I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are.”
― Philip Pullman,
Inaction is his [Evil] greatest weapon, while regret is his second.”
― Shannon L. Alder
“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”
― Jimmy Carter,
“The roots of any evil deed can be traced to the perpetrator’s refusal to experience pain.”
― Keith Ablow,
“The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.”
― C.G. Jung
“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.”
― Tom Hiddleston
Who wouldn’t be? The majority of us don’t want to admit our faults and mistakes. We want to be seen as the hero, not the villain. This desire is basic human nature. I am one of those who believe our basic nature is good, or maybe I just want this to be true. I don’t like to think that I might be a villain trying to be a hero.
But, if I am totally honest, I have to admit the truth of the above quote. Worse case scenario, Hitler. He had to think he was doing right for his country, so he must have seen himself as a hero for the Aryan race. While I might never agree with his belief – I can’t think of many who would – I have to believe he believed. If he didn’t, then the world descends into chaos where no rules apply. Maybe, I just want to think there is some redeeming quality in all men, and women, whether Hitler, Papa Doc or Al Capone. My belief does not condone their behavior (I am, to the end, an Aragon fan), but it allows me to see them as human.
Then again, I have been listening to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The tortures perpetrated by the Japanese against the POW’s were beyond cruel. I reached the point where, if she had gone on much longer about their captivity, I would have stopped listening. For what they did to helpless prisoners, the Japanese guards were evil. So how do I understand that they, too, might have looked at themselves as heroes? Do I need to?
What about the CIA? During the Cold War, they experimented with various ways to create the perfect assassin. Who cared if their attempts included giving LSD to unsuspecting people? Does this make them evil? Does it make them responsible when one of their subject jumped to his death from a 10th story window? Yet, I know they must have considered themselves heroes.
I’ve blogged about good and evil before, but the questions keep turning in my mind. I need to understand why the Japanese did what they did because, if I understand, I might figure out how a man who kills millions of ‘inferior’ people could possible call himself a hero, how men with no reason to hurt those prisoners under them, tortured them daily, hourly, minute by minute, just because they could.
I’ve always believed that, to start a war, one must be a monster. That, however, was before I realized the worse monsters wore the best human faces. Don’t give me the Wolfman, Frankenstein, the monsters in the closet or under the bed. They are mild compared to those whose faces have contorted into human form. Hitler. Lenin. Papa Doc. We all know now what they were. They never hid the monster. Were they were monsters from the first, born monsters?
If not, how did they become monsters? The Wolfman was bitten by another werewolf; Frankenstein was built by a mad scientist; monsters in the closet and under the bed came from the darkest reaches of a child’s imagination. Or, at least, from the darkest reaches of man’s imagination. I don’t believe children dreamed these monsters. They came from somewhere else, from millions of years of human consciousness, from endless darkness outside the warm circle of a fire.
Are monsters just those who are more closely connected to this vast well of memory? Was Hitler born a monster or did he become one? How about Jeffrey Dahmer? Could a child be born with the need to destroy, to eat flesh, to degrade another person to nothing? Can a child be born a dictator?
Or were all the wars this world has seen the prologue to the monsters to come? Did the hate and bitterness and rage from time unmentioned predispose some children to be born with emptiness in their souls?
What of the Grinch? How did he come into his grinchiness? Birth? Nature? Nurture? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could stand in a circle, holding hands, singing joy and love and peace to alter the heart of the coldest monster? To fill their souls with that same joy and love and peace.
But we can’t. It doesn’t work that way. The Grinch is made-up. Fiction. A story to teach us joy and love and peace overcome all evil. But I don’t think they do, not in the real world. The world is getting darker and harder when one would think the opposite should be true. Shouldn’t our growing knowledge of the universe – the increases in food and medicine and all things human – make the world better? Shouldn’t we care about global warming and starving children? Don’t we realize that it is our world we are killing? Or are we all born with something of the monster inside? Are monsters god’s dice toss, watching to see which way we go? Or are wars and monsters just fragments of a collected dream?
So which do you think comes first? The monster or the war?
Or are we all both?
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn