EVIL - A HUMANIST ESSAY BY ARTHUR CHAPPELL.
"I do not believe that there is any one political system, religious faith, psychoanalytic school, scientific attitude, or philosophical point of view, which has sole access to the truth. My dogma is that all dogma is suspect; and it seems to me that most of the harm done in the world is done by those who are dogmatically certain that they are right. For being absolutely right means that those who disagree are absolutely wrong. Those who are absolutely wrong are of course dangerous to society, and must be restrained or eliminated. This is the beginning of the road to the torture chamber and the gas oven." Anthony Storr. HUMAN DESTRUCTIVENESS. 1991. Routledge Books.
Why do terrible things often happen to good people? How can seemingly respectable members of a community take up guns or knives and use them to murder fellow citizens in cold blood? It would be very easy to present an endless list of wars, premeditated murders, genocides, pogroms, ethnic cleansings, rape cases, and persecutions that most people would readily agree upon as being ‘evil’. Hitler, The Moors Murderers, The Spanish Inquisition, Stalin, and many others would all deserve a place in any such catalogue. Alas, such lists seldom attempt to define or explain how evil arises.
What actually is the ‘evil’? Is it simply the pain, suffering and the deaths that are caused? No, as pain, suffering and death can be caused quite naturally as well, through diseases, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc. Such destruction from nature often goes under the name of ‘natural evil’, but I am here concerned with acts of violence, destruction and suffering for which human beings are in some way deliberately responsible. We may of course cause suffering unintentionally, through accidents such as a car crash in which someone suffers just as much as they might in a deliberate act of violence. In such accidental events, no ‘evil’ is generally believed to be involved.
The word ‘responsibility’ creates another definitional problem. Are humans in any way responsible for evil? First of all, a murderous act might be committed irresponsibly, in an act of irrational madness and insanity. Though the consequences are just as devastating as in the act of wilful murder committed after careful premeditation and calculation by the perpetrator of the act. Can the actions of someone diagnosed as medically insane be regarded as evil in the same way? Psychiatrists believe not. This creates enormous problems in criminal cases where psychiatrists, and criminal lawyers and even the jury are unable to decide whether or not a murder suspect is insane. Some murderers have even been known to feign insanity in the belief that an asylum for the insane is preferable to prison. Peter (The Yorkshire Ripper) Sutcliffe claimed that he acted on the command of voices from God, and was considered insane by his defence lawyers, but his success at evading capture by the police for so many years helped to convince the justice system that he was quite sane, and therefore utterly evil.
In many religions, humanity is seen as a mere pawn in a cosmic conflict between titanic forces of good and evil, darkness and light, order and chaos, yin and yang. To say that a man has committed a murder because he was possessed by evil forces is an extremely dangerous assertion. If cosmic forces control and manipulate all human thought and action, then no one on Earth has ever been responsible for what they have done. Hitler becomes innocent because his actions have been preordained. Total, absolute conviction that gods create and cause all events leaves humanity with no free will whatsoever. Laws, punishments, legal definitions of crime, all amount to nothing. We keep the institutions of law and order because their use is also preordained.
Before the rise of monotheistic (one God) religions, the changing fortunes of society or any given individual could be attributed to the dominance of a particular deity over his or her rivals. It rained when the god of rain willed it so; and brightened up when a sun god proved superior. Bacchus made men inebriate; Aphrodite filled us with passion, Hera drove us to acts of evil, and Pan made us musically creative. The emergence of a single, often jealous all powerful deity, be it God or Allah, raised enormous theological problems. If the one, exclusive God allows evil, atrocious tragedies to behalf the humans he has created, then that God is; a/. powerless to prevent evil befalling us, or; b/. either intentionally does nothing to prevent evil, and at best, or worst, wilfully deliberately encourages evil, and/or makes evil things happen to us.
