As a person who's job it is to provide media that helps prevent radicalisation, delinquency, and crime (as stated on the Homunculus Media homepage), as soon as I saw this title I knew I wanted to read it. The book is not too long and yet covers a wide scope of aspects within the social phenomenon that is evil. My aim, as a writer, is to develop a style that allows people to fully embrace a positive mindset through inspiration and education. It was natural for me, therefore, to want to find out what professionals are saying about this subject so I can further enforce my own personal values.
As the book begins, we look at the role of the word evil in our lives and what it suggests. The psychology of labels with negative connotations makes the word especially potent. We know that evil things happen all the time, and what one person considers evil is not necessarily the same for another. There is a blurring of lines in what qualifies for this premium spot in the hall of shame. We're given an insight into the most basic element of evil in the way we draw pleasure from other people's suffering. Laughing at the misfortunes of others is the small side of the scale, causing serious harm in order to gain satisfaction can be the top end. Sometimes we feel that a person deserves pain and suffering and we gain pleasure from providing it. Is it evil to lock up a murderer and throw away the key? Is it evil to gleefully watch as they rot away in their cell?
What makes people want to cause harm and death to others in the first place? We get emotional about things and react in ways that society doesn't approve of. Our animal nature is brought out of the human veneer and we take actions without due regard for the future or the other people. We ascribe evil to this kind of behaviour when it would be expected from a rhinoceros or a silver-backed gorilla. What about being a human being differentiates the evil behaviour from natural reaction to pain and suffering? Is it because we feel our pain abstractly in the form of language and metaphor that can be fuelled by the collaboration of others?
There are things out there that we might call evil but are not, we can project evil onto things because of how they appear too. What is it about society that gives us the impression certain things are evil, and is it deeper than our culture? If we are shown a particular kind of face with verbal evil attributions is it to be expected that we learn to associate this stereotype with evil and frame our thoughts accordingly? Or is this in fact an evil behaviour in itself? Why is the unusual person who says different things frightening? Why do we fear the strange? A lot of these questions are looked at with genuine thought.
The author goes into the disturbing reality of bestiality and paedophilia. Sexual deviance has such a wide scope. There is a common thread in modern society that bi-sexual and homosexual people are sexually deviant. In many pre-western cultures such people were not shamed or regarded as wrong. There are behaviours that are universally regarded as wrong. A lot of zoophiles regard their relationships as consensual and loving. Is it right or acceptable to a human to claim this? We know animals can display body language in mating rituals but can we clearly ascribe this to wanting a relationship? It moves the book onto the next part, if a person is attracted to children and the child smiles and laughs with them, is this some kind of consent? We clearly know it is not. Is paedophilia an evil thing? These people cannot choose their sexuality much like you or I can't, so how does one respond if this happens to be you? You can't go to your friends for help. Society has not achieved a state where a person who experiences unwanted feelings of paedophilia can safely seek help without judgement. Because of this, many paedophiles are put off from seeking the guidance and counselling they desperately need. There are too many cries of kill him from people with others cheering them on for anyone who finds themselves afflicted to find the right help.
We get to look into the psychology of group think and the way we accept compromise on our own ideals when it seems the done thing. Eating meat for example is something many do but these same people find animal cruelty repulsive. This dissonance gives us a problem that we cannot resolve when we enjoy our lifestyle but don't enjoy how it is achieved. Rather than make the steps to rectify our situation we make excuses and end up doing what we know deep down is wrong. The world of business has a lot of financial and social incentives and it is all too easy to do morally questionable things in the name of profit.
It takes us to the final section which looks at why we don't speak out. Why do we stand in silence gawping at the suffering? I like to think this is changing in today's world, with more of the new generation choosing to change their ways and lifestyles to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The book draws to a close on the thought that evil people are just like you and me. We know about the iconic criminals who did despicable things but everyday evil is just as destructive. Being silent in times of deception and oppression, following wrongful orders, going along with the crowd, we all end up looking evil from someone's perspective. So how do we close on this? It's action that is evil, behaviour is evil, people are not evil but the well spring of behaviours. Let's make sure we behave our best at all times.
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