The Root of All Evil
We are only capable of good because we are intrinsically evil.
What is evil? The first thing that comes to the mind of many is the wanton and indiscriminate destruction of life by one of another. But evil is far more systemic than that. In fact, when the Bible asserts that the love of money is the root of all evil, it is being fatuously narrow minded. The love of money is merely a coefficient. The root of all evil is much, much deeper than that.
The Anatomy of Evil
Contrary to popular perception, evil is never black versus white. It’s never something that is always clearly identifiable or consistently conspicuous. In fact, evil is consistently a gray area that can escape a concise definition once the picture is viewed in whole. In this post, I will demonstrate that as every effect has a cause, every act of evil has the same basic motivation.
Would you say that a child who steals a cookie is evil? Probably not. But what about a bank robber? Are they evil? You’d say that their motivation is money. What about a serial rapist or a mass murderer? Are they evil? You’d be quick to say yes, but not because their crimes were any less evil than stealing a cookie. Rather, it is because that crime is notably less repulsive.
What you fail to recognize is that no one spontaneously becomes a Hitler. It always starts out with a first crime – something we see as relatively benign as stealing a cookie. No bank robber ever started out by robbing banks. They most likely started out by robbing the cookie jar. No one becomes a serial killer over night. They often start out by first killing small animals.
However, every act of evil has a cause. No act of evil is evil just for the sake of it. There is always a cause. Serial Killers have severe psychotic disorders. Some are mentally unstable. Some are born with wiring in their brain that just isn’t right. Did you know that serial killers typically have a significantly smaller frontal lobe or severely under developed right brain?
The frontal lobe is the origin of your propensity to be polite, respectful, tactful, etc. The right brain is where most of our emotions and creative instincts originate. If these two parts of the brain are severely compromised, there’s a very good chance that you can accidentally kill someone, and find out that you thoroughly enjoyed it – and develop a desire to do it again.
The Problem of Labeling Evil
The grotesque things that Jefferey Dahmer did warp the mind. We would be quick to label Dahmer as evil. The problem is that while Dahmer’s acts were certainly horrific, he didn’t do it because he wanted to be a bad person. In court, he repeatedly stated that he hates the fact that he is that way, but he also knows that he can’t help himself. Does that sound like malice?
Hitler grew up a Catholic. He rose to power in Germany’s Nazi party because of the economic crisis that was facing Germany. He seemed to have the intelligence and the assertiveness to lead Germany out of the post World War I economic crisis. What most people seem to forget is that the German soldiers who indiscriminately slaughtered Jews were Lutheran Christians.
Germany’s Lutheran philosophy established Jews as being a vile scourge of society, having being descended from those that were purportedly responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ. The Holocaust was justified by the Nazis as vengeance for Christ’s murder. They considered themselves soldiers of Christ. Martin Luther’s teachings which have long been driven into German minds is responsible for that, leading to the worst act of genocide in human history.
So is Martin Luther evil? Or did Hitler misunderstand the message?
You have to understand that Hitler was not being irrational when he ordered the death of over six million Jews. He really did believe he was being the avenger of Christ! Similarly, when the Hutus rebelled and slaughtered an estimated 800,000 Tutsis, they were merely fighting to prevent what they thought was a Tutsi initiative to return Rwanda to a Tutsi monarchy, under which Hutus were once slaves. What’s worse is that the last Hutu leader was assassinated!
So are the Hutus evil? Or did they over compensate for their fears?
When white men “captured” African slaves and brought them to America, they put them all through hell. What most people tend to forget though, is that the “captured” part of the story isn’t quite correct. Africans were sold into slavery by their own people. White men merely capitalized on the greed of the African traders who sold their own countrymen into slavery.
Even so, I don’t see a long queue of African Americans all packed and ready to go back to Africa. Why do you think this is? Do you honestly believe that any sane African American would trade up his American citizenship to return to the dark continent from whence his fore fathers originally came to wrestle with many deadly diseases, genocide and extreme poverty?
I’m not saying that Africa doesn’t have a few well developed countries. Rather, I’m saying that most of the black people that were born outside of Africa aren’t ancestrally from such states.
