The Roots of our Evil

Most people are good and occasionally do something they know is bad. Some people are bad and struggle every day to keep it under control. Others are corrupt to the core and don’t give a damn, as long as they don’t get caught. But evil is a completely different creature. Evil is bad that believes it’s good’ – Karen Marie Moning

This is probably one of the most relevant quotes I could think of to sum up the world as it stands today. I believe that in general, the world is a good place. Altruism has been influential and prominent in our evolution so far, and hopefully it continues to flourish. However, even though the world is mostly good, there is still plenty of bad. Bad is needed though. In small doses, bad can help us realise the good around us and make us appreciate it more. We need bad as much as we need good. The thing about anyone who is just ‘bad’ is that they are usually aware of it, regret it, and struggle against it.

In the world today the word ‘evil’ is thrown around a lot. There’s not one person who’s ever existed who has needed evil. As the quote states evil is bad that believes it is good. This is completely different to anything that is just bad. Whereas bad knows it is bad, evil genuinely believes it is standing up for the right thing. In our world, there are plenty of examples of this definition of evil, throughout history. The Christian Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Hitler. More recently, ISIS, Trump, racist-nationalism in the U.S and the countless genocides that go un-reported in the third world. It appears that our world, as good as it may be, is being over-shadowed and over-powered by ‘evil’ these days.

The thing about a moral perspective is that any outlook opposing our own will automatically be deemed ‘wrong’ intuitively. Now I am not condoning any of the examples above, or indeed supporting any. However I am suggesting that if evil is truly ‘bad’ which believes it is good, how can it be expected to be believe another moral perspective is ‘more good’? To put that another way, if ‘goodness’ is good that truly believes it is good, and ‘evil’ is bad that truly believes it is good, then the only thing that separates these two polarities is a difference in opinion. Neither one believes they are wrong and so each one can seem like the evil one from the opposite perspective.

To illustrate this, take ISIS for example. To all of us, ISIS are evil. They have performed vicious and disgusting acts of violence on innocent people in the western world for the past number of months and it doesn’t show any signs of ceasing any time soon. We can all agree on ISIS being evil. Now, take it from their perspective. The people who are involved in ISIS, for whatever reason, think they are carrying out the will of God. To them, we are in the wrong. We are the evil ones and we are the ones who must be punished. It would be almost impossible to convince them other-wise, in the same way it would be unlikely to be able to convince any of us that ISIS aren’t evil.

This conflict is morally a difficult one as it suggests that the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, is as subjective and arbitrary as one’s opinion. How can we ever be sure that the side we’re on is truly the ‘right’ one if every person who has ever committed an act of evil has done so from a position of believing they were doing the ‘right’ thing? How can we ever expect people like Donal Trump to change, if he genuinely believes he is doing what is morally right? The only factor that may differentiate between which side is good and which side is evil is how the majority feels but even that is not always telling. The majority of the world stood-by and let the Crusades happen, and the majority of Germany supported Hitler until it was too late. It is scarily difficult to be sure that what you believe in is totally ‘good’ or ‘right’ until all the cards are dealt out and the outcomes are fixed.

The purpose of this article was to discuss a very difficult and confusing moral debate. Yes, it is evident to all of us that racism and terrorism, and threats of nuclear warfare are very, very bad things. The question is, are these things clearly bad to the people who act is racist ways or conduct acts of terrorism? The narrative so far is that these people are doing terrible things, knowing that these things are truly bad. What may be even tougher to swallow is that these people are racist and hateful, and murderous and believe that what they are doing is morally the right thing. That belief is far more troubling.


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