One of my favorite quotes of all time is one by Charles Manson.
“Do what you do, do it well…and throw in something witchy.”
Now, before you get outraged, there’s a reason it’s my favorite and not what you’re probably assuming.
I don’t like it because it’s creepy/scary and makes me all shivery—it doesn’t. I don’t like it because it’s counterculture and I’m some misinformed hippie—I’m certainly not.
I like it because it’s rare to sum up someone’s true ethic—a glimpse inside their true self—from one little quote.
What this quote means, and he himself has admitted to it, is that he didn’t really care why his followers were going to do what they did as long as they did what he said, and did it well. He told them what they wanted to hear to motivate them (aided by a lot of speed and LSD.) He didn’t care about the state of race relations in the U.S. or starting a race war. He just wanted to hurt people as he’d felt he’d been hurt. He wanted to hurt and he wanted to make headlines.
Manson knew that if Tex Watson was to “throw in something witchy” along with the brutal murders, the press would go crazy for it. And they did.
Manson was right but he’s not a genius. He’s an opportunist. He rode a societal wave that handed him vulnerable people who fulfilled what he was lacking and were fulfilled by him what they lacked. It’s mundane.
Charles Manson wasn’t and isn’t some Svengali. He wasn’t and isn’t some evil, demonic minion of Satan. He’s a man who hated his lot in life; who had a lot of anger towards everyone who got to enjoy a life he never got to enjoy. He is someone who happened to be at a place in geography and time where shoveling out answers to people already grasping for them happened to dovetail sweetly with his one charismatic skill.
Charles Manson was an happenstance-opportunist who got “lucky”. Lucky for him, not lucky for anyone who happened across his path. Lucky because he got what he wanted his whole life: acknowledgement, out of a life of irrelevance.
And that’s what he is, a “lucky”, angry, vengeful, opportunistic little man. And that’s all.
All of this stems from a preview I just saw of an upcoming ABC show “reminiscing” about the “evil” that is Charles Manson. There is no evil here. It’s human nature, whether you deem him devil or angel.
Despite the fact that they are gifting this man with what he’d always wanted, and what drove him to do what he did by revitalizing it…they are also perpetuating a myth about human nature that I find more disturbing.
Again, Charles Manson isn’t a devil. He’s human.
The myth is the push, the need, to deem people who commit terrible acts as evil or crazy or inhuman…the need to see people who commit horrific acts as anyone other than ourselves. I get it. I understand.
But to do that is ignorant, lazy, and cowardly.
Ignorant for not seeing that everyone in every way has influence. One can be a hermit, living in a cave, yet that runoff from their sewage is poisoning the plants, killing the bees that should pollinate the vegetables miles away. Ignorant for hoping that we’re separate entities who hold no responsibility for anyone else’s existence. It is simply not true. Not knowing or acknowledging your influence doesn’t lessen its effect.
Lazy because shame on you to anyone who thinks, “Hey, not in my yard.” And shame on you again.
Cowardly because we need to acknowledge that it IS our responsibility. Not addressing what’s causing and perpetuating whatever is your concern, makes you a coward. To think that you or a group of you can’t make a difference, is cowardly. To stand behind the excuse that, “nothing changes” is cowardly.
(Did you know that writing to your state’s congresspersons about your particular issue sways how they vote about…well, everything? Everyone? Who YOU are to be in this community and your power in it?)
It’s all of our responsibility to know what we’re doing for all of our fellow humans. Good, bad, and irritating. Because if we don’t, we get Manson. He didn’t start off bad. He got his shit handed to him hand-over-fist. It made him bitter, angry, violently vengeful. He was a kid that grew up in a shit-hole existence; uneducated, unguided, and uncared for.
It’s no excuse but it was all preventable.
I do blame him. But I also blame us.
Giving Manson a special on TV reassuring us that he is different, “evil”, “the devil”, and “powerful” is taking away our responsibility for helping to create the monster out of a boy.
Just because you don’t know anyone on the wrong-side-of-the-tracks doesn’t make you less responsible for the three-strikes law. Ignorance doesn’t validate you for voting in programs that promote incarceration and recidivism instead of rehabilitation. Turning a blind-eye doesn’t excuse your hand in this because you don’t want the icky-ness in your yard.
Charles Manson is an extreme example of what can happen when you’re born into a world that beats you from day one, where anger is your only connection, where violence is your only outlet.
He’s not the devil, he’s a possible outcome.
And it’s all our fault.