Jonathon Rosenblum has penned an excellent article about how it can be more important to tell evil than to worry about the good – see here.
His article was stimulated by a statement in a film The Third Jihad that “The real war is between the values of freedom and barbarism. If we are not willing to recognize the battle as one for our civilization, we might as well give up right now.”
Rosenblum draws important parallels between current events and prior to the Second World War. As Rosenblum states “Chamberlain never read Mein Kampf, in which Hitler laid out in startling fashion both his future plans for the Jews and for German conquest. Far from viewing Hitler as an evil man, Chamberlain believed him to be a “gentleman,” with whom he could do business. He was more than once shocked to find that Hitler had lied to him, even though that too was foreshadowed in Mein Kampf”
Chamberlain’s behaviour brings to mind the aphorism that there is none so blind as he who does not wish to see.
The importance of identifying evil rather than good, also reflects on the difference between the Golden Rule – Do unto others that you would have them do unto you; and what has been termed the Silver Rule – Do not do unto others that which you would not want them to do unto you. Wickipedia discusses the differences between the 2 approaches under the headings of ethics of reciprocity and the Silver rule .
In his recent Cairo speech, Pres Obama extolled the Golden Rule.
In contrast, Rabbi Hillel, recognizing that it is often more helpful to identify what a person would not want for themselves favoured the latter approach: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Shab. 31a).
It is critical for us and our leaders to learn the lessons of the recent past, to recognize evil and to avoid the errors of Chamberlain in combatting it.