SEE EVIL PART ONE
EVIL - PART TWO
Brian Masters wrote that to some greater or lesser degree, all serial killers display similar obsessions.
"All serial killers objectify their victims, putrefy them, turn them into props for their fantasies. In the grip of murder, both assailant and victim are dehumanised. A priest might say they are possessed by the Devil, a psychiatrist that their personalities are distorted, a doctor that their brains are chemically unbalanced. They are all saying the same thing using only different terminology. The imbalance or disorder, or possession, skews motive, so that the desire to be effective, normally geared towards constructive behaviour, can only be satisfied by destructiveness."
The belief that compulsive serial killers are driven, compelled, helplessly by some inner turmoil, is a growing one. The idea that the serial killer is insane is a dangerous one; often dismissed by the courts on the grounds that the killer is clever enough to avoid detection for years, even with a major investigation going on around him. Peter Sutcliffe was only captured because a diligent policeman who wasn’t even assigned specifically to looking for the ‘Ripper’ spotted the false license plates on his car. Sutcliffe had fooled one of the biggest police investigations ever mounted in Britain, for several years. Sutcliffe claimed to be insane, but the claim was dismissed in favour of a verdict of cunningness and evil nature. Sutcliffe claimed that he was driven to kill, by a voice that spoke within himself; and he felt that it was the voice of God. The courts dismissed him as sane, but wicked beyond belief. But could a serial killer’s compulsion be a mental disorder? Sutcliffe wasn’t alone in hearing voices telling him what to do. Dahmer, Berkowitz (Son Of Sam), and Nilsen all heard similar callings. Serial killing may well be a form of mental aberration, just as compulsive eating, or anorexia are seen to be. This is not to say that as Serial killers are not fully in control of themselves they cannot be blamed; far from it, but some alternative to prison may be advisable in helping to understand the mind of a serial killer. There is no doubt either as to the danger of allowing a serial killer to remain free if there is the remotest possibility of him receiving the urge or hearing the murderous voice again.
The greatest mass murderers, such as Hitler, never personally murdered anyone. Hitler was never believed to have even visited a concentration camp, though little doubt exists that he knew full well what such camps meant. Himmler did visit Auschwitz, and threw up at the first sight of human blood and had to be escorted quickly away. For the people who imposed the death sentences on the Jews and gypsies and suspected homosexuals (among many others) in the camps, the victims were mere names on a piece of paper and statistics, while the SS officers and workers manning the camps came with time to see their prisoners in the same way an abattoir butcher views a herd of cattle waiting to die at his hand. Stripped of hair, emaciated to the point of becoming living skeletons, devoid of personal characteristics or personality, their deaths became much easier. The trick was not to think of the victim as human at all.. The word ‘Jew’ and the people known as Jews were so perjured by Nazi anti Semitic propaganda as to become no more human than Dennis Nilsen’s plaything corpses, or Sutcliffe’s women of ill-repute.
Women rarely succumb to the urge to become serial killers, and most of those who do so, are operating in tandem with a husband or boyfriend who has dominance and willpower over them. Myra Hindley is unlikely to have killed anyone without Ian Brady, though he might more conceivably have acted as a solo operator in such unspeakable child murders, without her assistance, had they never met.
Aileen Wuornos, Florida’s most famous female serial killer, actually doesn’t deserve the title. Her victims were seven men who she passionately believed were trying to rape her or sexually abuse her in separate incidents. She felt angry and frightened by men, and when they came on too strong to her, she occasionally panicked and killed them. Her crimes were motivated more by vigilantism and fear than by compulsions felt by her male serial killer counterparts.
We all have a potential to become just as evil as anyone mentioned above. Humanists are no exception. Only by exploring the nature of evil and not being squeamish about graphically examine what is involved, will we ever begin to comprehend the dangers.
There has always existed a perceived notion in society, past and present that crime, hedonism, decadence and immorality are on the increase, despite the efforts of the police and other authoritarianss to prevent and control it. There are many today who adapt a celibate lifestyle simply because they believe that contemporary society is no longer able to provide a safe or fit environment in which to raise children. Other people react to perceived beliefs in rising crime in fear and anger which can make them evil in their own right. Self-righteous indignation often leads to fear and anger which can bring out someone’s tendency towards violence and excessive violence in which only the innocent often suffer. When the White Justice League of America decided in the 1880’s to don white robes and hoods and drive out the Black people who had so recently been freed from slavery, the Ku Klux Klan was born. Ordinary, innocent Negroes were scapegoated, accused of crimes no one had committed, especially those involving allegations of rape, hounded out of town, subjected to beatings and lynchings and summary executions without a trial. As we approach the millennium, the Klan still rides. In Britain today, many crimes are still blamed on the latest ethnic minority to land on our shores. Xenophobia is at the root of many racist acts. Education, and community integration can help to ease the problem of social ignorance.
