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When is Evil Cool?

All my life I’ve contemplated this question. If you think it’s an absurd notion, perhaps you don’t come from the same planet as me. Since my infancy, I was taught the virtues of being obedient. But in First Grade, I was taught by the class clown, Jacob K., the virtues of being rebellious. Saying naughty things in class and defying the teacher made the other children laugh, boosting my adoration and self-confidence. I knew I’d achieved something great when Jacob, the greatest comedic genius of my six-year-old world, said to me, “You’re a funny kid,” thus laying the foundation for a lifetime of class-clowning. The lesson: evil is cool.

As I progressed through school, my older sister started listening to popular music filled with screaming guitars, grungy singers, and mind-numbing drums. To my innocent ears in a household of classical music, these sounds were the very essence of evil. But then my friends started listening to popular music. Then everyone started listening to it. One of the most common phrases of my tribal vernacular was, “What kind of music do you like?” I learned very quickly that “Mendelssohn and Grieg” weren’t acceptable answers. If I wanted to get anywhere, I had to learn to bang my head to the latest jungle beats. The lesson: evil is cool.

The older I got, the cooler evil became. Irreverence and profanity became funnier and funnier. The filtering of edgy media became looser and looser. Childlike defenders of the unequivocal right were replaced by armies of the devil’s advocates. The God of Israel was replaced by the god of moral relativism … and even above him, the god of Coolness. As a native New Yorker in a former Institute class put it, “Where I came from, everything that was evil was cool.”

What if evil really is cool, and I’m just too old-fashioned to recognize it? What if Billy Joel is right, and it’s only the good who die young, that, all things considered, it would be better to laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints? After all, in medieval times, people thought the augmented fourth was of the devil, and the Catholic church officially denounced forks. But without the augmented fourth, how would Tony sing about Maria? And without forks … need I illustrate such an obvious dystopia? These things were never evil, they were just new.

More on this thought tomorrow.

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