Many mass killers and criminals have become heroes and they have their fans. How often do we see evil characters in movies and novels earning our sympathy, being given the best lines and starring roles, and are portrayed as victims of an oppressive and bullying modern-day society, and dressed with an agreeable niceness that makes us think, “Oh what a shame…” Could there be a link?
When baddies are adored and people love them, then they love the evil that they do. How many times have we heard the excuse, “The devil made me do it…” as a common way of absolving oneself from guilt, when actually the attempted fulfilment of perverse desires is the ugly, embarrassing truth? Another plea is, “I don’t know what came over me…” Others act with coldly calculated ideological wishes.
Fewer people are seeing their own actions as truly evil.... It is usually left to their victims to decide what is evil and what is not. Scriptwriters clamour to epitomise evil characters that possess charm, wit, intelligence, ‘love’ and sympathetic vulnerabilities. When these baddies grace the big screens and affect empathic viewers, can these blur the distinctions between good and evil in them?
This blur or distortion can be most concerning if the most detestable evil in the world is the evil that dresses itself in such a way that people cannot detest it. Are the baddies that make wickedness beautiful the most utterly to be despised? Yet, who is evil and who is good? And by what measurement or standard? Are there any universals amid disparate peoples and cultures of the world?
While standards differ, how many ‘cool’ and hip revellers like to patronise trendy nightclubs with names like Caligula and Nero, or profess an affinity for Marquis De Sade type debauchery? People who are afraid to confront the disagreeable evil realities of life, preferring to remain in a state of ‘blissful’ ignorance, can somehow try to counteract it with closeness to death and all perverse things related.
How many more people, being frustrated by religion and the establishment, eschew ‘divine’ ideals in favour of ‘survival of the fittest’ or deterministic modes of living, not caring for ‘fanciful’ Biblical threats of hell or ‘divine’ retribution in the form of ‘thunderbolts’ and other traditional ‘God-sent’ chastisements?
Srila Prabhupada usually used the word ‘ignorance’ to describe a debased state of mind. Whether by choice or design, many of us are alarmed at the rate of societal degeneration. Yet others are not aware, being too conditioned to notice. Ignorance then, is the glove in which evil slips its hand. Evil has many convenient guises to help make it acceptable.
If no God exists, as is the growing ‘enlightened’ creed, then the paradoxes of good and evil lose meaning. The usual ‘good vs evil’ we all side with is unknowingly replaced by ‘good vs good,’ when evil turns acceptable and good. Necessary evil becomes desired evil.
Can we imagine a communist group of scientists creating their perfect good robot, and a free-market corporate group of scientists creating their perfectly good robot, and then seeing how these robots will hate each other perfectly?
When a system of evil or ignorance prevails, there is no possibility of doing evil – at least it doesn’t register that way. When animals are mass slaughtered for profit or for meat eating contests that awards mention in record books, such apathy is viewed as good. Is there any limit to how far ignorance or evil can go?
According to Bhagavad-Gita As It Is (BG 2.63-4) Lord Krishna says that when one’s intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool. To the degree of evil committed, or the level of ignorance acquired, one can sink down into abominable situations. This means that one can fall into a condition where evil and ignorance are accepted as normal and convenient. This sounds familiar already…
To become a replicated bacterial blob or a piece of rock situated in a place where the sun never shines, somewhere deep within the earth’s crust or down in the perpetually dark depths of the ocean is a fitting scenario, according to truly enlightened warnings. Funny how scientific and inquisitive minds show energetic fascination in ‘discovering’ and studying such life forms. The consequences of evil deeds hold great attraction for the curious.
The same morbid allure pervades areas of entertainment and reading matter, while wartime and deathly 24/7 international news coverage helps to desensitise increasingly hardened and satiated audiences. Yet children and adults cry with shock when they visit an abattoir – if only they had glass walls.
If people think that by being religious they can condemn such evil influential behaviour, are they above the tendency to commit evil from a ‘religious’ perspective, especially in the absence of remorse? Where there is no remorse, how can there be evil?
There are people who have misconceptions of a God, thinking He is relegated to a weak and ineffectual position as some spiteful and indifferent spectator, watching over all our natural disasters and suffering. Such a God doesn’t appear very threatening for those intent on doing evil.
Since evil lurks everywhere it is easy to attribute it to some presiding all pervasive being who seems a formidable opponent of God. Notwithstanding all genuine evil influences and those of our own doing when reaping what we sow, there is one outstanding quality that allows evil to prevail.
Among the various symptoms of evil or ignorance, the quality of apathy allows the objectionable to flourish. Feeling sorry for criminals, giving a hero status to mass political or cultish killers, looking the other way, and giving martyrdom to slain terrorists, enhance the paradox of evil seen as good or holy or vice-versa.
Depending on which side of the evil/good equation we happen to be, we shall never get an absolute sense of evil so long as humanity insists on siding with one race, ethnicity, ideology or religion over another. Besides, nature herself can wreak a ‘vengeance’ far more competently than we can imagine.
From where does such unimaginable gruesomeness come? If we think of the extremely fertile imaginations of the human mind and its capacity to put evil thoughts into action, why should we be surprised at what nature or destiny throws at us? With nature and our endless mix of petty human preferences causing all the ‘evil’ in the world today, our experts are at a loss for answers.
Actions and reactions persist, and people and nature hardly coexist. This explosive mix will result in what we perceive as evil. But being faced with this inevitability, is there a possibility of recognising that perhaps evil does have a purpose? If human misery stems from evil or ignorance, do we really have to accept it as finality in our lives?
The underground bacteria and deep sea dwellers know nothing except their immediate environments – sheer ignorance. From an enlightened perspective this existence is outright to be avoided, whereas it is captivating for the curious. An enlightened perspective recognises that evil and ignorance are necessary implements to jolt us to a semblance of reality.
The same enlightenment will know that one enemy is responsible for evil, sometimes masquerading as good. “It is lust only…” says a friendly fulfiller of all desires (BG 3.37) and it transforms into senseless rage or wrath. “It is an all-devouring enemy… and there are different degrees of it…” (BG 3.18) Lord Krishna delineates evil under the term ’lust.’
Some mass killers enjoy attention and infamy. Isn’t that lust? Claims of “the devil made me do it…,” is ‘shift-the blame’ lust. “I don’t know what came over me..” is delusion caused by blind lust. When killing on ideological grounds, isn’t that also lust?
This enemy causes loss of intelligence and judgement resulting in apathy. Apathy allows silent assent for evil deeds while being oblivious to natural consequences, and gaining from its actions – pious acquiescence. It seeks to hide suffering with a multitude of modern aphorisms that hypnotise with matrix-like ease. If suffering is a means to an ideological end, lust will ensure there remains no end to suffering.
Existing we are, as bodily manifestations of lust, wishing to emulate an all-loving opposite of lust, primed and motivated for control and exploitation. On this podium, all of us have evil within, and some of us have chosen goodness based on divinity. Simple faith as this cuts through all abstract human analysis and resolves for opposing evil with its good guises. But this is just the very beginning of human and divine understanding yet.