For some people, committing a violent assault on someone else, even a complete stranger, can become for some, a simple cathartic euphoric and exhilarating way of clearing their minds of the frustrations and emotional anxieties that they feel. It becomes easier to commit the assault on someone if you think of them as somehow less human and less worthy than yourself, so dismissing the victims of crime as just another black, gay, commie,. pinko, Charlie, Jew, Yid, gypsy, etc. becomes easy. The offence can be committed with less of a conscience. It involves stereotyping people; seeing everyone as falling into the same category. One unpleasant black man is taken as meaning all black people are unpleasant. Sadly, it isn’t just the more extreme racists, misogynists and thugs of society who stereotype people in such a way. In a war, the foreign soldiers being attacked by the army can’t be seen as individual citizens and personalities, but simply as a faceless enemy. The Germans of the world wars became the Krauts, and all ended up known as Fritz; while the Vietcong faced by America in Vietnam (1965-75) became Charlies and Gooks. It was easier to kill them. It became so easy that many American troops killed civilians, unable to distinguish them from the enemy, most notably in the atrocity known as The Mai Lai Massacre where many Vietnamese farmers, including women and children were murdered.
Social stereotyping and seeing people in generalised terms instead of as independent individuals is an extremely easy trap to fall into. I was surprised at work recently when a fellow worker tried to impress me with the latest joke he had heard about ‘money grabbing avaricious Jews’. When I pointed out that I wasn’t impressed by such talk, he asked me in all seriousness whether or not I had ever even met any ‘Jews’. When I told him that I knew some Jewish people. He asked me, ‘What are they like then?’ He found my efforts to explain that Jews are no different from anyone else unconvincing.. I often stumble into such cliché riddled discussions. I have been told that black people have greater sexual potency and something described as ‘natural rhythm' when it comes to dancing. REALLY? Where’s the evidence? (for or against such propositions). Ill-education and ignorance often fuels our perception of other groups of people. Sadly, when crimes are committed in the community it is often the stereotypes who become the chief suspects as perpetrators of the offence.
Statistics show that crimes committed by young black people are on the increase. Is it surprising? Black men are often left unemployed when competing with white applicants for many jobs, despite the best efforts of equal opportunities promotion campaigns. We herd immigrant settlers into near ghetto lifestyles. They are subjected to discrimination, assault, and the contempt of the xenophobes who surround them. Is it really so strange and shocking to us to find that their anger, frustration and fear often provokes them to commit criminal offences against us?
Another common occurrence is when a criminal attempts to justify an offence he has committed by pouring doubt, derision and blame upon the victims of the crimes committed. Rapists often suggest that a victim was a cheap tart who teased the rapist on. Regrettably, the victim of sexual assault also often faces additional humiliation and distress in having to discuss intimate details of her sex life and personal private feelings before the courts and often before an increasingly attentive sensationalist tabloid press as well.
There’s an assumption that all evil is irredeemable and that no criminal ever truly reforms, but some murderers and hardened criminals have, upon release from prison, gone on to demonstrate great humanitarianism and creative ability in life. Jimmy Boyle, a Glaswegian gangster from the harsh Gorbals housing estates, became increasingly violent during his imprisonment because of the way the system treated him; like a caged animal; possibly one of Neitzsche’s animals in the menagerie. Eventually, however, Jimmy Boyle was sent to a new experimental wing of Barlinne Prison, where he was granted greater freedom and more privileges than usual. He was amazed on joining an art class there to be casually handed a modelling knife for use in sculptor work. Normally such knives would be confiscated from prisoners on sight. Jimmy Boyle has, since his release, gone on to become a successful artist and an important prison reform campaigner. Robert (The Birdman Of Alcatraz) Stroud is another classic example. We may do evil things even if we are more often good; but there seems to be no such thing as innate evil, or someone who is utterly evil through and through,. In his private as opposed to his public life, Hitler was believed to be incredibly charming and polite.
