Evil is, as evil does
Today, I encountered a blog post titled The nazi-behaviour of the lefte (“Vänsterns nazistbeteende”), written by a member of the controversial and much maligned party Sverigedemokraterna (SD)—perfectly timed for the blog post I had planned. A pertinent quote:
I jämförelse med judarna i 1930 talets Tyskland har jag det avsevärt lättare. Men jag har drabbats av Berufsverbot och stötts bort från ett arbete. Man har inte målat Davidsstjärnan på min dörr, utan texten RASIST. Varför? Jag har varit folkvald riksdagsledamot för SD.
Är det någon skillnad i den grundläggande mekanismen om en jude får Davidsstjärnan målad på sin dörr och får yrkesförbud eller om en sverigedemokrat får sin dörr hatsprejad och likaledes beläggs med yrkesförbud?
Så vilka är de verkliga fascisterna?
(Compared to the Jews in the 1930s Germany, I have it considerably easier. But I have been affected by Berufsverbotw and been rejected from a job. The Star of David has not been painted on my door, but the text RACIST. Why? I have been a publicly elected member of parliament for SD.
Is there a difference in the basic mechanism if a Jew gets the Star of David painted on his door and receives a profession ban or if an SD member gets his door hate-sprayed and also receives a profession ban.
So, who are the real fascists?
This is a special case of something I have seen again and again: Some people are merely because of their opinions considered so evil that evil actions are taken against them in the name of good. To make matters worse, as with SD, the opinions in question are normally not even the actual opinions of the victims, but the opinions that their abusers claim they would have…
The politically correct, leftists, self-proclaimed anti-racists and equally self-proclaimed anti-fascists are among the dominant sources of such evil. (A recurring topic in my writings. Cf e.g. , .) These people are often blind to the burning cross in their own eyes, while complaining loudly about the ember in their neighbour’s.
Let us repeat and generalize that important question:
So, who are the real fascists?
So, who are truly evil?
The underlying problem seems to be the neglect of a simple principle:
Evil is, as evil does.
It is neither urges nor opinions that determine whether someone is evil, but his actions. Indeed, the figure who actually considers himself evil is found in children’s cartoons and comic books—not real life. Even the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao tend to see themselves as … good. Did Hitler kill Jews because he enjoyed causing suffering or out of a mere disregard for human life? No: He did so because he considered the Jews a force of evil that must be fought with all means for the benefit of society … Whether he tried to exterminate Jews, Nazis, the educated, or sailors is beside the point, as are his exact motivations: What matters is that he tried to exterminate and in doing so caused the world an evil that outweighed anything positive he (strictly hypothetically) could have achieved.
To bring out the difference between action and thought, consider two people:
The first is a pedophile. The second is dedicated to the well-being of fellow humans. The first has resisted every urge, for fear of harming children. The second is a believer in corporeal punishment as a means of building character and discipline, and takes every opportunity to give a child a solid thrashing.
Which of the two does harm in this world and which is harmless?
Now, some may protest that the pedophile is an accident waiting to happen or that the risks are too large. To a large part, this is just prejudice, built on media portrayals and political propaganda: To my knowledge, there is no indication whatsoever that pedophiles would be more different from non-pedophiles than homosexuals from non-homosexuals, Christians from atheists, or women from men. (Indeed, compared to the last case the difference is bound to be smaller, and the same may well be true for typical individuals in the former two cases.) Further, most of us spend a majority of our lives with sex partners that are far from what we consider optimal—or go without partners entirely. Why should pedophiles be considered unable to control themselves when almost everyone else is?
Indeed, this is one of the most common problems with the issue: It is seen as near unavoidable that the pedophile will lose control and rape the neighbour’s children; that the member of the “extreme right” will (metaphorically or literally) build concentration camps and invade Poland, should he land in power; etc. Notably, this happens even when the risk is objectively small and when in direct opposition to the own judgment or stated opinion of the presumed perpetrator. A particular problem is circular reasoning along the lines of “X is evil because he has opinion A. That X denies having opinion A is irrelevant—after all, he is evil and, therefore, a liar.”, which leaves the victim without a defense.
Besides, if we set out to eliminate every possible risk of evil, we would create a despotic police state with no regard for human rights—which certainly would be a thing of very great evil.
To expand on the above discussion of Hitler: How do we know that Hitler was evil? Well, Hitler’s evil did not manifest in hating Jews or being a nationalist—but in waging unjustifiable wars and committing genocide. If we look merely at his opinions and ideology, there are, today as well as then, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people with opinions of a similar extremeness—some on the left, some on the right; some Christian, some Muslim, some atheist; some men, some women; some German, some Tibetan; some vegan, some meat loving; some racist, some anti-racist; … What makes the difference is not what they believed, but what they actually did. Someone who hates Jews is merely misguided—not evil. Someone who kills the Jew-hater, despite his being innocent of anything other than thought—now, he is evil. Indeed, if hate against a particular group of people was a crime worthy of punishment (be it capital or otherwise), then very few of us would go unpunished: Those of us who have never hated another group, no matter their current feelings, are a very small minority. Then again, how many of us actually acted on that hate? In contrast, how many have now overcome it?
My urgent plea to those who are convinced that they do the work of good and that the means justify the end against the evil they fight: Remember that “evil is, as evil does” and re-examine your own actions for signs of actually having become a greater evil than the evil you set out to fight. The road to Hell is built with good intentions.
Disclaimer: The above is not intended to be a full treatment of the concept of “evil”, and deliberately ignores a number of issues (including whether evil truly exists and whether e.g. a mentally ill person could be considered evil). The topic is more narrowly focused on a “bad guy”/“good guy” differentiation.