Slavery in any form is evil. But the facilitation of African slavery involved two willing parties. So who is the greater of the two evils: The merchants who bought them, or the Africans who sold them? Every African American forgets that his own people are his worst enemy. In the last century, a black man was more likely to be slaughtered by a black man than a white man.
And yet, they all collectively think the white man is the greater evil.
The problem with labeling evil is two fold:
- We do not know what evil is
- We are afraid of labeling ourselves.
Let’s fix the first problem right away:
What is Evil?
Before you can understand what evil is, you must first understand that evil is a function of a philosophical duality. It cannot exist on its own because it is contingent on the existence of something else: Good. What is good then, you ask? The answer is exactly same. But wait, I didn’t define what evil is. So how can I define what good is? Well that’s exactly the problem.
Good and evil are relative. There is nothing that is absolutely good or absolutely evil. Every act of evil was done in the name of something good – even if that good is measured in terms that are destructively selfish. That is what the term “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” means. Every act of good produces an equal and opposite evil effect; even if you can’t see it.
I know what you’re thinking: That can’t be true can it? What if you donate to the poor? Of course! We only overlook the evil of debilitating the poor by giving them relief outright (instead of showing them how they can permanently relieve themselves) because it is easier to do. But every time you give a beggar a coin, you are also extending his life as a beggar.
How is that evil you ask? Because when you give a man a fish, you are robbing him of the desire to support himself by actually learning how to fish instead of relying exclusively on others. This is why, as cold as it sounds, you cannot pity every beggar on the street. If you let them, they will strip you down to your last penny and move along to the next kind heart.
Many of you who have ever donated money to the Haiti relief fund, or to the Katrina relief fund or to the Tsunami Victims relief fund or most other humanitarian networks, have bought into a hierarchy of deceit and waste that is run by corrupt charity officials. Most of your money will never reach its intended victims. It happens every time there is a humanitarian crisis.
Yet, you feed the humanitarian leeches anyway.
If you really feel the need to help those in need, go directly to them. Substitute your laziness for actual action. You’re only seeking the need to pacify your conscience by giving your credit card information to people who you don’t know and have no idea how they will manage the money that you’ve donated. That’s how you enable crooks who target crises like these.
Failing which, don’t just give to some random all-purpose charity. Give to those who have actually been in the target zone from before the crisis reached global proportions, or those who have a history of specializing in orchestrating relief for that type of crisis. Otherwise, you will merely be participating in a well documented system of poorly managed administration. The only people who really suffer are those to whom relief should reach that it does not.
When Evil lacks Malice
People traditionally define evil as being a negative effect originating from malicious intent. But evil rarely manifests itself in this way. The corruption living in Haiti’s government prior to the devastating earthquake was borne out of a desire for them to be free from slavery. The vastly complex bureaucracy that now thrives in democracy is borne out of a need to stifle corruption.
The pension reform riots now raging in France were born out of a Government effort to cut spending. The only reason Al Quaeda exists, was because the US Government armed Afghan rebels to defend themselves against Russian invaders and because of their lucrative business relations with Saudi Arabian Oil. The Bush Tax cuts were really supposed to stimulate growth.
Obama’s intention was to save the US economy from certain implosion by rescuing those banks that were, like a super giant star with life sustaining worlds in orbit, “too big to fail” – despite the obvious tax burden it would place on American generations to come. The whole point of Health Care reform was to save the lives of the poor who just could not afford it.
I could go on, but I think you see my point. As I said, every act of good produces an equal and opposite act of evil; even if we can’t see it. Therefore defining evil in the context of malice will become problematic at best. This is why there are many Republicans comparing Obama to socialist dictators. Delusional racism aside, Obama’s policies do have negative consequences.
Evil then is any action that serves self interest to the detriment of the interest of others. That means most of the things you do that you think are good, are equally evil. You are just not able to qualify how what you did could possibly have become evil for someone else. Do you think if Martin Luther knew what Hitler would do, that he would have disparaged the Jews?
Think about it.
If you’re American, you no doubt saw the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 as justified acts of war, especially since the Japanese aggressors committed genocide in Nanking in 1937 and destroyed Pearl Harbour in 1941. However, the death toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined were similar to that of Nanking and Pearl Harbour. Why isn’t that evil?
