The Prisoner (of Fate & Chaos), by Eric Wayne, 2017.

We’re not allowed to talk about evil in polite society. It’s considered almost so backward as to be medieval. But the real reason is that evil will not stand for being pointed out and always masquerades as good. Nobody comes right out and acknowledges that they are doing evil things, except perhaps the Marquis de Sade and Machiavelli. The reason life is so difficult now and most people are bracing themselves for a dystopian future is that evil has triumphed over good on a massive scale and infected most people.

I’m not a saint, myself. But I sure as hell am not evil. Some people will quip, “One person’s good is another’s evil”. That is not true. What that really means is that what is good for one person, such as cornering the market on a product, is bad for another. The person monopolizing the market, as Bill Gates tried to do with browsers and so on, doesn’t think he’s doing a good thing. He’s just trying to improve his own situation by accruing more assets for himself. Generally speaking, selfishness and “good” are not the same thing.

So, what is my definition of evil? It is to knowingly do harm to others, usually for personal gain. The first example that pops into my head is a classic, partly because I lived in China for over 5 years. Before someone accuses me of racism, I certainly don’t think Chinese people are more or less evil than anyone else. It’s a matter of the mind, not the body. Race has absolutely nothing to do with it. Companies that made baby formula were putting in fake ingredients in order to maximize profits, and babies were dying of malnutrition because of this. Naturally, the people putting the garbage ingredients into the formula would not feed it to their own children. On a similar note, there was a banner in the city I lived in warning citizens about restaurants putting “gutter oil” in food. Same thing: restaurants would collect oil out of gutters and use it to cook with to cut corners. They would not eat this food themselves, of course, but would serve it to customers. It is safe to say that I have probably imbibed several ladles worth of gutter oil in my life.

When I was a wee lad, I got to go to “Sunday School”. What I remember is the religious art and only the most rudimentary moral teachings. It doesn’t matter what religion or where one gets the ideas. I might have gotten them from Saturday morning cartoons. I can’t remember. But I’ve lived with two simple notions since I was in my single digits. 

One is the Golden Rule, and you should all know it and probably have anticipated that I was going to say it. None of this is complicated. “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”. Or, to put it even more directly, “Don’t do something to someone else that you wouldn’t want them to do to you”. If you don’t want your dumplings fried in oil filtered out of the gutter, don’t serve that to someone else to eat.

I have a friend who made arguments against the Golden Rule. His first was that “evil” was a concept of supernatural intervention, and tied in with superstitions and all that. It need not be at all. I don’t think the devil made people put gutter oil in my food.

His next argument was that a masochist might like things done to them that a sadist wouldn’t, er, in the bedroom. So, that couple won’t be happy if they restrict themselves to doing onto others what they want done to themselves. Riiiiiiiiiight. So, to be less perverse about it, if I like super spicy food, and I have a guest over that likes bland food, if I apply the Golden Rule, I’m going to make my guest miserable. These examples are finding exceptions to very literally applying the Golden Rule, and then dismissing it entirely because of it. If you know someone is allergic to a food, and you deliberately hide it in a meal you prepare for them, that’s evil.

We can get more academic about it and say, “What if the person you are poisoning is Vlad the Impaler, and he plans on slaughtering dozens of children tomorrow?” That’s a more complex moral argument. The person who puts gutter oil in your soup isn’t doing it because you are about to go on a killing spree; they are doing it to make money.

The second idea I picked up as a little kid was “karma”. I imagine that the first thing people are taught in the upper echelons of society when it comes to how to beat the masses and keep them down is that karma is fiction. It’s a belief or feeling that if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you, and if you do good things, good things will happen to you in return. Laughable. If you do evil in the world to unsuspecting decent people, it’s like taking candy away from a baby, and you will do very well by yourself. Just tell yourself that you are smarter than them. 

Evil easily triumphs over good, even if it is stupid evil going up against intelligent good. No matter how hard Nancy Kerrigan trained at ice-skating, the simple brute trick of hitting her leg with a police baton nearly destroyed her career. If you are trying to protect yourself from being attacked, you need to think of every way someone could attack you and prepare to defend yourself. In order to attack someone else, you need to only think of one way of doing it. It is always easier to be evil.

These days, we judge people primarily by their biology and political affiliation, am I right? And there is the problem that evil will brand good as evil. Just think of the Inquisition’s burning “witches”. They presented themselves as purging the world of evil while doing its most dastardly and disgusting deeds. But apply the Golden Rule. Would you want to be burned alive? Stoned to death? Stretched out on the rack? What we should be thinking about is whether someone is a decent person or not.

I’m not setting the bar that high. I’m not saying someone needs to be a saint or serve others. I’ll settle for people not knowingly doing things to others that they fully know are rotten and which they absolutely would not want anyone to do to themselves. And the reason the world is in such a bad state, and people are so pessimistic about the future is precisely because powerful people are doing evil on purpose for personal gain as a matter of daily business.