Stereotyping does not just involve seeing every black man or Pakistani as another facet of the same old charicature. At one time the single bachelor was regarded as a pillar of respectability in the community. Nowadays he is more likely to be perceived as being possibly gay, or a child molester. I often get pressured and teased now about not being married in my mid-thirties. Many men marry just to avoid such peer group pressure and disapproval. Many young rapists may be alarmed at their lack of success in gaining and maintaining relationships with girlfriends. They may have failed to get a girlfriend because they came on too strong to the girls they have tried to date. The young rapist may be envious and jealous of friends who seem to have more success in securing relationships with the opposite sex. Added to the problem is the media and literary hype of sex as a near cosmic and perfect experience. Books, and not just pornography, often describe the sex act as one of Earth moving potency where erections seem massive, dominant, and where there is no possibility of the woman faking her multiple orgasms. Faced therefore with a reality of clumsiness, and elbow in ribs awkwardness where sex can just as easily be a struggle as a delight, many men feel despondent about their own sexuality. They often assume from the hype that everyone else is achieving greater sexual pleasure, and try to maintain a lie that they are among the all time greats too. Such despair concerning our sexuality may well be what drives many men to the arms of prostitutes, or even to committing rape and other sexual offences.
While some men will continually search in dreams and in practice for the perfect sexual high with the ideal sexual partner, others may well go off women altogether, and grow to hate women with a vengeance. Some may marry and even sire children while a brooding hatred of women is building up in them, ready to explode. Peter Suttcliffe harboured such resentments, and eventually they erupted in one the most terrifying killing sprees ever. He never raped his victims. He set out to murder and mutilate women who he felt were of low virtue, and who cheapened sex itself. (M
Interestingly, Suttcliffe was not perceived as a social misfit until his arrest four years on in his killing spree. The police had interviewed him and dismissed him as a possible suspect. I also met a publican who had served Sutcliffe drinks in his bar during the years of the Ripper murders, when Sutcliffe would often walk barmaids and female customers home when they were nervous of being alone because the Ripper was out there in the dark. Imagine their reactions when they found out that Sutcliffe was the very murderer in question. It’s rarely the one you most suspect, just like in a whodunit.
Here’s a stereotype study for you. Holidaying in Spain, a fellow traveller of mine was a young punk-rocker, with pins through his nose, bright green hair, a swastika tee-shirt and his legs tied together just below the knees with a chain to prevent him from being able to run away quickly in a fight (so he claimed). This made walking quite difficult for him. Many other tourists on the package tour with us cold-shouldered him. A few were wary of me because I spoke to him myself, but I soon saw a fresh side to his personality. Returning to our coach following an excursion trip, I saw the ‘punk’ poking about under the coach radiator grill with a penknife. My immediate assumption was that I was witnessing an act of wanton vandalism. In fact, he was desperately trying to rescue a butterfly that had become trapped in the radiator grill. When he realized that it was dead, he burst into tears. His appearance was all for show. He was desperate to look different, to be himself. He had overdone the attempt, making himself extreme and outlandish instead.
We are all torn between conforming to the wishes of others, and being independent, unique, ourselves. We all struggle between an egotistical sense of self-preservation and an altruistic need to help other people. Sometimes we make sure that we are seen helping other people in order to help ourselves. Many people sadly only give money to a charity which gives them something in return; i.e.., a flag, a badge or a tee-shirt. Publicly displaying the spoils gained by being charitable can become very fashionable. Celebrities often congratulate one another loudly and in front of the media on charity work they have done. That is also why major charity benefit concerts like Live Aid succeed. It becomes very easy to be seen giving your money and then you get a rock concert too, from which performers who ‘so generously devote their time free of charge, secure maximum global publicity for their next expensive recording. Buddhists believe that there is no such thing as a truly selfless act. Someone who strives to be totally selfless and altruistic only does so from the egotistical need to achieve a selfless altruistic state of being.
The balance between conformity and personal eccentricity is extremely narrow and delicate. The ‘skinhead’ is likely to fare worse in the job market than the man in the new suit and tie who knows how to shake hands firmly, smile and say ‘Yes Sir’ a lot. It is conceivable however that the man can remove his suit and become a skinhead again in the right company, down the pub with his pals. Which one is the real him? When does someone throw away his true identity in favour of a conformist image in the interests of social ambition? Similarly, which is the real Yorkshire Ripper? The lorry driver and good husband who walks barmaids home after dark? Or the sociopathic murderer of sixteen women? Was Sutcliffe always evil, or did he become evil only at certain points of time in his life? Was the good side of him merely a mask and a pretence to the depraved monster?