Do you see how one man’s terrorist becomes another man’s freedom fighter? Do you think Osama Bin Laden is an inherently evil man to everyone who knows him? Do you think that Al Quaeda does the things it does for the sheer joy of it? Don’t you think they would all rather be knee deep in a room full of 72 virgins, spending their next 96 hours deflowering them all?
Evil is never a one sided coin because there are three sides to every story:
- Their side
- Our side
- …and the truth.
And that brings us to the topic of interest:
The Root of All Evil
The reason why conspiracy theories exist (however ludicrous they are) is because they are based on the inherent human knowledge that we are all evil by default. It is our nature to be self serving first because that’s what our genetic code tells us to be in order to maximize our chances at survival; thus the adage: “when the chips are down, it’s every man for himself“.
Selfishness is simultaneously the greatest guarantor of survival and the root of all evil. Every act of evil is manifest to pleasure one’s self. Thus, it is you, dear reader, that is the root of all evil. You can’t control every act of yours that will produce evil, since by its very definition, evil is not necessarily malicious. It just has to be self serving – which is why we can’t prevent it.
For example, Republicans aren’t being difficult for the sake of being difficult. They do have a legitimate concern about Government spending. While their argument isn’t necessarily a lucid one, (or even one that makes sense in the big picture), the Republicans sometimes do see the flip side of the evil coin. The Democrats just don’t agree that the flip side is necessarily evil.
The tug of war that goes on in the American congress is a function of two schools of thought that see good and evil in varying degrees of significance. Both sides are generally right when they spot a flaw in the policy of an existing or previous administration. The question really boils down to which flaw is the greater of the two evils, where two policies are concerned.
The degree of evil that a policy designed for good will render all boils down to individual interpretation. Therefore, if a policy will do more good than harm for individual “A”, they will naturally see it as being a good policy, despite the negative effect the policy will have on the other individual “B”. Thus, the tug of war over the passing of legislation is an evil all its own.
It’s not very different from a man who breaks into someone else’s house and steals their goods. It is gratifying self at the expense of someone else. Even Democracy by design is flawed by this principle, since most of the people who will vote are doing so based on selfish reasons that are completely unrelated to the suitability of the candidate running for office.
I think it’s safe to say that most of the blacks who voted for Obama did so just because they were black and for no other reason. The same is true of Catholics who voted for Kennedy and women who championed Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primaries – even if doing so came at the cost of the cohesion of the party. It says something very curious about us all:
We should never expect anyone to act outside of their own self interest.
That means that whatever we consider to be good is automatically defined by our propensity for evil. We are only capable of good because we are intrinsically evil. If this were not so, then those who run charities would not be lauded and seen as “special” in any way. If it was quite normal for everyone to distribute their wealth and time to everyone else, good wouldn’t exist.
In other words, you would have no concept of that which is “good” if we weren’t evil by nature. In fact, the word “good” would not even exist in our vocabulary. Similarly, it is because most of us don’t feel compelled to go out and slaughter 6 million members of an ethnic group why when one of us does it, we would consider them to be any more evil than we really are.
But I would Never…
I know what you’re thinking. You think you would never slaughter 6 million Jews. Then again, you were never raised your entire life by Lutheran-Christian educators to think that the Jews (who thrived in Poland next door) were Christ killing scum. So even if a Hitler rose up in the Nazi party to save Germany, you would never have been compelled to join the SS anyway.
You think you would never have participated in the massacre of some 300,000 Chinese, which included the rape of some 80,000 women and children. Then again, you were never raised in a post Feudal Japan on the pseudo religious doctrine of Nippon superiority and would thus not feel justified in claiming the empire of your inferior Sino brothers next door by any means.
You think you would never have become a militarized Islamic fundamentalist, driven by a surging vengeance to fly a passenger jet into an office building. Then again, you were also never taught how your enemies had purged your Islamic forefathers out of middle Europe, claimed the land Allah promised you as their own while they milk your economy for profit.