For another example, while being fully aware, according to their own internal research, that Facebook was causing depression and suicide among teen girls, Zuckerberg and his upper management planned to market Facebook to younger children in order to make billions more dollars. THAT is evil!

When tobacco companies similarly knew that cigarettes caused cancer in a high percentage of people using their product, they paid sell-out scientists to bend statistics and data to lie to the public about the dangers of smoking. THAT is evil!

There is so much of that big, corporate evil going on that our lives are getting squeezed, and our futures are dimming. We can be confident that the military industrial complex, the big banks, the student loan providers, the fossil fuel industry, animal factory farming, big tech and big pharma are practicing evil with reckless abandon and self-congratulation, meanwhile demonizing their critics. If you don’t know, it is evil that is behind the smearing of RFK Jr., who has spent his adult life as an environmental lawyer protecting poor, minority, working class, and indigenous people from corporations that knowingly and deliberately polluted their environments for excess monetary benefits far beyond what they needed to run profitable businesses. Those same corporations are donors to news organizations and politicians that do their bidding. You don’t take millions from a company in sponsorship and then call them out for corruption, you lie to the public about anyone who would take them to task.

In our daily lives, we all struggle with evil within ourselves. That is the burden of being a self-aware intelligence with free will and agency. As we adopt the values of the elite corporations and politicians who practice evil as a matter of course—ex., making profit is an unquestionable good—we become more evil ourselves. One of my favorite examples is the idea of doing evil “for my family” or for one’s country. This was also enormously popular in China. If you are causing other people’s babies to die of malnutrition, you can tell yourself that you are doing it in order to give your own children the chance of a good life, free of harm, and pat yourself on the back.

As simplistic and childish as it seems, more and more I’m seeing life as the battle of good and evil, and right now evil and stupidity are triumphing over good and intelligence. It’s time to call out evil for what it is. And no I don’t mean labeling people “deplorable” because they believe in another candidate! THAT can itself be an evil act done in selfish self-interest in a bid for power. I mean people hurting other people on purpose in order to benefit oneself.

If good people were running the show, the world would be amazing and getting better all the time. We wouldn’t be worrying about a nuclear winter, environmental destruction, economic collapse, a new pandemic, losing our retirement, or being made redundant by AI/robotics. All of those things are the inevitable blowback of large-scale corruption and greed. And ordinary people have to pay the price for the evil of their leaders and ruling class.

~ Ends

8 replies on “Runaway Rant: How to Recognize Evil

  1. Eric excellent article as usual. I try to imagine a better world and have hope, I feel humanity in its core has goodness, and at the same time there are a lot of people unaware of their own creations. I imagine a world where kids learn that we are the creators of our own reality and then we have to take responsibility, of everything we create in our lives, therefore nobody would even want to create evil. It is an Utopia maybe but I like to dream and always believe utopias can became real.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This has been a fantastic read! The conversations you start are always so exciting to me that I find it very difficult to organise my thoughts, so please bear with lol. Firstly, you’re right that evil and stupidity are winning the battle at the moment. I’m trying to remain optimistic that good and sensibility haven’t lost the war, but honestly, it’s getting exhausting and very difficult. Unfortunately, because of their success, it seems to be breeding more evil and stupidity. It seems as though people are resorting to ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. It’s sad the number of times I’ve heard someone say ‘you don’t get anywhere in this world/life by being nice/good’ and heartbreaking that it feels true.
    I wonder if part of the issue is that people really DON’T recognise evil (hopefully more will read this post and give it some thought). Like you mentioned, some people think of evil as something supernatural. They have this idea that evil is the devil himself with horns, cloven hooves and pitchfork when, or they equate it with some heinous act they would never commit. But they don’t seem to equate it with the more common levels of selfishness/greed you described. And you’re right: putting gutter oil (ew, ew, ew) in people’s food is pure evil. Putting fake ingredients in baby formula is pure evil. Hiking the price of/withholding lifesaving drugs is pure evil. There are no two ways about that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kiki. That one really was a “rant”. I get the impression you may have come to the same conclusions as me on your own. I still seem to always be inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, and have a hard time believing people are evil. I would much rather believe that they are confused, misled, having some momentary lapse, society made them do it, they were abused, etc. I will see the action as evil, but not really the person. I really find that I think deep down everyone is somehow innocent, and you just need to appeal to that part of them… But it’s just not the case. It’s very hard for me to accept. I’m still struggling with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An understandable rant and, honestly, similar to one I’ve had in my head many times. I agree that actions are evil and I do prefer to think the action is evil first, but I also believe that some people are evil – the whole person, just rotten to the core. As much as I say this, it never gets easy to accept and I don’t think it should. I still try to give people the benefit of the doubt…but am very rarely surprised when I realise they didn’t deserve it. Disappointed, but not surprised. Still, on a brighter note, I’ve met more kind, caring people than I have awful ones, so that gives me hope there are still more out there. How we get good people into positions of power to help reverse the turn the world has taken? …That I don’t know.

        Liked by 1 person

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