We all play games with our faces and voices depending on who we are talking to and what we expect from communicating with them. For many people, playing out such roles, as Stern Father, and obedient worker, and laugh a minute Charlie, can take over a life completely. Poor Charlie never gets to be himself, or know his own true identity. He becomes confused and jaded. The Beatles sang of Eleanor Rigby, one of the ‘lonely people, wearing a face that she kept in a jar by the door’. We all have a collection of crowd-pleasing faces. How often have you felt that the polite and friendly hosts who greet you at a party were probably arguing furiously and throwing plates at one another right up until you rang their doorbell? Don’t you just know that the fight will begin again the moment you leave? The image that the couple present to you is a false one, for your benefit, and a is borne from a desire to conform to your perceived conviction of them as happily and eternally in love with each other.
Having to constantly deceive one another with such role playing games robs us of true self-honesty. That in itself is a major social evil, and much of the anger and frustration and existential angst that can erupt in violent evil action arises directly from such self-imposed oppression. We frequently conform at the expense of personal moral integrity. Many of us will avoid challenging a boss’s latest proposals for changes in the workplace, for fear of getting sacked or demoted. Such conformity only becomes hypocrisy if we go so far as to broadcast support for the boss’s initiative whilst secretly disagreeing with it. This kind of hypocrisy is exercised by some political pundits who despite being gay themselves, loudly denounce other homosexuals. Our perceived social roles in life often end up meaning more to us than we do to ourselves. Crimes, and evil acts often reflect that inner struggle.
Many people often fail to report crimes and the injustices that they witness. It is generally considered taboo to ‘grass thy neighbour’ or tell on your work mates when they make off with a few paper clips from the office. Some people fear reprisals may be inflicted if they do speak out on some injustice, and others have no faith in the police or the judiciary to deal with a reported crime anyway. The Kray Twins (Ronnie and Reggie) were notorious but well known villains in London's East End in the 1960’s, and though the police wanted to convict them for several offences, including two brutal murders, they were unable to secure convictions due to the lack of witnesses willing to come forward. Only when the police claimed falsely that they had already arrested the twins did the people of the East End come forward to give evidence. The proper arrests quickly followed. Racist taunts, sexist exploitation, prejudice in the workplace, and many other little inhumanities seldom get reported or adequately investigated. There are times when nonconformity is essential in the battle against evil.
Human creativity is often the strongest counterpoint to acts of evil. Despite long standing Christian claims that inventiveness and free expression generate all evil, it should be apparent that few artists, poets and writers commit murders. Nero, Caligula, and Hitler all turned to more genecidal activity when their efforts to become dramatists or painters failed to make them popular. Creativity may prove to be the best antidote to evil destructiveness. Very few succesful poets, artists and musicians, etc, have committed murders.
Theologians define seven major evils, (The deadly sins) Pride, Lust, Wrath, Sloth, Envy, Gluttony, and Covetousness. All evil actions can be broken down into one or more of these categories. Crippen lusted after Ethel Le Neve, and being too sloth for divorce proceedings, he exercised wrath and murdered his wife instead. Neitzsche reduces the list of seven evils to three common denominators; "Voluptuousness, lust for power, and selfishness." The last of these, Selfishness, probably answers for all evils though, but such definitional words as lust, and selfishness need not only apply to evil acts and destructive human behaviour. Many socially beneficial acts have their roots in lust and selfishness as well. The academic inventor has probably got a great deal of selfish pride in his new invention, and why not? Surely the inventor of the inertia safety belt for car passengers has a right to feel proud, knowing that he is responsible for saving many people from injury and death. Perhaps even moralists are being selfish and proud in being associated forever with ways of making the world a better place.
Sadly, many of the loudest advocates of some form of new moral society are hypocrites, asserting their own perceived moral worth by denouncing others as immoral. After Live Aid, many people tried to start their own promotions to raise money for famine ravaged countries like Ethiopia, only to find that far fewer people were now willing to give generously. It was no longer in vogue, or fashionable. In Ethiopia and the Sudan, famine is still a stark fact of life.
Irreligious people are often blamed for declining moral standards in society and many murderers are accused of being unbelievers, but commitment to or against religion has little bearing on an individual’s moral outlook and general social behaviour. While Dennis Nilson was a nihilistic atheist, Jeffrey Dahmer, (another serial killer) was a committed Creationist, passionately convinced of the literal truth of the Bible, (and genuinely filled with remorse for the crimes he committed).
People who loudly proclaim their own moral convictions and broadcast their charity work are generally viewed with scepticism. Manchester based comedian Bernard Manning, who’s bog-standard regular stand up comedy routine involves blatantly racist and sexist jokes that have landed him in court on many occasions, equally often announces through the media how much unpublicised charity work he does, thus ensuring that the 'unpublicised' gets maximum focus and public attention. The truly good, moral charity giver, is the little old man or lady who discreetly offers a few pennies to a charity collector, and then goes home without telling anyone what s/he has done or why. The people who are regularly seen publicly giving large sums of money in front of friends, lovers and well-wishers, are exercising something very different.