You think you would never have raided hundreds of Tutsi villages with machetes and cleaved the flesh from some 800,000 people because they were fairer in complexion. Then again, you were not descended from a tribe that was enslaved by the forefathers of these people, only to have your leader assassinated and their European friends propping them to rule Rwanda.
It’s true: you would never – because you have never been – or have you? How many of you wanted the US Government to nuke Afghanistan after 911 occurred? How many of you who are in the army joined the army because of the events on that horrific day? How many of you back Israel, because the enemy of your enemy is your friend? Or because the Bible said so?
Are you sure you’re not capable of genocide?
You are no different from the Nazis, the Hutus, the Imperial Japanese Army or the Islamic Extremists. If it were up to you, many of you who are American would bomb your enemies into oblivion and you could probably find justification for it too. Then you would chalk up the many women and children caught in the white hot mushroom cloud as justifiable collateral damage.
All that is needed, is that you are given just cause. It’s amazing what evil humanity is capable of once it is given just cause. It’s even more amazing how innocent we think we are. I put it to you that you are no different from Hitler. Everyone of us has a Hitler lurking inside. We are capable of hundreds of times more evil today than Hitler ever was. We only need just cause.
Speaking of slaughtering millions:
The Devil and the Details
What if it was normal to wipe out an entire ethnic group? Back in the Old Testament days, it was and it was not considered to be evil. In fact, with the aid of the Ark of the Covenant, the Jews have slaughtered hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of people from ethnic tribes during the course of the Old Testament. Yet Christians flinch at the Holocaust. Isn’t that odd?
Why is it that when the Jews slaughtered millions, committing repeated acts of genocide, all because the target group worshiped a different god, that born again Christians see this as the “righteous hand of God“, but when Hitler did exactly the same thing to the Jews, it was evil? It proves unequivocally that religion is perhaps the single greatest enabler of evil of all.
Never, under any other banner and for no other reason have more acts of wanton and utter, indiscriminate killing and bloodshed been committed, than under the banner of religion. The Old Testament is rife with details of killing men, women and children (yes, children!) in acts of complete annihilation that would put the genocides in Rwanda, Darfur and Congo to shame.
However, because the Jews are God’s “chosen people”, they get to massacre everyone else, but no one gets to massacre them. It’s for this reason why many modern Christians back Israel, despite their oppression of the Palestinians. It doesn’t matter who they claim God gave the land to, because technically, neither party can produce a land title that God signed.
…probably because such a god doesn’t exist. But that’s a different matter.
The Muslims are no different and are equally flawed for exactly the same reasons. The Muslim deity is only a peaceful god when you are Muslim, otherwise, you’re an infidel, and must be struck down from the face of the earth. The Hebrew God is not very different. He authorized ethnic cleansing of cities by the dozen. In fact, I could sum up the entire Bible in four words:
“Serve me, or die.”
…which begs the question as to why would such a fearsome God even need a devil to begin with. Have you read about this Old Testament God? He’s one mean, bad ass mother. I’ve yet to meet a Christian who can provide me with a counter argument that Occam’s Razor doesn’t shred. That should be expected, since in religion, evil is capriciously decided by God himself.
The most amusing bit however, is the fact that people would be willing to blame their capacity for evil on the Devil and accuse this fictitious character of exploiting their many weaknesses, despite the fact that the Bible quite clearly says otherwise. It shows that we don’t really need the Devil to explain why we do bad things. We do bad things simply because we are selfish by design. That’s simple evolutionary biology, really. It doesn’t require mythological explanation.
Therefore, if we can eliminate the devil from the picture (because we are responsible for our own evil), then why do we need a Saviour? If you recall from the outset of this post, evil exists only as a duality. It doesn’t exist on its own. Therefore, it logically follows that the necessity of a Saviour is only functionally determined by the existence of a devil, much in the same way that the glory of a hero is functionally determined by the strength of his adversary.
Now if we don’t need a devil, well… you can do the math.
It then follows that the existence of the devil and his counter balancing Savior are metaphors of our own dualistic propensities. We fallaciously extrapolate an evil from ourselves (in order to absolve ourselves of intrinsic evil) so that we can fall back onto an equally extrapolated Savior. Neither being exists, except as caricatures of our perceptions of absolute black and white. We then use this duality to absolve ourselves of the guilt we feel when we falter.