Here is a quotation from Epicurus (c. 341-270 bce), quoted in The Freethinker in March 1997; "Is he (God) willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"
Is God weak, and unable to stop evil? If so, God is not omnipotent. Or is God himself given to committing acts of ‘evil’? If God created everything, he was the one who created the quicksands of Morecambe Bay which can claim several human lives a year. We often hear of plagues and natural disasters of Biblical proportions being referred to as ‘acts of God’. Supposing I destroyed two densely populated cities full of people I regarded as socially undesirable, with nuclear bombs. Would I not be considered evil, and rightly so? Supposing God destroyed Sodom and Gomorra on similar grounds, if not in such a similar technological fashion. Why is his action not considered evil when mine would be regarded as evil? Should god(s) be tried and convicted for crimes against humanity?
Many theologians argue that God chose to give human beings a degree of free will, through which we can decide for ourselves to do good, and follow God’s teachings and example, or commit ourselves to evil. We are alas reminded however that if we decide to commit acts that displease God, he will punish us for it quite severely. God’s punishments for our transgressions from his moral laws may be imposed on us after our natural deaths, through Hellfire or Purgatory. Alternatively, may on some occasions punish us during our lifetime by levelling our cities, or killing our children. When a sensational murder hits the headlines, many religionists seize upon the opportunity to blame the tragedies and deaths caused on declining beliefs in God and his Church. Others may see the murderer as a scourge of God, acting out God’s vengeance on evildoers. Peter Sutcliffe’s victims were mostly, but not exclusively prostitutes. Many Christians believed that their deaths were God's way of deterring other girls from selling their bodies on the streets, and that some good therefore came of the purge and terror Sutcliffe created.
Christians regrettably see suffering and grief as a social necessity. We are reminded by many Christian priests that God and Jesus and the saints weep openly over every infant mortality, which is hardly likely to console the heartbroken parents trapped in their bereavement and grief for many years afterwards, wondering how God could ever allow such a tragedy to befall them.
God, rather than using his superhuman abilities and knowledge of all things, past present and future to prevent accidents and murders, chose instead to allow his own son to come to Earth to suffer horribly and die with us as a redemptive act of self-sacrifice. Human suffering at the hands of fellow human beings has continued ever since the crucifixion drama was played out, often in the name of that very same martyr. Some of the worst suffering in human history has arisen because of the rise of the Christian faith. People have often supported anti-Semitic pogroms for no better reason than the mistaken belief that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’s arrest and execution. The Inquisition torturers believed, often in all sincerity that the unspeakably torturous suffering that they inflicted on suspected heretics gave their victims a foretaste of the Hell they would have experienced later if they hadn't repented their sins and confessed to all manner of accusations. As the victims of the Inquisition died at the stake, burned alive, the Inquisitors put away their red hot pincers, pokers and thumbscrews with a smile of satisfaction at a job well done. They really, genuinely felt that they had saved their wretched victims from the fires of Hell. As God never intervened to prevent such atrocities, both torturer and victim often came to accept that such procedures were the right way to go about things.
The atheistic, agnostic, humanistic assertion that there is no God at all neatly side-steps the whole theological minefield of trying reconcile the existence of evil in the same Universe as a benevolent all powerful deity like God. Dramatist Edward Bond, (quoted in the National Secular Society’s Annual report for 1995-96) said; Of course I am not religious. The idea is an obscenity. Children got shot at Dunblane and the next day someone in a cathedral is telling us that God loved them. God is a fiction we should have discarded years ago."
The problem is that without a God or any other divine, supernatural force manipulating human destinies, we, as a race, and a species, are directly to blame for our own social evils. When Neitzsche declared boldly that ‘God is dead’, he was explaining his belief that God is a redundant concept as far as human morality is concerned. Neitzsche believed that in spending so much time and energy looking and praying to higher authorities for spiritual and social moral guidance, humanity has long denied itself the freedom of deciding for itself what is good, and what constitutes evil.
