I think that most people, at some point in their lives, will have thought about and probably discussed the nature of what is ‘good’ and ‘evil’; what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. And most people, if asked, would state that they have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, that they are decent people with a solid moral core. If they are parents they will say that they are raising their offspring to be decent, honest people who respect others and who know when, and how, to do the right thing if confronted with a difficult decision or moral dilemma.
It all sounds marvelous; but, if everyone on the planet is doing the right thing, why exactly is there so much that is bad in the world, so much death, destruction and general, all round misery? Someone out there must be doing the bad stuff, the malicious and the evil – mustn’t they? But who ever owns up to it? Who actually stands up raises their hand and declares with a look of well-earned pride: yes it was I – I did it all, I’m the evil bastard you’re looking for. Just think back over the last decade and a half – a period where there actually existed, according to some people, an axis of evil. Saddam Hussein didn’t declare himself to be evil, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn’t and neither did Kim Jong Il. Hitler didn’t for that matter, nor Stalin, Amin, Pol Pot, Pinochet or Mugabe. The leaders of Al-Qaeda didn’t announce that they were here to do evil to their followers and I’d bet that Islamic State doesn’t incite evil in their acolytes. I’m sure though that they all spoke or speak of the ‘good’ that they are here to do and will attest, with certainty, to the righteousness of their actions.
The doers of all that good aren’t content to only judge their own actions, they are naturally inclined to have a very clear definition of what is bad in others and what wrong with their actions, and will often try to correct or eliminate those who are perceived as: not good. The Nazi’s believed they were doing ‘right’, doing ‘good’ when they committed to mass murder as a means of answering the ‘Jewish question’ – ISIS fanatics believe that they are doing ‘good’ when they slaughter non-believers, throw gay men from the top tall buildings, rape women and girls or behead aid workers.
The problem that we have today, that we have always had, for as long as people have held beliefs, is all of the ‘good’ that is carried out because of them. It is when beliefs, as they so often do, become absolutes and the neurotic control freaks that need them finally decide to act that things turn ugly. It is at this moment: when the ‘good’ is being done that the misery, pain and death and for the: ‘bad’, ‘evil’, ‘immoral’, ‘deviant’, for the ‘other’ starts.
In my experience it is often the case that those who must proclaim that they possess a particular virtue are the ones who are almost entire devoid of it, while those who exhibit such a quality simply let their actions speak for themselves.