Far too often, the most outspoken voice of public morality is the most judgmental and condemnatory person too. Many people denouncing neo-nazism are often over concerned to make sure we know that they personally are not Nazis. People who beat up suspected gay men do so in macho bravado, as a way of confirming their own heterosexuality; unaware that their violent macho-ism may be an expression of their own suppressed homosexual inclinations. In some such attacks, the homophobic thugs have been known to sodomise their male victims, oblivious of the ironic connotation of gay rape that hangs over them through such an act.
Neitzsche observed that "all morality allows the causing of harm in the cause of self-defense." Soldiers go off to kill the immoral armies of the opposing force. The soldier kills and slaughters them in the defense of his Nation’s own moral values. The redneck lynch mob hangs the man suspected of raping a village maiden and thinks of it as moral justice of the ‘eye for an eye’ variety. Peter Sutcliffe aimed to rid the world of women of poor virtue. All such actions involve people putting their sense of morality into direct social practice. The Yorkshire Ripper considered himself as being just as morally minded as the policemen who were chasing him. A deeply moral society protects that which it values; hence the saying, ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’. Any infringement or invasion of that moral cohesion we think we have is seen as a threat to the status quo and the moral fabric of society. Morality invariably asserts itself as being in the right, and all opposition as being in the wrong, or evil. Many Humanists think religion is ‘evil’. Religionists think likewise of Humanism. Hitler believed quite sincerely that he acted for the good of Germany and Europe. Socrates once observed that "whatever man does, he does the good." As history is invariably written by the winners, the losing enemy is often labelled the evil and immoral one.
Nietzsche tried desperately to set himself apart from notions of good and evil by declaring that he himself was above all moral considerations. He believed that all moral teachings and theories before his own were nothing more than restraints imposed on humanity by its religious leaders. Neitzsche could not bring himself to believe that morality can be seen as an evolving and intrinsic genetic element of all human development. Neitzsche called himself the Antichrist, not as a Satanist would do, but because he wanted to be genuinely free of all Christian moral impositions. "Is moralising not Immoral?" He asked. Neitzsche believed passionately that Christian ethics are more evil than the sinful acts and thoughts which Christians hoped to use them against. Neitzsche calls all Christian moralizing ‘Tartuffery’ (hypocrisy).
Neitzsche divided Christian moral teachings into two categories. "Slave morality and Master morality". Slave morality is the complacent apathetic attitude of the common herd of Humanity, for which Neitzsche had few words of welcome. Slaves often see being good as merely not doing any harm to anyone personally. Neitzsche sees this attitude as an impotent and ineffectual one for anybody to adapt. To change the world in some manner, (for better or for worse) means direct involvement in some activity. To act in full conscious knowledge is to know that what you do is inevitably going to offend someone’s sense of what is moral and decent. Neitzsche’s slave regards all revolutionary acts with fear, dread and loathing. The Master, recognising the slave’s reluctance to act, exploits the slave’s impotence in order to maintain a position of mastery and power over the slaves of the common herd. The Master class are more likely to criticise, condemn and possibly even attempt to destroy and irradicate the few reactionaries and intellectuals who dare to oppose him.
Neitzsche had no time for anyone he regarded as a slave. His primary concern was to change the behaviour of the Master Class. He believes that such masters alone have any right to create moral rules and enforce them. We should of course be wary of such Masters. As Bob Dylan said; ‘Don’t follow leaders; watch the parking meters."
The ruling class of British society is the established social aristocratic order. Neitzsche criticised such rule for its reference and foundation on ancestry, tradition, social norms and conventions. The Master Class ruler thinks in terms of returning a lethargic society to the glories of some semi-mythical former golden age utopian era when it was safe to leave your house door open when away, and when a wallet bulging in money, if dropped in the High Street, would be found and safely returned to the rightful owner with all the contents in place. The Master Class for Neitzsche, see the future, and the prospect of dramatic social change, as a source of dread. Today of course, we are fortunately far more forward looking the people of Neitzsche’s day. We are generally optimistic about the future, and people today are more openly critical of past social Masters, politicians, statesmen and media pundits. We are fully aware of Watergate, Irangate, the McCarthy witch hunt against Communist sympathisers, the collapse of the American Dream after Vietnam, the various sleaze allegations levelled against British politicians in the late 1990’s, the Profumo affair, the sinking of the Belgranno during the Falklands War, the French Secret Service bomb attack on the Environmental protest ship Rainbow Warrior, and other high profile political scandals. We are cynical about whether our leaders speak with silver tongues or with forked tongues. We must be careful however not to look to the future through rose-tinted spectacles. It is often looked on as an idealized and improved upon version of the present day. We generally desire a world in which we work less, but make more money, and leisure time to share with our families. We want less attention from The Masters, not more. We view social control and restraint as an affront to our sense of freedom. We regard rules and regulations as an evil imposition on us. We may not like parking meters, but our leaders suspect, often quite rightly, that if they removed the parking meters, our cars would quickly start being parked just about anywhere, with no consideration for other road users.