For many religionists, the very desire by man to be self-aware and self-governing is the root of all evil. Take the Biblical legend of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden tempting Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit bearing the essence of knowledge of good and evil. The acceptance of the fruit by the humans was surrender to their desire to know something for themselves. Similarly, Greek mythology offers the story of Prometheus, showing fledgling humanity the secret of how to make and control fire, and thus allowing the human race to exist and survive quite independently of the Gods of Mount Olympus. Evil, for many religionists is the human desire for such independence and the wish that they believe humans have to become god-like themselves.
Science is often equated with evil. Literature gives us some classic examples of this view. Goethe’s Faust sells his soul willingly to the devil (Mephistopheles) in return for scientific wisdom. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tries to create human life itself from dead tissue but creates only a monster. Evil comes out in association with human thirst for power, knowledge and the ability to replicate and reproduce God’s miraculous actions. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other religious sects, the doctor who administers a blood transfusion to a needy patient as a lifesaving act, is interfering in God’s plans. Scientists, from the days of Galileo, through to Darwin and on to Stephen Hawkins and Richard Dawkins today present a strong empirical case for humans having evolved over millennia on a world created in a non-premeditated Big Bang event. This gives religionists, and creationists in particular, with their literal belief in the truth of the six day creation of the world by God, a further cause for concern. God may not yet be dead, but he is certainly in intensive care and on the medical critical list.
Today, virtually every atrocity committed by Human beings, from the Dunblane shootings (several toddlers and teachers gunned down in school by a deranged gunman) to the IRA bombing of a Manchester shopping Mall in 1996, is blamed on the drift away from belief in good old fashioned wholesome religious values. Christian and Islamic fundamentalists call for a return to literal commitment to scriptural commandments. Fortunately, such fundamentalists can no more turn back the clock than the Luddites could prevent the envisaged evils of the dawning industrial revolution and machine age.
Social tragedies often shake our faith in religion to the core. The European Freethought Movement received a massive increase in membership following the senseless slaughter on the Somme during World War One when a quarter of a million men died in one day alone under German machine gun fire before they’d moved a few yards from their trenches. The sense of sheer waste of human life led many people to lose faith in God. People often find themselves disturbed by the question of how God can fail to intervene to prevent such appalling tragedies.
The human desire for independence from the divine authority is seen as blasphemously evil by many religious moralists. Humanism strikes such people as evil for its rejection of religion’s monopoly on religious concern. It may worry you to know that somewhere, someone believes that you, personally are evil. (whoever you are.)
Rocking the boat with new, radical ideas, acts of rebellion, finding new ways of perceiving and seeing, & doing, are often regarded as utterly evil and depraved. Individual creative expression is often regarded as morally suspect, even when the poet, sculptor, or scientist has neither intention or likelihood of harming anybody or giving offence to anyone. Caxton’s printing press was regarded as an instrument of evil upon its introduction in c.1475. Suddenly, there was potential for ordinary laymen to learn how to read and write as well as academic scholars and clerics. In the 1950’s rock and roll music faced similar moral condemnation upon its introduction to western culture as the ‘generation gap’ separated the values held by younger and older peoples more sharply than ever before. social and scientific Progress of any description makes religions based on ancient dogmatic texts seem increasingly dated and irrelevant. Everything and anything that has potential to transform society is perceived as a potential threat to religious sensibilities. The problem lies at the heart of religion itself, and its general inability to adapt to sweeping cultural changes. Allegiance to the pecking order, quietude, obedience to one’s superiors (human and divine), knowing one’s place, conformity, predictability, subservience to your peers, and unquestioning acceptance of the way things are, is often seen as constituting the ‘good’. Individualism, freedom, liberty, a sense of having choices, emancipation, license, are seen as selfish, evil and destructive in society.
To some extent there is a grain of truth in such concerns. The thief is selfish in taking your money and valuables as a short cut means towards acquiring more creature comforts for himself. The murderer satisfies his own individual rage by taking life with anarchic contempt for the law, and in disregard for the thoughts and feelings of his victims, and the victim’s relatives. The murderer may or may not come to regret such actions later on in his life, and may even come to feel genuine remorse, or even religious repentance, but by then, the evil deed is done.
