.

and from the same article:

Now, the heartbreaking data has started to come in. It was recently reported that between 2013 and 2017, the portion of Flint’s third-graders who tested as proficient in reading at grade level fell from 41.8 percent to 10.7 percent. 

So, in my definition, ksh encompasses the legal term “willful blindness.” You could also define it as greed, or any number of other things. Perhaps another way of defining it would be “to be so blinded by self-interest as to refuse to see the damage one’s actions are doing.” Or as novelist Sinclair Lewis put it, “It is impossible to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Perhaps this could be excused in the past, when human lives were shorter and we didn’t live long enough to see the long-term effects of our actions as a species or have the scientific instrumentation needed to see that which is beyond the realm of our unaided perception (another reason for the Republican War on Science.) We’ve lost that excuse.

So what are we going to do about it?

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