I've been doing a lot of reading about serial killers, Nazis, you know... and with all the bankers and politicians in the news, you could say that I've gotten my fill of evil people for the month. And it's only the 11th...
So this got me thinking, who is the most evil person in the world? Hitler? Ted Bundy? The people who ran over that little Chinese girl a few weeks ago? Or maybe those who saw her bleeding to death, and chose to continue shopping rather than help her?
What is evil? Am I evil?
Well let's start with Uncle Adolf, shall we? Was Hitler a bad, bad man? Why yes, he was, you get 5 points! But he didn't really get up in the morning and said, 'Alright folks, I'll have a bowl of cereal please, and after that I'll do some evil!' I really doubt that. I think in his own mind he was doing humanity a favor, and if he had won the war he would have been a hero; simply because he would have been judged by people who shared his worldview.
But he lost, and was judged by people who had different views- and so now he is considered evil.
Don't get me wrong; I think he was quite the little asshat as well. But this shows that the definition of what is right and what is wrong changes with time. Slavery is a big no-no right now, but the Romans, whom we Westerners generally admire, were really rather fond of it. Does that make all Romans evil? Or was slavery OK for them, in their time?
And does that mean that the Holocaust was then alright from a Nazi point of view?
Was the genocide of American natives alright from a conqueror's point of view?
Yes, it was.
The fact that we no longer agree with the rightness of these historical events seems to show that we create evil- not by our actions, but by our reactions. The action of shooting a Injun was considered normal a hundred years ago; but today we react by saying that it's murder. It is merely our opinion that this is evil, and not an established universal fact. There is no huge stone tablet in the sky that tells us right from wrong. Our opinions and attitudes are products of our time and our society. And therefore, what is evil and what is not changes quite often.
What about Ted Bundy, though? Murdering all those women, and then trying to manipulate the media until the last minute before your execution by trying to blame pornography for your actions instead of apologizing to the victim's families, surely that is evil, right?
Yes, his actions seem evil, but Teddy was psychologically ill. He felt a compulsion. He couldn't help himself. That does not excuse what he did, but it explains it. He too, did not get up in the morning specifically to commit evil. He was simply being himself, as fucked up as that might seem.
So what about the people who failed to help the little girl in China who was run over by two vans on a busy street? Evil, apathetic... if I think about it too long, many unkind words enter my mind. She was only two, and she was crying and screaming and holding her head the whole time, and they just let her die there, in the middle of the street, like roadkill. I wish I could strangle them all, slowly. But would that make me evil? Is some violence justifiable?
Well, is apathy?
Society, by and large, has always been shaped by religion, or religion-like system. The Chinese system, which devalues girls, seems to be at least partially to blame for the little girl's horrible fate. Nazism and its version of Jesus, Hitler, are most definitely to blame for the Holocaust and World War II. Christianity played a large role in the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the subjugation of Latin America's people to invading Europeans... all of these things were or are considered 'right', and not evil.
So how is one to know what one should and should not do in today's world? How will history judge us and our actions? Will hindsight be kind to us?
I think the only way to ensure that we do more good than harm during our stay on this little planet is to try to separate our thinking from the norm. Forget about religion, forget about society, forget about politics. Base your actions on humanism rather than on the philosophy du jour. Be accountable for your actions, don't hide behind the shield of religion or the excuse of peer pressure.
I'm beginning to sound terribly preachy there, I know. It's been a long day. Just one more thing:
"This above all: to thine own self be true."
-Shakespeare. I think if you keep that in mind, and act accordingly, you'll be alright.