The Glamour of Evil

Kody Scott is a prisoner in a California prison. Covered with tattoos, scarred by bullets, Scott is nicknamed "Monster." He is a former gang member and a remorseless killer. He is also the darling of the publishing world. Scott recently published his life's story in a book. Larded with four-letter words and crude rap speech, it tells a lurid tale of drugs, murder, gang warfare. And literary types are swooning over it. At an international trade show, Scott's book overshadowed even proven winners like Tom Clancy and Stephen King. He has netted an advance of $250,000. The literary world, it seems, has a fascination with criminals. The best-known case was in 1981, when novelist Norman Mailer pressed for the release of a criminal named Jack Abbott because Mailer adored his writing. Within a month of his release, Abbott was back in prison for murder. Why do the literati find criminals so fascinating? The answer is that they romanticize criminals as rebels against established society. Listen to the way Norman Mailer glamorized the ghetto. Middle-class folks ought to learn from ghetto culture, Mailer wrote—learn to give up "the sophisticated inhibitions of civilization." Learn to live for the moment, to "follow the rebellious imperative of the self." Forget "the single mate, the solid family, and the respectable love life," Mailer went on. The real life is one of "Saturday night kicks"—of sex and drugs. These words were written in 1957, and they express the ideas that drove the sixties. Ultimately, they derive from the philosophy of existentialism. In fact, the first writer to get a convicted criminal released was the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism teaches that there are no moral absolutes—that all law and morality is manmade. Hence moral rules are by definition oppressive—imposed on us by whoever has the most power. If that's the case, existentialism says, then conforming to society's moral code means giving in to an oppressive system. The only healthy response is to rebel—to prove one's autonomy. And so, unbelievable though it may sound, the existentialists actually celebrated crime as a regenerative rebellion against oppression. In his book The Dream and the Nightmare, Myron Magnet explains how the young hoodlum became a symbol of courage and authenticity. Today the literary world is still glamorizing evil, and Kody Scott—the "Monster"—is its latest rebel hero. The worst part of all this is that the ideas of the elites eventually filter down to the streets. The glamour of crime is now commonplace among untutored ghetto youth. Congress is poised to pass a huge omnibus crime bill out of conference committee. But laws will never be enough to stop crime. We must first address ourselves to culture: the ideas and attitudes of the elites who shape the way people think. Existentialism is wrong: Real morality is not manmade. Nor is it imposed on us merely by society. The source of true moral standards is God Himself. And when we bow before Him, we do not lose our freedom. We discover what true freedom really is.  


Chuck Colson



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