Two-faced is not limited to a Batman movie. Humanity is two-faced. There exist good and bad individuals and those that exhibit both grace and malice.
Here are more two-faced stories of human beings who demonstrate this dual nature. We’re doing an Audit of the Universe, including humankind. This chapter about humankind’s singularity zooms in for a microscopic view of what differentiates humans from all other creatures. And those chasms are impassable and inexplicable using material methods.
(Audit of Humankind, chapter 1.2)
Two-faced Depravation and Kindness
Father Thomas Swade was a Catholic priest operating in the Archdiocese of Chicago during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. During his time with the church, he led a flock of several hundred congregants. His daily duties included spiritual counseling, conducting confession, seeing to the business of operating a church, and helping brother priests throughout Chicago and the world. When necessary, he provided comfort and support for congregates in pain, suffering or grief. Over the course of his career, a conservative estimate would state that he directly improved the lives of over 10,000 people…and indirectly 100,000 or more.
In October of 2009, Father Swade was defrocked after several men from his congregation came forward with allegations of sexual abuse. Swade used his unique position of power and authority to coerce sexual favors from boys in his congregation, and to intimidate them into silence afterward. He indulged in the most hypocritical betrayal possible by lying to, intimidating and harming people under his care via a sexual act the church that protected him unequivocally condemned.
Father Swade is not the only example of a priest, or other authority figure, to betray his position and the people he was duty-bound to guide and protect. This is being two-faced. His actions were the very definition of evil, and yet his other actions helped, guided and comforted thousands.
We can see the opposite side of this behavioral coin in the two-faced Sicilian Mafia. Giovanni Brusca, a 20th-century mafioso currently and thankfully incarcerated on a life sentence, once murdered a judge and his wife because the judge was publicly anti-mafia. He has confessed to the abduction, torture and murder of an 11-year-old boy unfortunate enough to be the son of a rival gang leader. Brusca and others like him are undeniably evil men, ruthless not only with other criminals but with law-abiding citizens who stand in their way.
Despite this evil, Mafiosos are renowned for their unflinching kindness and loyalty to their families. A Mafia “enforcer” will come home from mercilessly beating a local shop-owner to dandling his toddler son on one knee. Their parents and grandparents are treated with a level of respect that civic leaders can learn something from. This dichotomy of brutal criminal and loving family man, both within the same person without hypocrisy or deception, underscores man’s dual nature.Two-faced priests provide comfort for congregates in suffering while practicing pedophilia. The dichotomy of brutal criminals who are loving family men. Good and evil within the same person underscoring humanity's dual nature. Click To Tweet
Athletes Who Soar and Fall
Lance Armstrong first became world-famous for his Tour de France victory in 1999, and became even more famous for winning the Tour seven consecutive times. These victories were even more impressive because of his 1996 diagnosis of testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen.
As a cancer survivor with a worldwide platform, Armstrong used those resources to create what eventually became the Livestrong Foundation. Motivated by empathy caused by his own struggle with cancer, he built a global brand dedicated to “inspiring and empowering” cancer survivors and their families. He tirelessly supported and promoted the brand through public appearances, and visited personally with many of those the Foundation helped. He has directly or indirectly helped millions of victims or family members of victims of cancer.
In 2012, it was discovered that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs while competing. When the accusations appeared, he lied to friends, investigators and the press. Using drugs to get an athletic edge was fairly common in the cycling world, and might be seen as forgivable — but the deceptions he stuck to eventually led him to separate himself from the Livestrong brand to avoid damaging its work.
This kind of two-faced situation is common among us: people doing great things but also making enormous mistakes. The drugs invalidate Armstrong’s athletic victories, since he might not have won without them, but without those victories, could he have accomplished so much? Does his humanitarian work outweigh or justify his cheating and later deception?
Most of us know the name Nelson Mandela from the late 1990s. He became world-famous when he left jail as a political prisoner and became President of a new South Africa. His influence from inside prison and his humanitarian policies after rising to power improved the quality of life for an entire country. Further, his message of forgiveness and progressive policy shone as an example of enlightened rulership that inspired people the world over.
But this is not the only person Mandela is or was. During the 1950s and early 1960s, he became convinced that the plight of blacks in South Africa left “no alternative to armed and violent resistance.” He helped to organize the African National Congress form a political party to a resistance movement that used violent force to further their aims. When finally arrested and charged with treason, Mandela pleaded guilty to over 100 acts of violence including bombing and shooting deaths at shopping malls and a movie complex. Though Mandela did not personally commit all of these acts, he helped to organize them and gave them his express approval.
Mandela began his adult life as an educated, peace-loving activist. He ended his life as a world leader promoting peace and equal opportunity. In between those times, he spent years believing that murdering civilians including mothers and children was a justifiable and necessary act. Do his actions at the beginning and end of his life make up for the violence, or do his crimes stain his legacy? Is there a third way of summarizing a life that spanned both ends of the two-faced spectrum of human morality?
Even at Home
Though our discussion of the two-faced duality of man has focused on famous athletes and world leaders, the same trait is present in the lives of everyday men and women. Lisa Donlon was one such “normal” person living with her three children and her husband Jason in Palmer, Alaska. One night in October of 2010, she shot her husband to death while he slept. Five of the bullets entered his back, and one through the base of his skull.
What could be more reprehensible than murdering a loved one, in cold blood, by shooting him in the back while he slept? Lisa reported to police that her husband had been beating and raping her, keeping her locked in a storage shed, for several days — and that their five-year marriage was marked with periods of abuse and violence. When asked why she shot him while he was helpless, she said he often threatened her and the children with guns and did not want to create a situation where he might come after them armed.
This is not a unique, or even a rare story, but it illustrates how even love — arguably our most endearing and positive trait as humans — can twist over time into something dark and violent. At the same time, Lisa’s love for her children was a strong motivator that led her to being careful even as she committed murder. A two-faced plan, does the end justify the means?
“We’ve seen more than once in our inventory how important it is for humans to care for the Air, Water and Land,” Galacti says. “But a few may be taking it too far.”
Paul Watson was an instrumental early member in the organization Greenpeace, which uses peaceful methods as passive resistance to prevent government, criminals and corporations from damaging the environment. During the 1970s and 1980s, he became famous for positioning small ships between large commercial whalers and their prey, and even for physically interposing himself between harpoons and their targets. His actions raised enough awareness to help make a significant difference in some global environmental policies.
By the late 1970s, Watson decided the difference he could make via peaceful means was not significant enough. He co-founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a “direct action” environmental group that uses terrorism and vandalism to forward their cause. Acting with and for the society, he has physically attacked whalers and destroyed multi-million-dollar ships. His prolific writings on the topic of activism encourages violence, and has led to human deaths.From early member of Greenpeace--peaceful resistance to prevent damaging the environment--to co-founder of Sea Shepherd a “direct action” environmental group using terrorism to forward their cause. Two-faced humanity. Click To Tweet
“The end justifies the means” may describe our dual nature better than any catchphrase in the English language, as does how we use it. Some say it without irony, indicating that they agree with its sentiment. Others use it dismissively to demonstrate how much they disagree with another person’s choices or motivations. For all, it perfectly encapsulates one aspect of man’s ethical two-faced inconsistency both as individuals and as collective humans. Sometimes fiction reveals reality.
This two-faced characteristic of humanity is far from being the sole singularity that sets us apart from all other creatures on Earth even if it is part-and-parcel of all of our singularities.
Let’s investigate some of the other unique features of humankind.
This blog post is an excerpt from chapter 1.2 of the book Audit of Humankind.
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