What makes you evil?

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© Salvatore Vuono @ freedigitalphotos.net

William Tanner

Intern @ GoneWithTheWord

In today’s chaotic world, there is a lot of emphasis being put on the battle between good and evil. Gone are the primary colored superheroes of the 1980s where Superman gallantly defended the world from evil, and where there were no questions about who was good and who was bad. 

In today’s world, it is often harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In fiction, it can be even harder to write characters who transcend the two-dimensional limitations of good-guy hero and bad-guy villain. Good guys win and play by the rules. Bad guys do bad things for bad reasons. Right?

Not so much. Not in today’s world where heroes often are forced to do bad things for good reasons, making the collection of heroic deeds murkier.

For example: you see someone shoot a woman holding her newborn baby in her arms. Killing a mother holding a baby is undeniably evil. Right?

But what if you learned this woman was about to throw the baby off a bridge. And she’d done it before as her demented version of belated birth control. Now who is evil? The shooter saving the baby? Or the woman? 

If you’re like most of us, you likely thought the shooter was evil until you learned the rest of the story and then your perspective shifted. Once you learned of the woman’s history and her intentions she then becomes the evil in the story and the shooter becomes the hero. If the shooter shows remorse later for what he had to do to save the baby then we assume he is a good person forced into bad actions. Therefore, he does not match the definition of evil.

People who take pleasure in doing bad things are bad. People who strive to hurt people are bad. Well, except governments and law enforcement agencies who use persuasive tactics (i.e., varying degrees of torture) to extract information about drug deals, terrorism or pending destruction. Is that still bad or evil? Or does the potentially thousands of lives they save make it okay?

What evil really comes down to is perception. If the aggressor is similar to you, for example, he has the same values and beliefs; he is good being forced to do bad things.

However, if the aggressor is someone whose values are different from yours, you are more likely to perceive his actions to be evil, regardless to if the outcome could have otherwise been considered heroic.

Whether it is the real world or a fictitious one, most evil people perceive themselves to be the heroes. Heroes should be aware of that, and themselves too.

Remember, no one runs around the real or fictitious world saying to her self “Mwah uh uh, I am so evil.”



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