I really do believe evil is banal.
It tends to get a lot of focus as something daring, as something sexy–I suppose people think of it in terms of having the gonads to go against the social expectations, to take life by the balls and squeeze.
And I guess I can’t discount is as an element; the social dictates to be kind, to be considerate, to not hurt others if it can be avoided, are powerful. I can see where you’d think it took some sort of internal strength to ignore it.
But in my experience, all it takes–all it ever involves, seemingly–is an endless fount of rationalization.
That’s it. That’s the complete story. You don’t reject good, you don’t take up evil. You don’t trample the concepts underfoot and live as your own man.
You just construct an elaborate mental landscape where nothing you’re doing is actually *wrong*–not really.
I’ve seen it a million timse, in my personal life and in interviews and memoirs, in evils petty to collosal. While there are some certain few who couldn’t seem to care less about the justice of their actions–I’m hoping to do a post about one of those before too long–what seems far, far more common is to simply define and redefine yourself, your actions, your victims, and the whole concept of right and wrong so that you can’t possibly be wrong.
I didn’t steal from my mother–not really. After all, I needed the money more than she did.
Yeah, I spread rumors without knowing if they were true or not, but a little talk never hurt anyone.
I lied to my boss about my mother dying, but it’s not like he cares about me anyway.
Maybe if my husband paid more attention to me I wouldn’t have cheated on him.
Sure, I punched him in the face, but there’s nothing wrong with punching a Nazi.
I’m not responsible for all of that death–I surrounded myself with the wrong people, I trusted them too much, none of it actually has any bearing on anything I ordered.
It frightens me, to be honest. Because it’s dead clear that nobody realizes they’re making rationalizations at the time they’re doing it. A lot of these things it *never occurs to the person speaking* that they might be doing something wrong. Rationalization is as automatic as breathing.
And I have no frickin’ clue what sins I harbor, refusing to acknowledge them.
What’s there to be done about it? I don’t really have a plan. Live in fear of my unknown self, I guess.
But the fact remains that I just don’t get the fascination of evil. How does the mind of evil work? It works just the same as yours, just with a superior ability to convince itself that black is white and right is wrong. Sometimes enough to think that killing random people is the best way to redress totally important and legitimate wrongs that they’ve been visited with.
And now, a book recommendation.
I meant to write a review, but it’s been too long since I read it to get the details. I’m going to have to buy it for real one of these days, because I think it’s going to be a perrenial for me.
That book is <A HREF=”https://www.amazon.com/Walls-Wire-Souls-Peter-Grant-ebook/dp/B00F98NJYM”>Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls</A> by Peter Grant.
Peter Grant writes as a prison chaplain, and that places him in a particularly interesting position. That is, he sees all of the banality, justifications, self-righteousness and refusal to acknowledge responsibility. He lies surrounded by people, basically, who see only the wrongs they’ve received, and never the ones they’ve perpetrated.
And his entire job, almost, is to… to hold up a mirror, almost, and convince a man to look into it.
And in himself, to remain confident–to *know*–that there is a man in there worth saving, even if that man never does take that first step.
I found it touching, and I think back to it frequently. (I find I desperately want to know the author’s take on the Dannemora prison escape–local news to me. If everybody in a prison is continually trying to con you, then how does a man like Richard Mat manage to bamboozle so many people, so often?) So I figure… I should tell people to read it.
And a sketch: