IS EVIL REAL?
In the second Ghostbusters film there is a scene where it looks like all sorts of bad things are being drawn into a building. One of the Ghostbusters says something to the effect that it looks like Evil Central. That got me to thinking…is evil real? What would qualify as evil? In one of the Austin Powers movies there’s a Dr. Evil, and his sidekick, Mini-Me, but they’re more comical than evil. So, what exactly is evil then?
William Hirstein, Ph.D., is a Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Elmhurst College, and has this to say about psychopaths, and it sounds to me like they are evil people…”First a bit of terminological history, to clear up any confusion about the meanings of “sociopath,” “psychopath,” and related terms. In the early 1800s, doctors who worked with mental patients began to notice that some of their patients who appeared outwardly normal had what they termed a “moral depravity” or “moral insanity,” in that they seemed to possess no sense of ethics or of the rights of other people. The term “psychopath” was first applied to these people around 1900. The term was changed to “sociopath” in the 1930s to emphasize the damage they do to society. Currently researchers have returned to using the term “psychopath.” Some of them use that term to refer to a more serious disorder, linked to genetic traits, producing more dangerous individuals, while continuing to use “sociopath” to refer to less dangerous people who are seen more as products of their environment, including their upbringing. Other researchers make a distinction between “primary psychopaths,” who are thought to be genetically caused, and “secondary psychopaths,” seen as more a product of their environments. The Psychopathy Checklist, or PCL, describes psychopaths as being callous and showing a lack of empathy.”
Richard Speck, in 1966 tortured, raped and murdered eight student nurses, so he certainly fits into that category. Ted Bundy assaulted and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier, and that qualifies him, I believe.
There are other people that would certainly be titled as mass murderers, and for that they can be called evil. How many did Stalin order killed on his way to the top? Although he didn’t execute them all personally, he was responsible for many thousands, and may have, in fact, killed some of them himself. The Nazi soldiers who shot unarmed civilians, and tried to get out of it by claiming they were following orders, they could be called evil, and so could the ones that gave them the orders. Pol Pot, was a Cambodian revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until 1997 and, under his “leadership” an estimated 1 to 3 million people (out of a population of slightly over 8 million) died.
Some may claim that any American President that orders men into battle could be called mass murderers, but I’d have to dispute that. Every one of them, even the feckless one that’s in the White House now, had at least a moment’s pause to think of the consequences of his actions…and they knew that what they were doing was right.
American armed forces have never gone into battle to exterminate the people they were fighting…we defeated them, we worked with them and we helped them. That is not the actions of a psychopathic government. We think we know evil when we see it, and, of late, in our own country, it has become more and more visible. Evil isn’t just in mass murderers. Evil shows up in a person who, for whatever twisted reasoning they’re using, thinks they have to settle a grudge, or make a name for themselves, and they go out and do something evil. Evil can start at any age. Children that do bad things to dogs and cats will very likely grow up to do bad things to people. I believe that’s evil. People that live by a code of violence and revel in heinous crimes, I believe they are evil.
To be sure, evil will always be with us…but we don’t have to allow it to metastasize beyond controllable limits. We have to make sure that “good” will always triumph over evil and that isn’t to say that we all have to begin to be “bible-thumpers”.
Over in the muddled Middle East we have ISIS and they are pure evil in my book…a malignancy that has to be excised from the body of humanity. You kill the cancer, the evil, before it kills you. Sometimes, as the saying goes, you have to fight fire with fire, and if you’re a firefighter you will understand that right away. When you’re fighting evil you do what must be done to eradicate and extinguish the fire. Brutality on the part of ISIS cannot be met with brutality on our part…that would be just as evil, in my estimation. However, beating the enemy definitively, to the point where he can never again pose a threat, that’s not just permissible, it’s the only way.
This is from Haile Selassie, the great Ethiopian leader, “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”