For many people, the conventions and moral obligations of the society in which they live are binding and constricted. A moral society with many laws enforced by severe penalties and punishments can become evil and oppressive in its own right. Many individuals will have been deterred from a promising medical, scientific, or creative career because their communal peers have opposed their desire to pursue such ambitions and ventures. In some countries, the moral rules and laws are enforced with such uncompromising merciless discipline that thieves may have arms amputated, and suspected adulterers may be publicly stoned to death on the flimsiest of legal evidence. In such countries, the moral guardians have become evil in their fervent desire to prevent evil from taking root among their peoples. Become too strict, and morally self-righteous, is very likely to provoke the very kind of rebellion and drive for more individual freedom that the moralists struggled to suppress. Aleister Crowley, the notorious Satanist, was driven to such extreme beliefs in reaction to the brutal upbringing he faced from his brutally strict Plymouth Brethren upbringing. He became the very thing that his father tried in vain to protect him from. ‘Spare the rod and ruin the child’ may well be one of the least effective moral sayings ever to gain popularity. When moral safeguards become too oppressive, revolution seems inevitable. Luther’s proclamations against Catholicism, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the collapse of the Russian revolution in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, the rise of Secular Humanism, the abolitionist movement against slave trading, the liberalist tradition in the Anglican Church, and women’s Liberation, are all movements that have risen in protest against strict, binding, powerful, often institutionalised disciplinary systems of government doctrine and social oppression. We should be cautious however against becoming too liberal, and too free. Weak, undirected governance can lead to an increase in crime and injustice as well. The Nazi’s rose to power because of the impotency of the rather weak and ineffective rule of the Weimar Republic. Once liberal freedoms are being enjoyed, there are always going to be those who's sense of freedom comes from calling for a return to old time traditions again, and some people will start to listen to the Nazis and Fascists in our midst. A liberal society should never become too complacent or naive.
Friedrich Nietzsche was among the first philosophers to criticise the morality obsessed religious society of his age for its oppressive restraints on individualism. Nietzsche reminds us that there are no such things as ‘Moral facts’. All ethical assertions, including those contained in this article, concerning the nature of good and evil, are mere ‘value judgements’. The moralist, be he religious,. Utilitarian, or even a Humanist, is attempting to offer ethics as a science of how to ‘improve human behaviour for the better’. Such a moralist therefore has to see a human being as fallible and in some need of improvement. The Benthamite Utilitarian sees the problem in simple terms where the human being is just not happy enough. The Utilitarian therefore aims discipline humans in such a way as to maximise our potential for happiness. It is through such disciplines, and their aim to tame and harness human behaviour towards an idealised goal of happiness that Neitzsche could never tolerate.. He compares such disciplines to the conditioning that we might impose in order to domesticate a wild animal that we have just captured for a zoo cage. "To call the taming of an animal its ‘improvement’ is in our ears almost a joke. Whoever knows what goes on in menageries is doubtful whether the beasts in them are ‘improved’. They are weakened, they are made less harmful, they become sickly beasts through the depressive emotion of fear, through pain, through injuries, through hunger.".
Neitzsche was right to see morality as a dangerous and potent force for preventing evil by oppressing natural human instincts and desires. The criminal who has lost his violent streak because he has been lobotomised has sadly lost so much more of himself to his moral guardians as well. He becomes, like Neitzsche’s caged beasts, weakened, rather than strengthened.
Moralists are certainly important in society. They can help to relieve us of pain and suffering. A zoo may be comparable to a prison to those who prefer to see wild animals in the wild, but it can also serve as a menagerie where sick animals can be lovingly restored to health and where animals bordering on extinction, can be preserved and bred in captivity before being released carefully back to their natural environments. A workable prison system can reform the most hardened of criminals. Our moralists will only become oppressive if they are too strict and if our creative passions are too restricted at their hands. The moral zoo can be a wide, generous open space, and sprawling pasture, just as easily as it can become a cold, dank, dark, gloomy solitary isolation cell or cage.
