EVIL AND IDEOLOGY
Do evil people really exist?
We would prefer to say that such people cannot exist that there are not any. It is permissible to portray evildoer’s in a story for children to keep the picture simple. However, when the great literature of the past, Shakespeare, Schiller, Dickens, inflates images of evildoers of the blackest shades, it seems somehow farcical and clumsy to our contemporary perception. The trouble lies in the way these classic evildoers are pictured.
They recognise themselves as evildoers and they know their souls are black. Moreover, they reason, "I cannot live unless I do evil. Therefore, I will set my father against my brother! I will drink the victim’s sufferings until I am drunk with them!"
Iago very precisely identifies his purposes, and his motives as being black and born of hate.
However, no, that is not the way it is!
To do evil, a human being must first believe that what he is doing is good, or else that it is a well-considered act, in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions. Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too! The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short of a dozen corpses, because they had no ideology.
Ideology, that is what gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.
That is the social theory, which helps to make his own acts seem good, instead of bad, in his own and others eyes, so that he will not hear any reproaches and curses, but will receive praise and honours.
That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills by evoking Christianity, the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their motherland. The colonisers by civilisation, the Nazis’ by race, and the Jacobins (early and late) by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.
Thanks to ideology the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in many millions. This cannot be denied, nor passed over, nor suppressed.
How then do we insist evildoers do not exist?
In addition, who was it that destroyed these millions? "Without evildoers, there would have been no Gulag Archipelago".
There was a rumour going the rounds between 1918 and 1920 that the Petrograd Cheka headed by Uritsky, and the Odessa Cheka headed by Deich, did not shoot all those condemned to death, but fed some of them alive to the animals in the city zoos.
I do not know whether this is true or calumny, or if there were any such cases, how many there were. Nevertheless, I would not set out to look for proof either.
Following the practise of the Blue Caps their branch of the service requires only that, "They carry out orders exactly and be impervious to suffering"; and that is what they do and what they are. I would propose that this was not impossible.
How else could they get food for the zoos in those famine years? Take it away from the working class! Those enemies were going to die anyway, so why could not their deaths support the zoo economy of the Republic and thereby assist, "Our march into the future"!
Was not it expedient? The Shakespearean evildoer could not cross that precise line.
However, the evildoer with ideology does cross it and his eyes remain dry and clear.
Physics is aware of phenomena, which occur only at – threshold magnitude, which do not exist at all until a certain threshold, encoded by and known to nature is crossed. No matter how intense a yellow light you shine on a lithium sample, it will not emit electrons. However, as soon as a weak bluish tinge begins to grow it does emit them (The threshold of the photoelectric effect is crossed). You can cool oxygen to 100 degrees below zero centigrade and exert as much pressure as you want, it does not yield but remains a gas. Nevertheless, as soon as minus 183 degrees is reached it liquefies and begins to flow.
Evidently, evildoing also has a threshold magnitude.
Yes, a human being hesitates, and bobs back and forth between good, and evil; all his life. He slips, falls back, clambers up, repents, and things seem to darken again. However, just so long as the threshold of evildoing is not crossed the possibility of returning remains, and he himself is still within reach of our hope.
However, when through the density of evil actions the result either of their extreme degree or of the absoluteness of his power he suddenly crosses that threshold, and has left humanity behind, and without, perhaps: the possibility of return.
It is unthinkable in the twentieth century (21st) to fail to distinguish what constitutes an abominable atrocity that must be, and what constitutes that past, which ought not to be stirred up!
We have to condemn publicly, the very idea that some people have the right to suppress others! In keeping silent about evil, in burying so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up again a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. It is for this reason, and not because of the weakness of indoctrinational work that they are growing up indifferent.
Young people are acquiring the conviction that foul deeds are never punished on earth and that they always bring prosperity.
It is going to be uncomfortable, horrible, to live in such a country!
An extract from, ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, by Aleksandra Solzhenitsyn.
The problem of evil is that it refuses to stay in its box marked, evil. It keeps on coming out to play Mr Nice Guy, or at least Mr Average.
At the end of his life when the genetic fantasist and Auschwitz butcher, was hold up in the shadier parts of Sao Paulo, he developed the nervous habit of chewing off bits of his moustache and swallowing them. These snacks eventually caused an intestinal blockage, which required an operation.
Poor old man, you thought, you briefly thought: before remembering that he had once dissected a live baby and stood on the stomachs of pregnant women.
Julian Barnes, ‘Sunday Observer Newspaper’ UK 1985.
See, Professor Richard Dawkins FRS ‘The Root Of All Evil’ Channel 4 TV Monday 8.00pm.