Okay kids, lets talk about evil for a minute.
I was trying to give my brain a break today, and jumped on Cracked.com for some comedy to sprinkle into my day. Browsing their newest articles, I came upon the 5 Popular Beliefs That Are Holding Humanity Back. You could imagine this kind of title would intrigue me, and so I went on a little read. I had to pause and go over #3 a few times, for the sheer, understandable sense of it all. Now Cracked always has pretty intelligent and well thought-out pieces, but this one struck me as particularly sensible. It reads “#3 That Evil Is Something We Can Kill.”
It goes on to suggest that, in modern society entertainment, evil is portrayed as an object, an entity which can be beaten and, eventually, defeated, or killed. All good vs. evil plots conclude this way (which essentially means every movie ever), with the bad guy being killed or forever locked away somewhere and never seeing the light of day again, leaving the good hero to a life of happiness and prosperity. There are some stories which don’t end this way, like tragedies, but even then, the evil of the story is usually, if not always, personified in a particular antagonistic character. Likewise, we are led to view the protagonist, especially in the most popular (and frankly mundane) movies, as the epitome of all that is good and morally acceptable. Even if the protagonist must kill to achieve his or her goal, it is justified, and therefore does not taint the goodness of the character. This mentality expands beyond the “ends justifying means” concept, and goes into the means simply not mattering anymore.
I’m getting ahead of myself a little, so let me get back to my main point. It is very true that this mentality of personified evil is very prominent in modern entertainment, but I don’t think it really stops there. Our entire culture is beginning to revolve around the idea that evil can be killed off. If we are presented with someone or something which we deem as evil, we take that as a justification to destroy that evil. This idea also breeds the mentality that destroying evil should be a priority, and the means should not be of concern, so long as evil is dead by the end. If there are others caught in the crossfire, if there are those who do not see this evil for what it is and try to support it, they are piled into the category of evil itself, and are disposable.
We can also this mentality reflected through (yes, I’m going to bring this up again) Western religious doctrines. Evil is personified as Satan, and Satan must be killed/destroyed, by the protagonist, God. We humans are too weak to defeat evil on our own, and there are some of us who side with evil by living an evil life (according to the moral parameters of that specific religion), and therefore their lives are forfeit, left to the same fate as Satan, to be defeated by God.
People like this simple way of seeing things, and this is where things not only get extremely annoying, but also possibly very dangerous. It’s easier to just say, “This is evil, I am not evil.” Whether religion brings a person to this conclusion of his or her ‘goodness’ or just self-righteousness makes no difference in the matter. It makes the individual feel good about his or herself, and gives them justification for both their ends and their means. “If I am good, those who don’t agree with me must be evil. If they are evil, they must be stopped. Because they are evil, the means are already justified.”
In some people’s eyes, this goes so far as to flip in perspective. Instead of the means being justified by the ends of killing evil, the ends are starting to be defined by the means. What I mean by this is people are more inclined to make a personal determination of what someone’s end-game is by how they portray or present themselves. Look at the political debate between people today. If I make a statement against President Obama, I am immediately labeled a conservative Republican and a Christian. If I make a statement for Obama, I am labeled a liberal Democrat and a hippie. I present a means, an argument against a side, and so people assume what my end-game is, to either overthrow America or overthrow the president. What they don’t realize is that I am independent and happen to be speaking for or against the president according to one particular topic, not on a general scale.
This kind of situation has become rampant in modern society. If a person observes on ‘mean’ of another and views that ‘mean’ to be ‘evil,’ then they personify the entire person as evil and justify their own means and end against that evil person as inherently good. Now luckily, that is what we have law for, just in case an individual’s concept of good does not conform to the social determination of good. The fact remains, though, that this degeneration of empathy is becoming far more prevalent in society, and the law is finding it harder and harder to decide when someone is performing socially evil acts and when they are not.
I could get into the why of this, but that would be a whole new post, perhaps for another day. For now I will just leave my thoughts a bit open-ended tonight. I’m left to ponder why the concept of evil gets people paranoid, why it makes them want to justify their own goodness and expose the evil of others. Why is it that humans cannot accept their humanity, their nature of being both good and evil in different aspects? What breeds this mentality of destroying evil, when that in itself would defeat the purpose of good? And again, as has been happening a lot lately, I look around and find myself simply wanting to see not the good in people, not the evil in people, but the humanity in people. I want to see both sides and accept both sides for what they are, aspects of what make us human beings, the amazing yet disturbing creatures that we are. It may be cliche, and getting a little overdone on my blog, but I can’t help but fall to a particular image which best sums up my idea of humanity, especially regarding this particular topic.