Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Makes Us Evil?

In our everyday lives do we ever stop to question if our actions are for the good of our lives and those around us or if they are evil?If these deeds that we think are good are really evil deeds. That we are not in the right but that who we perceive as our enemy is in fact in the right.This notion of good and evil is addressed in Pumla Gonbodo-Madolozela’s book A Human Being Died that Night. This story is about South Africa and the forgiveness involved in the post-apartheid era.

What is the nature of evil?How does a person like you or me become evil?Where is the line that separates good from evil.“It is this sense of a paper-thin line that is most frightening and most discomforting about those moments when our lives connect, however remotely, with the lives of people who have committed evil deeds.” (pp 50)Do we as a society try and explain this through the concept of mental illness.Does this comfort us to believe that these people are sick?However, “it has often been said that most of the people who commit human rights abuses are not psychopaths.” (pp52)But they do have to suppress there conscience somehow to allow themselves to commit horrible acts against others.

One view is that people who suffer at an early age can be predisposed to the establishment or basis for a life long pattern of revenge-based behavior.That their behavior is an endless cycle of violent behavior aimed at relieving unresolved feelings of being humiliated.This view would partially excuse Eugene de Kock, in some sense he might have had little choice in the human being that he became.But then if he was not in control of the actions he did, than how could we trust that he would not do them again.Would this line of thinking just lead us to the conclusion that he is evil, even if he did not choose to be.On the other hand some believe the sovereignty of the heart is essentially inviolable.“And though the decision to pursue what is right may on occasion be horrendously difficult, not only canpeople choose not to commit evil, but also they can make the kinds of choices that later on make it easier to avoid committing evil.” (pp 56)So even if he was abused as a child he was born to be evil.But eventually we realize that this issue is more complex than these two theories even come close to touching. The reality for de Kock is that he never denied what he did and he is now serving 2 life sentences for his actions during apartheid.

But what of the people who told de Kock what to do.He didn’t just wake up one morning and decided to become a murder, involved in the up keep of apartheid rule.The leaders of the South African government place all the blame on men like de Kock and his band of men, the foot soldiers, for all the atrocities of apartheid.They label them bad apples.In an address at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government F.W. de Klerk said that “my hands are clean” of the crimes committed by de Kock and the others.“In a ‘state of war’ foot soldiers in their zeal often go beyond what is legally acceptable and commit acts that are not authorized by the government.” (pp 60) The apartheid politicians never denied that what was done was criminal they denied that they were ever involved or knew anything about it.

This state of denial of the blame for apartheid is in direct contrast to the way that the leaders of Nazi Germany came to terms with the crimes committed under their regime.“The Nazis never denied involvement in what they had ordered, supported, or encouraged.What they denied was that it was criminal. ” (pp 66) So which leadership type betrays the greatest level of depravity?Personally I believe the depravity lays more with the ones who deny their involvement.For they feel the guilt and know that they were wrong but they continue to do it anyways and hope that they either never get caught or if they do they have distanced themselves far enough away that no on put the blame on them.But in the end either way it is horrific.Governments are put into place to protect the people not to harm them, but as weknow this is not always the case.

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