In our world evil can sometimes be easily defined. We see it in far away countries ruled by oppressive dictators and more close to home in the frightening sadism of mass murders and shooters. An example of evil would be Adolf Hitler. A profoundly immoral and cruel man who brought death to over eleven million people and caused huge suffering to millions more. But more often than not the motives and intentions of a person can appear vague and the line between good and evil can be blurred. There have been many infamous people that lived before and after the time of Hitlers reign and all had their own excuses for committing horrendous crimes, But what I will be speaking about today is not their crimes but the reasons why they did them and what makes the evil inside them tick.
Most of you would agree that evil is not something you are born with but something that grows inside of you due to your environment. This could be due to a harsh upbringing or exposure to intense violence or another evil. So in some ways it seems that evil is almost a disease, one that can infect the minds of others in the presence of it. This makes sense, as almost all people considered cruel or “evil” are surrounded by family or people close to them that behave in a similar way. This in not only true for evil but also for family violence; a child beaten by their parents is often likely to beat their children too, thus an endless cycle of violence is created.
In almost every culture and religion around the world, good and evil are two completely separate things that never mix. For example in Hinduism the idea of Dharma divides the universe into these two states of righteousness and evil that are always working against each other. the same is seen in Greek mythology and Christianity with “evil” lurking underground. However for us this is not the case. evil is not a permanent state and neither is good and know one is entirely either of them, the gods are an example of what we aspire to be, something that is out of our reach. Because even the minds of mass murderers contain a little smidgen of good. If this is so, surely the minds of good and ordinary people would also contain a tiny smidgen of evil? In times of immense stress peoples minds can often completly change, they may begin to forget simple tasks, become snappy and aggressive and a hint of evil may even begin to show.
Evil is often caused by a lack empathy. Without empathy people see others as objects and nothing more and they therefore treat them accordingly, empathy for others is often lost slowly and can be due to blinding anger, revenge or pressures from an authority. The Nazis lost theirs due to societal pressures and the fact that Jews and anyone of colour were considered “subhuman” by their leaders. Their empathy was removed by the belief that Jews were subhuman objects which somehow validated the torture the Nazis would inflict upon them. This desensitizing occurred on both sides in world war two, such as American propaganda posters depicting enemies as animals. Every one of us has the ability to lose our empathy and sometimes we even do it to ourselves in times of stress or intense decision making. A hunter lining up a shot will not imagine the deer as a living breathing animal with its own chance at life but as a simple target nestled amongst the trees. It is in our nature to have evil inside of us but only a few in history have ever truly let it out.