It’s the single most brilliant psychological trick ever conceived by man.
And it’s pretty damn effective.
This is why men can justify an act of evil in the name of God and then use that god to purge himself of his sin, through some act of penitence, contrition, self immolation or confession – so long as it is has the necessary powerful counterbalancing psychological effect of punishment, that will absolve us of the guilt of committing the crime. But we are only pacifying our minds.
…in the same way a child is pacified by sucking on a piece of plastic.
It is commonly asserted that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince people that he didn’t exist. If that were true, then it would appear that the greatest trick that God ever pulled was to convince people that the Devil is his enemy. For how can God commit an evil act that is inexplicably good, yet somehow fail to stop the Devil from doing the same?
Is the trick really of the Devil, or is the Devil a trick of God’s doing? It seems that those who believe in the Devil have no idea how deep the trick really goes or who the trickster really is.
Your justification for evil is quite probably irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that every act of evil originates from your own biological propensities that drive your need to survive over everyone else’s. You are after all in a competition to be the survivor of the fittest. So not all competitors will be able to win the prize. You are going to step on a few toes along the way.
With that said, you can’t stop yourself from being evil. At the risk of sounding redundant, it is a necessary evil to be unnecessarily evil. It prevents others’ evil from eliminating you. Either way, you cannot appreciate any good without being just a little evil. The duality of evil makes it just as much a scourge as it is a necessity. So it really all boils down to your management.
Even so, your evil is not being driven by forces that are any different from the evil that drove others to commit horrific acts such as genocide. It’s just that you weren’t born in their shoes.
Every man who has ever cheated on his wife, robbed someone else of gain, or struck another down in the heat of passion is driven by the same evolutionary propensities that predicate events such as war and genocide. You can never say that you would never commit murder if you’ve never had the opportunity or the motive. You can only hope to never be in that spot.
Some humans are better competitors at survival than others. That’s where good comes in. It ensures that whatever evil exists doesn’t escalate to become a systemic anomaly that could threaten the very existence of the entire human ecosystem. That’s all that good is there to do really. However, like any duality, the greater good cannot be realized without a greater evil.
That’s the harsh and unfortunate reality about human nature.
That’s why there are the few in the world sitting on billions of dollars who would rather live in excess than normalizing the wealth gap to eliminate world hunger or to bring about world peace. These things are all possible. But we make them impossible because we would much rather to have tiny dogs in thousand dollar Gucci bags than to feed starving kids in Africa.
Concordantly, we don’t need devils to explain our evil. We are evil because we want to be. It is our biological imperative, a functional necessity for the survival of the fittest. But that really begs the question though: If we are functionally compelled by biology to do what is necessary for the survival of the entire race, why don’t we leverage our wealth and resources to do so?
The answer is simple:
Because all the suffering people in the world are just as greedy and selfish as we are. It’s just that right now, they’re too hungry, too homeless or too naked to do anything about it. We are all mindless automatons trying to achieve exactly the same objective. Leveling our wealth will only give someone else an opportunity to do exactly the same things as we do.
Then there is the matter of probabilistic survival.
Right now, if a doomsday meteor struck the face of the Earth, only the richest, brightest, or most opportune people will survive. They may be able to afford or build space ships or arks to withstand the aftermath. Everyone else will die – but at least someone will survive. If all of our wealth was spread across the world, then a doomsday rock is more likely to wipe us out all at once as the wealth in the world would be too thinly spread to be of any use to enough of us.
I don’t mean to sound callous and heartless, but with our current population explosion and scarce resources, do you think if all the people from all the genocides from the last 70 years had not been culled from the gene pool, that we would be in a better position today? If you do the math, the evil that brought about their unpleasant deaths is good for our continuity.
Evil is defined by the need to survive. It is defined by a powerful biological imperative to sustain the existence of one’s self at any cost. If you take away all of our big cities, our many comforts, our technology and our social stability, then you will see the true nature of man’s capacity for evil. A desperate man will do desperate things and not one of us is exempt of it.
We are all evil by biological design. We just haven’t all had cause to truly express it.
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