Tuesday, March 29, 2005

About Evil

Evil certainly has many definitions, many relative to value schemes which are of course relative themselves. Leave discussion of the dimensions in which the evil is relative to particular sets of rules one ought not break for another time.

Consider the dimension of intention.

For the sake of illustration, suppose we say that doing unnecessary harm to or benefiting at the expense of others is evil. In the dimension of intention, it would generally be judged a lesser evil to have harmed another inadvertently or unknowingly. Generally we are inclined to forgive and not brand the trespasser as a miscreant if they acknowledge their unwitting misdeed as a mistake not to be repeated. But even when evil is done on purpose, and we understand the motive as a mistake, some hope of correction exists and some path to forgiveness may be found. Those who persecute a minority or a stranger out of fear and ignorance, hateful as their crimes may be, are still within our understanding of human nature. Motive is a slippery arena in which to wrestle with the value and importance of the actions it is presumed to drive. Where are the poles in this facet of behavior? "He was afraid for his life and acted in self defense" is acceptable to law and some juries. "I just get a thrill out of hurting people" is unacceptable but in some cases, a good therapist might spy the ancient hurts and misperceptions and in a few years, untie the knot of misplaced self hatred. Is any behavior completely outside the pale? The practical answer would be "yes". But those with an unfathomable and practically incurable urge to make others suffer or perish are quite unusual. If you weigh evil by counting the victims and understand there is plenty of suffering that is entirely out of human control, then you have to look at the armies, the gangs and the mean and selfish crowds. The person who knows they are hurting others while personally getting nothing out of doing the harm and is only going along with a crowd or a superior who may have the sickened will that is evil...that kind of person in their thousands and millions are the minions of gratuitous misery, not the authors of mayhem but its printing press.

To be a rabbit you must be ever vigilant for the hounds. To be a human you must be ever vigilant that you have not become a hound.

The thoughtlessness of many will work the will an evil few.

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