Nietzsche knew full well that the Masters are selfish. Masters secure and protect that which they want at virtually any cost. "The weak, suffering, oppressed, are willing to submit (to him) by their nature," Nietzsche wrote. There are several problems with this conviction however. Nietzsche failed to explain why the ‘slaves’ are always so weak in spirit. It is actually often because the dominant master suppresses them. By securing power, the Master has effectively weakened their ability to challenge him. The avenues by which they might criticise, question, or dethrone him are his to control. Hitler had many critics and opponents in the early years of his power in Nazi Germany. Few dared however to speak out openly against him, possibly having seen the executions and imprisonments of those few who have done. Nothing deters revolutionaries more than the sight of the hanging corpses of the previous people accused of attempting to start one. While support for a tyrant and dictator may start from a conviction that his simplistic and passionate ideology is right and mighty, but support is often maintained in the end only through a desire not to become a victim of the next pogrom. The problem with the Machiavelian Masters is they rarely if ever rule wisely, or compassionately, with humanity or an understanding merciful disposition. They rule over our morality ruthlessly, as a military and political strategy to secure, increase, and further exercise their powers. People are mere pawns and puppets in the hands of their Masters, as far as Nietzsche saw it. The leader of such a state is seen to fear any kind of strong, credible opposition. If someone rises from the ranks of the Slave class showing charisma, or promise of one day overthrowing or challenging a Master’s power, that Slave will be oppressed in various ways; constructive criticism, slanderous accusations, smear campaigns, threats of violence, and possibly assassination, among others. In Cambodia, Pol Pot certainly behaved as a textbook Nietzschian Master. His K’mir Rouge militiamen executed and murdered all suspected intellectuals in Cambodia. Anyone suspected of being intelligent was shot or beaten to death with a hammer (a cynical way of saving money on bullets). Intellectuals were identified as being anyone wearing spectacles, or having red marks on their noses where they had worn reading glasses during their long periods of reading subversive learned books. Two million people died, many of them literally hammered to death for nothing. Pol Pot’s aim was to wipe the slate clean and start his country up again from scratch. Operation Year Zero literally turned back the clock by eradicating Cambodia of all cars, machines, and potential scientists able to build such things. Guns were of course retained.
We must be extremely wary of false, pretentious claims by those who would feign strong moral convictions. Artificially enforced, contrived and compulsory forms of morality destroy and erode genuine, natural and sincere altruism. We are unlikely to become more moral in our behaviour if the only incentive is that it would save us from severe punishment if we stayed good. We cannot be made good just through tightening laws and reintroduction of capital punishment. Such enforcement merely makes many people act as though they are moral and highly ethical whilst in the public’s attention, even though they harbour deep rooted, and suppressed desires for rebellion, bitterness and decadence, if not revenge. It is such a society of too rigid a legislation and too many laws restricting human liberty unnecessarily that drives many otherwise good citizens to acts of criminal behaviour. In America in the 1930’s, unnecessary Prohibition laws drove many people to illegal drinking and consumption of alcohol. The black market operation that arose to serve that demand with adequate supply of cheap moonshine liquor paved the way for much of the organised crime we have today. There is no doubt also that prohibition weaned many people away from the demon drink, but it did more damage than good to society. It is often speculated that legalisation of many currently illegal substances, such as Cannabis and even hard drugs like heroin would greatly ease our crime rates. Many people want such drugs, and they will try to get them even through illegal means. If legalised, drugs could be purchased at controllable, predictable prices by government legislation. Currently, the drug user will find the market price dictated by the greed of the drug dealer and supplier on an arbitrary whim. The more desperate the drug taker becomes, the higher the price is raised, forcing the drug taker to take up more desperate means of securing the money needed to keep up the supply. This way more drug takers become addicts, and pay their way through more drug trafficking and dealing, if not other crimes as well, i.e.,. Prostitution, theft, etc.