Being wild, savage and unrestricted and uninhibited often proves not to be a luxurious freedom. The tiger who preys too long on the same herd of cattle will eventually find traps set for itself by human hunters, or that its once unlimited food supply has dried up.
Humanity cannot live a bohemian ‘anything goes’ hedonistic existence for long either. (some Christians claim that's all Humanists are interested in promoting, but far from it, as you can see). We have to co-operate with other people in order to get certain essential things done. Humans are interdependent on one another. As John Donne wrote, ‘No man is an island’. Mutual co-operation and trust involves certain basic rules of social conduct, etiquette and behaviour. We all have to accept that to some extent, we are all penned into the social menagerie together. We have to get the ground rules established right away. ‘Not killing each other’ is not just a basic foundational moral rule, but an act of mutual common sense.
The criminal recognizes in many ways that he is in Neitzsche’s human menagerie. He tries to break away from at least some of its behavioural restrictions, rules and conventions. To be totally and utterly and unreservedly ‘evil’ one would have to desire a total freedom from the restrictions and demands imposed on us by being in the human zoo. Occasionally, but fortunately rarely, some people do attempt to secure themselves such total and absolute freedoms with inevitably tragic consequences. The Moors Murderers, Ian Brady and Mira Hindley, influenced by misreadings of Neitzsche, DeSade, and Hitler, set themselves over and above the rules in every way that they could manage. They granted themselves the license to serve as gods over the lives of the children they abducted, tortured and murdered. At first, they were actually squeamish about the unspeakable atrocities they began to commit, but they disciplined and steeled themselves to overcome their own sense of moral revulsion. It was a rare and terrifyingly dangerous experiment; a systematic attempt to overcome their own sense of moral social conditioning. That the law of the land was able to revoke such a self-granted license demonstrates all to clearly the importance of having some moral social restraints. The question is one of how much or how little restraint is the right amount. Too much restraint becomes a tyranny. Too little restraint and the social order becomes too filled with choices and directions for people to secure meaning from; they begin to listen more to the charismatics and demagogues with their simple pulpit and soapbox speeches, calling for greater restraints,. Before we know it, we become the victims of a tyranny all over again.
When he wrote ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ Neitzsche was believed (quite incorrectly) to be advocating that there is no human action that can ever be regarded as truly evil. He was assumed to be an advocate of amorality and a general disregard for good behaviour in general. In fact, Neitzsche was fully aware of the dangers presented by potential evil activity. He fell out with Richard Wagner over the composer’s anti-Semitic leanings for example, and he would have been appalled by Hitler’s misapplication of his theories had he lived in the time of the Third Reich. Neitzsche defined evil as an innate human weakness in which people are unable to resist social stimulus and their own impulsive desires. Every desire which is stimulated in such individuals, provokes a response. The opportunist thief is unable to resist climbing through the open window that grants easy access to an apparently empty house full of valuables. Evil is a surrender to such tempting stimulus; it can become a craving for some and a powerful addiction for others. The threat of capture, exposure, punishment and humiliation at the hands of the authorities often adds to the excitement and thrill of the act. The criminal who successfully avoids capture on his first shoplifting venture may well attempt it again. The very act of fooling the authorities fuels the ego, while capture may lead a criminal to plan more carefully before his next crime. Many criminals learn the tips and tricks of the trade from fellow convicts inside the prisons. Often, criminals face reprisals and punishment not only from the authorities, but also from their own consciences. (Much as Raskolnikov suffers in Dostoyevski’s novel, Crime and Punishment). If the good conscience wins, no further crimes are committed by the troubled individual, and a full confession may ensue as the felon surrenders himself to the police of his own accord.. if the conscience is suppressed by the drive for satisfying the impulses, then the crimes and evil acts may continue for longer, with further damage and harm becoming inevitable if the criminal is not captured and prevented from such action, against his own will.
