Big Rowan Ackison (greensh) wrote,
Big Rowan Ackison

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The Origins of Evil

Recently I wrote about the suffering of people and the situations that damage our psyches. A foundational piece of this examination is the 'evil' people who inflict harm on others. This article will look at the human faces of evil, offering some generalized explanations of why people do evil things.

Many years ago I saw the Clint Eastwood movie, "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly". I think I was a teenager. The film taught me about the morals and intentions of humanity. From it I learned that the "Good" can do harm, the "Bad" can be quite evil by action, but charming in appearance, and the "Ugly" can be evil by action, but harmless/confused in motivation. The result was shades of gray in which the action/motivation interplay of people is rarely completely understood.

To me, the Eastwood movie asked, "why do people do bad things?". This is the question that I find myself blogging about. The responses from my LJ friends indicate a level of pain and injury inflicted upon them by others. Some friends have been bravely forthcoming, sharing periods of deep and prolonged abuse. The sadness of the shared situations, and indeed my own, is that the people who hurt us are not mustache-twisting villains of the movies. The people who do evil to us are families, friends, co-workers, and well-intentioned groups. It would seem that the potential for good, or at the least neutrality, is equal to that of evil. Stuff still happens. If people are not inherently all good or all bad, the evil stuff will occur. It is my opinion that the majority of evil perpetrated upon people is from a grab-bag of unfortunate human states. While the outcomes are easily condemned, the origins can be forgivable in their very sadly comical flavors.

Below is my list of the origins of "Evil People". I will attempt to apply the labels of "Good", "Evil" and "Ugly" to them, with the understanding that no source of suffering is truly "Good", but the intentions may be so.

1) Sociopaths. Evil. These people are the small percentage that are "out of emotional/moral contact" with their fellow man. They are evil incarnate. EDIT NOTE: NOT ALWAYS TRUE. EDIT ADD: I guess I more wanted to stress the concept that the sociopath was largely uncompatible with human norms, often defined on a societal level. This lack of compatiblity leads to situations that are evil by expression. That said, the sociopath of one society may not be so for another. Likewise, the sociopath in one tribe/group may be seen as perfectly "normal" in another. The result is a condition that the sociopath can be evil in one group and neutral/benign in another. It is up to each group to determine how to deal with the sociopath. As an interesting example, the character on the cable TV show "Dexter" uses his "lack of empathy" to kill the bad sociopaths. At the same time he struggles to maintain a "normal" appearance to his gf and co-workers. Anti-heros in entertainment often start off with a mild case of "sociopathness". They develop empathy later, often sacrificing themselves in the end as a final expressio of empathy. Kudos to moonvoice for pointing this out.

2) Tough-Love. Good. Sometimes drastic measures have to be taken. The results can be unpleasant.

3) Revenge. Good/Ugly. Revenge is a mixed bag. Personally, I'm not too wild about the concept, but there are some who fully support revenge in the name of Judgment/Justice.

4) Addiction. Ugly. People do really dumb and mean stuff when appeasing an addiction.

5) Bored. Ugly/Evil. Bored people seek to make others their play-toys. IMO this is ugly when it is adult-on-adult or child-on-child. It shifts to evil when the abuse is adult-on-child or child-on-adult.

6) Damaged. Ugly/Evil. The very sad aspect of evil is it's ability to be transmitted to others. Abusive acts on a "non-evil" person can warp them into a person who, by their new nature, does more evil. A screw gets loose. The bubble moves a bit to the right.

7) Sickness. Ugly/Evil. People who are depressed or just mentally ill can do really bad stuff. My own mother fell into this category. A good person at heart, her manic-depressive illness drove her to be abusively neglectful.

8) Apathy/Lack of Focus. Ugly. Sometimes evil happens indirectly because people are either apathetic or aren't placing their attention where it needs to be. My dad did this while my mother was abusing us.

9) Rigid Dogma and Regulations. Good/Ugly. One size does not fit all. The misappropriate fit results in abusive consequences. This origin of evil is common to societal organizations (religion, government).

10) Stress. Ugly. When things must be done NOW, there are short-cuts made.

11) Peer/Group Pressure. Ugly/Evil. The group can 'make' an individual perpetrate acts that they would not do on their own.

12) Tough-Times. Good/Ugly. Sometimes things just get tough. Decisions have to be made about what does not get done.

13) Lust. Ugly/Evil. This is a cousin to 'addiction'. The 'I want' of lust strikes out at the non-consensual.

14) Power. Evil. Because they can. Because they have the ability. This is the one origin of evil that I truly despise.

15) Lack of Power/Attention. Ugly/Evil. Disempowered people do strike out. People want attention, any kind of attention. "Acting-Out" will occur when other avenues of expression are not available or denied.

16) Rage. Ugly/Evil. Evil becomes the physical/emotional/spiritual outlet of the emotion of rage. The people to which the abuse is directed may not be the perceived origin of the rage. They are just available in the moment.

17) Supernatural Influence. Ugly/Evil. This is a very much IMO thing. Personally I don't believe in a uber-evil deity. I do believe that there are discordant spirits that act from the already listed motivations, and then influence the world in subtle ways.

18) Fear. Good/Ugly/Evil. This is a BIG category, hence the only tri-label designation. At first I did not list this as a cause of evil because fear is a contributing factor in other origins. I put it in because I feel that I am acting my own "evil" acts solely (mostly!!!) because of fear of a person or experience.

An abusive person rarely has only one of these factors. The classic example would be the parent abusing the child. The parent may be expressing bored/sickness/stress/tough-times/rage. Any sum mix of human faces of evil is more toxic than its separate parts. The influences of evil can feed on each other, amplifying one another.

The list of human origins of evil is by no means complete. The eighteen points I've listed are a good starting point. The mixing of these root causes leads too an infinite variety of "reasons". All is not lost. I'm a BIG believer in self-awareness. We humans do mean, stupid things to each other. Awareness of motivation, desires, and intention allows us to STOP before the outward expression of an evil act occurs. The self-regulation of awareness can turn the evil action to an ugly one. The ugly act can be shift to good. Or perhaps, just maybe, we don't act out at all. It is a mix of choice, not-choice, and bad luck. It is also all part of the human experience. Love it or lump it, we're here for the ride.
Tags: evil, origins

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