In addition, drugs purchased on the streets may be mixed with other chemicals, ranging from crushed chocolate, to talcum powder, to battery acids and strychnine's. A legal, carefully controlled market would ensure that the drug taker knows the quality of what he is smoking or injecting into himself. This also happened in Al Capone’s Chicago and other cities affected by Prohibition; much bath tub gin was mixed with urines, and other liquids, resulting in much sickness and a few deaths. Legalised alcohol sales ensure many quality controls are in force. Many evil crimes could in effect be legalised easily, taking the burden off overcrowded prisons and improving the world economy as well. Excessive use of morality and law can stifle a society or an individual just as severely as surrender to immorality can cause corruption. The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a rebellion against rigid Tsarist oppression. Sadly, it replaced that oppression with Stalinism.
Frequently, moralists interfere with things that might be best left to individual choice. Pro-life antiabortion campaigners often drive women in need of abortions to go to unhygienic, unsanitary, under qualified back-street quacks instead of allowing them to freely choose to have the operation done in relative safety by professional gynaecologists.
Many moralists loudly condemn nudity and sexual intercourse in films which for all their erotic content (often in replacement of story lines and genuine dramatic incident), generally depict people being nice to one another. It is sad however that the hero doesn’t just kiss the girl as the credits roll, but actually seduces her, and performs felatio with her throughout the movie. Excessive violence in films, unless witnessed by children, seldom provokes serious public concern. Films in which the people being killed are foreigners, drug dealers, rapists, etc, often provoke rousing cheers for their simplistic solution to all that ails society. Butchery on the silver screen has come to serve as a substitute for the butchery in the Roman gladiatorial arena. Humanity doesn’t always make progress. We are still savages. Our technological marvel, the cruise missile, is just a bigger spear, able to be thrown further and do more damage on hitting its target so much more accurately.
The individual can react in many ways to the evils of the society around himself. He may become one of Nietzsche’s complacent, co-operative, apathetic, acceptive slaves, in which case the society that has spawned all that perceived evil, will continue developing (or stagnating) its own meandering way. The Individual may rebel, protest, and exclaim his conviction that there is too much evil to all willing to hear him out. In doing this, the individual may be ignored, jeered at, ridiculed, or face punishment, suffering and possible death for his troubles. Then again, he may gain sufficient respect and power and trust to make some changes to society that make some of those problems disappear. The individual may escape the whole mess by becoming decadent, selfish, lazy, self-serving and bide his own time in the hope that someone will change society for the better on his behalf. The individual may get angry or impatient enough to start taking short cuts to personal wealth and power, by seeking scapegoats and victims of his own to oppress, suppress and harm.
Why did Adam and Eve take the fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil? Was it possibly because Eden itself bored them? Did they feel that God’s denial of the knowledge of good and evil was itself an unnecessarily evil and cruel thing to do to them? Were they in the right? Perhaps it was God who was evil for denying them their full human potential all along.
The key to understanding evil is to recognise that evil is always destructive, and never creative. Adam and Eve destroyed God’s plans to have them stay in the Garden of Eden as his doting, loyal subjects forever. Brady and Hindley destroyed the lives of their child-victims and the families who still mourn the loss to this day; Hitler caused destruction on a grand scale. Hope lies in the opposite to such destructiveness; human creative endeavour; making, inventing, learning. God failed by not creating a better world where planes don’t crash and people don’t kill children for fun. God seems to have stopped creating, whilst the destructive aspects of evil continue to develop. The suffering, and death and alleged resurrection of Jesus was intended to give us hope. It gave us only despair. It served as a promise of more suffering and death to come before the end of the world, and leaves Christians panicking about whether or not they will make it to heaven,.
Hope lies in human inventiveness, though we must be cautious of our inventions that are designed to kill. A bigger, better atom bomb is not creative; it is merely a technological accomplishment. In many ways, the arms race is similar to the Marquis De Sade’s approach to sex; it is an obsession with increasing one’s power. It is no accident that many military missiles have a phallic shape. A true revolutionary creates without potential for destruction.
There is more humanity in a war memorial such as the Cenotaph, than in any weapon of the wars commemorated by those laying wreaths there.