All too often, mere repetition of the same act of evil fails to satisfy the individual. The nature and complexity of the game played against society and community may therefore intensify and become more daring. The thief may move from robbing empty houses to breaking into property while there are people in the property.
Much the same occurs in sexual relationships. Dissatisfied with just one lover, a partner may seduce others and even go on to commit adultery. In the sex act itself the lover may move from basic missionary sex to adding a few frills and thrills, until eventually the boudoir becomes a veritable bondage shrine, filed with whips, costumes, suspenders, libraries of pornographic literature and film footage (hard-core and soft-core, depending on taste and depravity levels acquired) flavoured condoms, and various devises of pleasure ranging from vibrators to complex expensive inflatable and electrical contraptions. The problem for such a Don Juan lifestyle, is that the trappings and extras used initially as a spicy flavouring to the sex act, take over completely from the initially desired sexual intimacy and love that they were intended to bring out. Women seduced by a Don Juan merely become cogs in the latest act of experimentation. The experience ultimately remains loveless, shallow and devoid of true feeling. Feeling that he hasn’t quite acquired sexual nirvana yet, the Don Juan goes out shopping for new material and apparatus gimmicks for his next sexual conquest. Something akin to this happened to the Marquis De Sade. His early writings were little more than juvenile schoolboy wishy-washy masturbationary fantasies, with crude titillating genitalia drawings accompanying brutally sexist stories where women are more often raped than seduced. In time his work progressed towards extremely perverse and violent epics depicting mass orgies, amputated genitalia, necrophilia, Copraphilia, and sexual murder. Each story for De Sade had to be bettered.
Each experience, once completed, has to be improved upon by one that is more extraordinary and extreme if the perpetrator is to gain any satisfaction from it at all.
Defined in this way, the label ‘evil’ can be applied not just to individuals, but to social groups and whole nations as well. The impulsive desire for more capital, material gain, money, welfare, land, plutonium, oil, national identity, and so on through to grander entertainments, bigger and better social amenities, lebensraum, more more more. All such desires can be exploited by an unscrupulous and ambitious politician to turn people into a baying mob, or a military force to be reckoned with. The Roman games moved from being modest sporting contests to being grand scale spectacles in which hundreds of gladiators at a time fought tot he death before a demanding crowd, before the lions came in to chase Christians around the arena and devour them. Later Emperors, worried by falling attendance at the box office, took to flooding the Coliseum arena and using crocodiles instead of lions. Hitler was able to tap into and exploit the impulses of the German people in order to provoke the events leading to World War Two and the Holocaust. Such unprecedented evil moves a long way from the basic seedling in a human desire for more. (I want, I need, and I won’t be stopped by your disapproval), but that is where it may well originate, just as do all murders and social atrocities.
Much evil can be prevented by Human desire to stop such actions. ‘Good’ can be an impulsive stimulus response reaction just as ‘evil’ can. Apartheid, The Poll-Tax, the British laws against Sunday shopping, were all challenged by acts of deliberate civil disobedience and non-compliance with the laws of certain countries. Marx, Lenin, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and perhaps even Jesus, were all blatant nonconformists. They turned the tables and made the social moral order that preceded them in Tsarist Russia, The British Empire, Black America, the India ruled by the British Empire, and Biblical Rome into new social moral orders. When Jesus vandalised the temple stalls in Jerusalem in protest at the way a holy temple had become a commercial market, he was committing a criminal offence as an act of political agitation. Which is more evil? The radical political reactionary and revolutionary, or the ruler who’s power he attempts to overthrow?
