The label of “evil” is always attached by others, never (or very rarely) by the person in question. Did Hitler think of himself as “evil”? I seriously doubt it, although it is a guess as bringing the dead back to life for a quick Q&A session is beyond my talents. Hitler has the label “evil” applied to him by history; ie those after him who were alive to write it. I don’t think anyone is “evil”. I do however think that the acts people commit can be labeled individually, and some most certainly are “evil”.
The label of “good” is always self attached, and often by others if they have something to gain by keeping us happy, or at least not upsetting us. In some cases it’s applied to us with no conditions; this category is a genuinely (pardon the pun) a “good” place to be. The “good” people control the world, they are every government, every business, every employee, every student and every citizen. So why are there wars, crime, torture, rape, abuse etc. The list goes on; the locations endless.
We all hack our minds on a daily basis without realizing it; were just so efficient at it, and it’s in our own interests so our internal security mechanisms turn a blind eye. We find ways to justify our actions and make them “good” actions, even if it’s just an excuse to others to avoid blame or punishment.
Hezbollah bomb Israel because their Muslim brothers and sisters are being occupied by Israel, therefor they’re “good” people for fighting back. Israel occupy and control Muslim lands around their own borders because bombers keep attacking their citizens, they are a “good” government because they protect their civilians. George W Bush decided to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein because the threat of WMD falling into the hands of the “terrorists” was unimaginable, he was being a “good” president by protecting his fellow Americans. Adolf Hitler ethnically cleansed around 6 million Jews in a mechanical government slaughter machine because Jews were having too much control over the German economy. He was protecting his fellow German from an economic drain and helping to build a strong future for his country.
I do NOT endorse or support ANY of these arguments. The killing of civilians is inexcusable no matter the justification. Both Hezbollah and Israel are only helping the head cases in the US govt to bring forward Armageddon. George W Bush invaded Iraq on a series of lies; the story continually changing; the root is constant. Iraq was ALWAYS a US economic expansion plan under the guise of something “noble” the US people could be fooled into supporting. Hitler was always a small minded racist who only had the opportunity to do what he did because of the small minded victors of WWI and their conditions at Versailles.
Now the disclaimers are out the way (unfortunate as it breaks up the running order a little, but no matter). The difference between our acts and how we justify them to others and the wider world makes all the difference. In all of these examples the public sales pitch has been of “good but unfortunately necessary acts” while they are often viewed by outsiders and history for what they are, and labeled more accurately than the sales pitch.
Privately things get a little more confusing. I split “private” into two distinct parts; “private” is within a group of people (also known as a “conspiracy”) and “personal” which is within the individual.
On a private level, the overall plan gains you rewards you’ve been sold onto; otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are, conspiring to get what you deem is your right. If that means invading a country on a pack of lies, and playing your part to “sell the pitch” then so be it. You are doing good, after all it’s “good” for you and your family to get these rewards. It’s “good” for your company as it’s the “plan” after all; and no one implements a “bad” plan knowingly. It’s “good” for the economy as the more you earn, the more taxes (in theory) you pay and the more you can spend, doing “good” for the local people. If the plan involves the deaths of 100,000’s of people if some far off country, then it’s “good” because it’s not “your” people, and you won’t ever be accountable for any of it.
On a “personal” level, many of us are religious (in some way). I count myself too logical to fall for a badly thought out argument, but each to their own. Most religions require their followers to be “good” citizens. To do “good deeds”. Very few of us can live our lives like that, yet still think of ourselves as “good” people. For this we split down our lives into our acts, thoughts and decisions; and try to average them out so the accounts balance by the time we finally have to pay the bill. For a fat cat in the US who’s economic greed cost a village in some backwater part of Africa to be made homeless, to atone for that by dropping $10 in a hobo’s plastic coffee cup shows the difference in human value to that way of thinking.
Everyone is equal, no matter where they come from. From this angle, I hope I am wrong and there IS a God, as so many people claim, so that if you kill people over lies and deceit and think that a little charity can atone for it, you may escape justice in life, but you’re in for a hell of a shock when your bill comes. We ALL know ourselves and know if which column we’re in when the bill is due.
Both terms are absolute. Black and white. Only “enforced” by the religious right who see the world in “black and white”. The idea that a group of wildly complicated personal circumstances can be fed into the religious calculator as a mathematical equation which gives a definitive result is laughable. The world is a grey place. It always has been and always will be. The problem with a grey world is the lack of absolutes.
Commercial advertising drums this into us. Take “the best rock anthems in the world, ever” compilation CD as an example. Notice the two absolutes; both of which are inaccurate? “Best” is highly subjective and is based on who is choosing, what their criteria is and that there is no tune better than the contents of this CD. “Ever” implies time has ended; or at least ended for this genre; as bland as I find the rock genre, it is very much alive and kicking. This then assumes that this particular few months is the best time for the genre; that everything has been building up to this climax, and that it’s all downhill from here. Might want to mention that to the current musicians in the genre, let them get other jobs instead of wasting their time. Then to add insult to injury, six months later there’s another “best rock anthems in the world, ever 2”.
These are “shades of grey” attributes being applied in a “black and white” way. With that same polarizing mind set, is helping a senior citizen across the road as “good” as devoting your life to helping the homeless in a shelter? Or is stealing someone’s purse as “evil” as strapping explosives to your body and heading to a busy cafe to commit suicide?
In real life there is a scale; absolutes don’t allow for a scale. That scale is also dependant on how close you are to the event. If it’s your purse that’s stolen, then it’s a big deal; if it’s someone you’ve never met telling their story on TV it means less.
This seeps into the criminal justice system too with sentences for crimes; should a drink driver who’s run over a pedestrian and killed them get a life imprisonment? A life for a life? Or if it’s a one off offense with mitigating circumstances, does it do more harm than good by destroying a second life? That depends on your view of the incident; if it’s a member of your family or a friend who’s involved on one side you’re opinions are likely to be closer to an absolute.
To fix the “life for a life” idea in, how do you punish someone like Saddam Hussein? He has killed and destroyed 100,000’s of Iraqi’s along with others in the region. He has only his own life in repayment. Do you give him a fair trial? Or is he condemned to die before the court opens? Do you sentence him to die, execute him, bring him back to life to execute him again? Or maybe total the effects of the torture his regime carried out on it’s people and inflict the same on him? His body wouldn’t take it, there’s a limit to it’s endurance; and even if it could take it….what would be the difference between his actions and ours? After all, we’re the “good” guys, right?
*This was written before Saddam’s execution.