Evil often brings out the good in people. A city being bombed during an air raid attack is full of stories of heroism, and camaraderie, and noble sacrifices made by rescue workers. People talk to one another in a crisis when they barely acknowledge each other during peaceful, non-dangerous social activity. Many of the World’s greatest works of art depict as creative challenge and protest against oppression, suffering and evil. Picasso’s Guernica, Munch’s The Scream, The Diary Of Anne Frank, with its plaintive ironic assertion of the doomed girl’s conviction that there is still good in the world. Many people only grasp the concepts of love, brotherhood, fraternity, liberty, life, etc, when under fire or facing death. Auschwitz survivor Kitty Hart describes in her autobiography how she was moved to tears of joy during her years of torment when another prisoner at the death camp found a carelessly discarded toothpaste container dropped by a guard, and shared it with her, whilst kept in a state of perpetual near starvation. Jean-Paul Sartre said he never felt more alive than when he faced death daily during his years in the French Resistance under Nazi occupation in France. There are many stories and poems by soldiers on leave seeing the White Cliffs of Dover and finally realizing what being at home really meant to them. Graham Greene’s Harry Lime said it best of all; "In Italy, for thirty years, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed. They produced Michaelangelo, Leanardo Da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock."
The greatest words and deeds of goodness come in direct antidote form against evil. Without war, there are no heroes, or causes for a Nobel Peace Prize. It may yet prove that humanity is intrinsically evil by nature, but I both doubt it and hope not. We are certainly selfish creatures. I am a Humanist because Humanism suits my personality and temperament.
It’s been claimed that wars and atrocities are a human way of controlling the population. Supposing Genghis Khan had not wiped out thousands of his enemies. Those people would have married and spawned children who over a millennia of generations leading to the present day would have added another billion people to the world’s overpopulated cities. Could war and atrocity be an innate lemming like mechanism in the genetically evolving human personality? If so, we must start to evolve in some other direction instead. It seems an implausible, but unsettling theory. It is countered by recognition our ability to register pain, grief and suffering. Our sense of loss when someone close to us dies is a strong indicator that we do not wish to continue killing each other, or destroying our environment. Worse, the nuclear potential to irradicate our whole race in one go, rather than merely reduce our population a little every now and then, makes any intentional warmongering highly dangerous. America’s Hopi Indians have a tremendous word for the insanity of modern western civilisation; ‘Koyanisquaatsi’. It means literally; you are living a way off life that calls on you to try to live a different way of life."
There is no sacred, absolute truth that can save humanity from its own folly. No God will put the world to rights, and no divine message or messenger will ever deliver us from evil. What we need is what Neitzsche called a thorough ‘re-evaluation of all values’. Evil has nothing whatsoever to do with gods or religions. Evil is simply human inhumanity towards fellow humans. Evil is a denial of the creative potential of other human beings, if not the denial of our own potentials. Evil is not being suffiecently moved by the sufferings and needs of others to the point of wanting to help alleviate their pain in any way we can. The solution may lie in creative ability and social commitment. We must do something. Evil, as the saying goes, starts when good people do nothing.
Since Genesis, in The Bible, ‘knowledge’ has been blamed for every social evil under the Sun, but Knowledge is the only cure for the ignorance that is often the basic root of human evil. Many people don’t know what they want to do in life; some people really don’t care about the plight of others in the world. There is an apathetic slave like mentality that tells people to leave it to others to get things done. let the experts handle it; out of sight, out of mind. The slave accepts his place in the pecking order, and the evil continues to eat away at the good in all of us.
1/. THE BIBLE, OLD TESTAMENT (especially Genesis 2;9).
2/. Subimov & Bragart - EVIL. - 1988. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
3/. Halliwell, Leslie - HALLIWELL’S HUNDRED. 1982. Granada.
4/. Masters, Brian, - SERIAL KILLERS. Focus Magazine. April 1997.
5/. NATIONAL SECULAR SOCIETY ANNUAL REPORT 1995 - 1996.
6/. Neitzsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL - 1988. Penguin. Translated by R.J. Hollingdale.
7/. Neitzsche, - ECCO HOMO - (Translated by Hollingdale) 1988 Penguin.
8/. A NEITSCHE READER - Edited and translated by Hollingdale - 1977. Penguin.
9/. Neitzsche - THUS SPAKE ZARATHRUSTRA - Translated by A. Tille, revised by M. M. Bozman. 1933. Everyman library.
10/. Neitzsche - TWILIGHT OF THE GODS & THE ANTICHRIST. Translated by Hollingdale. 1986. Penguin.
11/. Anthony Storr - HUMAN DESTRUCTIVENESS - 1991 Routledge Books.
12/. Weil, Simone - GRAVITY AND GRACE - 1987. Ark Paperbacks.
13/. Wilson, Colin - THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF MURDER. 1961 Pan Books.
14/. Wood, Keith Porteous - COLD DAGGER OF ATHEISM STRIKES AT CAMBRIDGE - THE FREETHINKER Magazine March 1997.
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