We dare not dismiss every attempt at social progression and every revolutionary action as evil, or we will end up dismissing even a frown of disapproval and dissatisfaction as evil. Many of our stimulated impulses are by no means evil. Is your front door painted green? If not, should it be? If so, do you want to keep it that way or paint it another colour? Your impulsive reaction is likely to affect whether you repaint your door or not. The trouble with Neitzsche’s definition of evil as an impulsive surrender to any kind of stimulus is that the same definition can be applied to any act or thought, be it for good, or evil, or neither consequence.
Evil may best be seen as a surrender to those impulses and desires which are extremely selfish rather than altruistic. Non-selfishness is conformity and acceptance of one’s place in society. It involves doing what pleases others rather than one’s self. To Neitzsche though, such conformity is a mere desire to obey the laws and traditions of the old established binding order. Evil, to the old moral order’s champions is not just extreme acts, such as a murder, but any act of nonconformity whatsoever. Judaeo-Christian moralists frequently do dismiss all forms of human inventiveness as intrinsically evil and base. Simone Weil wrote that "It is not given to men to create, as it (creativity) is a bad attempt to imitate God."
Neitzsche was perfectly right to criticise and challenge any such anti-progressive attitude. In suppressing human creative talents and abilities, society often stifles and imprisons human ambition. Most of us have experienced at some stage in our lives, a desire for more personal individual freedom. Many of us, even Humanists, dream of a clean break and a fresh start. At a certain age, people start to become independent; the thought of moving out of the parental households to start a family of your own and own your own home is a potent one. Many people nurture hopes of a new job, a lottery win, or some such windfall, or even the desire to emigrate. It can be a bitter and sobering experience to wake up of a morning to the realisation that you are still firmly ensnared in the rat race with the rest of us, and that you have to go back to the same dreary office or factory job yet again, as you may have to do for another thirty years or more. In a Mammon worshipping western capitalist society, far to much emphasis is given to ‘being in the winning team’. We are driven and compelled to beat everyone else to the best jobs in the market. We are led to constantly dream of possessing the latest commercial merchandise, and super-duper special social status symbols such as new cars; hi-fi systems, holidays, etc. Those failing to keep up in the scramble for acquisitions often find themselves going under convinced that nobody cares about them. Regrettably there are many people out there who really don’t care.
Though most of us learn how to tolerate and endure our lot or are wise enough to recognise that a sudden rush of wealth and new material gain has problems all of its own, many simply people fail to cope. Some of the people who lose out in the rat race may start to suffer a depressive mental or physical disorder. Alternatively, they may become angry and contemptuous of the society that they hold responsible (rightly or wrongly) for letting them down so badly. A Humanistic society must be one that is much more open to the plight of its citizens and the people who are drowning in despair around us. Our evil lies in our ignorance of the definite and real suffering of many people around us. We ignore the distress of the lonely people at our peril. The lack of material reward in our grab it while you can before stocks run out society is a very bitter pill for many people to swallow. The taking of short cuts towards achieving such goals becomes a very tempting step to take. Laws may be flaunted, a quick snatch at a purse from the pocket of an unwary and unguarded passer-by, the beating up of a complete stranger because he looks too happy with himself, and stares at someone funny, the molesting of a young girl because she was dressed in such a way as to turn a man on, a theft, a murder, a quick heroin fix. Evil itself becomes a way of escaping the sense of being a victim of social evil and negligence. Such evil can then become a euphoric and addictive drug.
Car thieves envy our good fortune in having what they do not posses for themselves. It probably pleases them just as much to deprive us of our treasured family runabout as it does to be able to drive it around themselves, even if only for a limited time. All too often the evils inflicted on us are perpetrated by those who feel the most betrayed, offended and ignored by us. It is often an act of protest or an act of revenge against us for not caring or noticing. Sadly, and all too often the victim of the mugger, or thief, will himself become embittered, angry and resentful. More potential evil is thus generated.
