Posted by: Tony Carson | 11 November, 2009

Evil — asking the questions

Is there such a thing as pure ‘evil’ within the human capacity? Does it lurk in our DNA? Or is ‘evil’ an aspect of our psychology, arrived at through sociological-inspired sickness?

That question is as old as ‘nature vs nurture’ and ‘the meaning of life.’

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and Sniper John Allen Muhammad are this week’s evil incarnate. Both have their story, both did the unforgivable, but to write them off as evil is to dismiss them without thought. Why did they do what they did? Could they have been helped? What does it say about us and society?

These are the questions of a liberal: there will be answers if we look for them, and there will be lessons in these answers.

But there is another take. After twenty-five year-old Marc Lépine killed 28 people, mainly women, in Montreal in December 1989, a woman came on our local radio station and said “all men are capable of what Lepine did.” She was a conservative. Her point was that evil lurks in all of us, we just need a spark to get it out, in this case misogyny.

I don’t buy it. Yes, we can all be pushed to sickness. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a relatively newly discovered illness, can account for a multitude of sins. And so can Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and any number of poorly understood conditions. And what will we learn in future as we more fully understand the brain?

But in the absence of a definitive answer to: ‘is there evil in us?’ we reduce the question to yet another ideological divide: liberal vs conservative.

Who knows who is right?

All we know is who is asking the questions.

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