Most of us will at some time in our lives become the victims of crime. Many of us will have been mugged or burgled, without going on to commit crimes ourselves, though we shouldn’t consider ourselves saints. Most people do prove able to control their rage, and their lust, and even recognize that sometimes we are in the wrong. Most men can handle rejection by potential girlfriends on whom they have harboured a crush. Rejection, even in terms of a reluctance to join us on the dance floor for a short waltz or tango won’t lead most of us to develop a deep rooted hostility towards all women. Most of us will see a car with its ignition keys left inside and an open door or window, without being tempted to take the vehicle. We have self-control, and willpower. We avoid the temptation, if the temptation is there at all.
Christians are particularly keen on the idea of evil being a ‘temptation’, or a seduction of the senses, but religious temptation usually involves some supernatural diabolical element. Perhaps some dreams of wealth and sex are temptation enough in their own right.
The idea of evil acts being committed only by someone ‘possessed’ by some evil force is not one to be sniffed at too easily, though the Biblical Devil would not qualify as the agent who provokes such an evil act as The Dunblane Massacre. The Devil in the Bible tempts people to power and divine ability. Eve’s temptation was a promise of how to acquire god like knowledge of good and evil, whilst the abortive attempts to tempt Jesus during his stay in the Wilderness were again a call to use divine powers incorrectly. The Biblical Devil would have little to gain through provoking murders which might drive the surviving Christian people either to pray more to God, or embrace a brand of atheism in which even the Devil isn’t believed in any more,.
In most murders, the motivating temptations are easy to understand; they are emotive responses. Jealousy, anger, greed, a desire to escape from a partner who is violent towards the killer, self-defence,; etc. Most murderers know their victim, often very well, and only kill one person (or possibly a few if others stumble onto the truth and need to be disposed of). Such killers often act spontaneously, or with only a limited degree of premeditation and malice aforethought. This often makes such murderers easy to catch for a diligent police detective, who will regard anyone closely known to the victim as a suspect anyway.
The criminal often fools himself into thinking that he will prove too lucky or too clever for the authorities. American murderers Leopold and Loeb, in the 1950’s, planned their viscous murder of a fellow student quite meticulously, and congratulated themselves on being cool criminal masterminds in the Moriarty tradition. They were caught because Loeb left his prescription spectacles at the murder scene. Many criminals are captured due to such simple oversights and silly mistakes. It’s astonishing how many burglars still leave fingerprints behind when they might have easily worn gloves or wiped down each surface that they touched before leaving the property that they broke into.
Serial Killers are much more problematical. Far from killing someone closely related or intimately involved with themselves, they target strangers, and frequently kill several before being captured. Pedro Alonzo Lopez, of the Andes, is the current record holder, having killed up to three hundred people in Peru, Columbia and Ecuador up to his capture in 1980. Unlike the more emotive, desperate and spontaneous murderer, the serial killer is driven, perhaps even ‘possessed’ by some compulsive psychological urge to kill, and keep killing. Dennis Nilsen felt guilty about his crimes, and wanted to stop, but he couldn’t. He felt relieved to be finally arrested. He referred to his arrest afterwards as ‘the day help arrived’. Sadly, there was no help arriving for the fifteen people he invited home, murdered, decapitated, chopped up and disposed of piecemeal. He was only captured when neighbours complained of the smell coming from his drains. Dynarod Plumbers investigating found the bits of some of Nilsen’s victims rotting there. Nilsen’s victims were mostly homeless men, so few people knew any of them had ever gone missing in the first place. Nilsen strangled his victims, from behind, with an old school tie, as they slept off the drinks he had plied them with. He experimented with ways of making the strangulation faster or slower for his victims, and once they were dead, he experimented further, dressing and undressing them, bathing them, moving them from one room to another. He even attempted to turn the corpses into robots by performing his own brain operations on them. He would drill a hole in their skulls, and pour acid in, thinking he was making the victim more malleable. He played with his dead and dying victims as though they were robots, or guests at a toy teddy bear’s picnic.
SEE EVIL PART 2
© Copyright. Arthur
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