Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Evil and disregard for others

with 4 comments

The topic of evil has popped up repeatedly in my writings, including a few texts from earlier this December. I have long been tempted to write a more in-depth piece, attempting to classify and explain evils (but I probably will not), including the great influence of some characteristics that are very wide-spread among humans, e.g. stupidity and irrationality.* Another aspect is the difference and overlap between evil actions and evil outcomes.**

*Such characteristics are another reason why I take an “evil is as evil does” stance and why I see much greater similarities between the “extreme Right” and the “extreme Left” (often even the more moderate Left) than with other parts of the “Right”, e.g. traditional conservatives: the members of these groups are often very similarly minded, e.g. in that they are stupid and irrational, and might well have ended up on the “other side” had they been exposed to the other side’s propaganda first or more strongly. Similarly, Nazi-Germany and the USSR, and their respective ideologies, were in many ways evil twins, sides of the same despicable coin, opposites only in the sense that the two sides of any coin are opposites.

**Throwing a stone at a political enemy to prevent him from speaking is an evil action, but it need not lead to an evil outcome (e.g. because the stone lands harmlessly on the ground after a too weak throw). On the other hand, many well-intended acts can have evil outcomes (“the road to Hell …”), e.g. attempts to protect one group that reduces civic rights for everyone. Depending on context and point of view, even natural accidents, e.g. a lightning stroke, might be considered an evil outcome. At least for the purposes of this text, I will gloss over the differences.

One specific such characteristic (or family of characteristics?) that has been on my mind over the last year: a lack of concern for the rights and interest of others, or even the inability to understand that others do have rights and interests. This, obviously, in part due to the excessive renovations and other unnecessary noise-making that has taken place in my building during the last year (cf. earlier texts and below). However, a great many other examples can be found, including some having a society-wide impact, notably (kept) promises made by politicians for the sole purposes of ensuring re-election and “after me, the flood”,* warfare for personal glory, gross violations of civic rights to stay in power, … Or, on a more individual scale, murder for a wallet, suicide bombings, pyramid schemes, …

*Here some reservations has to be made for the intent behind this-and-that, e.g. in that a political promise might instead be explained by stupidity or ignorance in the area at hand. Similar reservations might apply elsewhere.

However, it is the many small examples that truly depress me, that prove how large the problem is, and that make me fear that this issue will be almost impossible to resolve, because e.g. replacing one crop of politician with another will merely replace one group of people prone to this attitude with another, proving that farmers and pigs have much in common. For instance, during a very recent four-day excursion to Bonn (where I spent hours each day walking around the city), I observed e.g. (a) how many willfully drove bikes on sidewalks* in order to increase their own convenience, (b) how employees of some type of “electric scooter” rental deliberately placed scooters in the middle (!) of the sidewalks, in order to increase the visibility (and, presumably, chance of a rental), with no regard for the obstacle this posed to pedestrians, (c) some marketing company or pseudo-charity** aggressively approached by-passers, even those obviously and deliberately trying to avoid the employees. (Of course, none of this is unique to Bonn or this time of year.)

*This is illegal in Germany, for good reasons, unless an explicit, announced by signs, exception has been made.

**A very sizable portion of the major charity organizations spend a disturbing amount of money on their directors, organizational costs, marketing, etc., with the well-being of the directors or the organization often taking precedence over the actual cause. (Analogous to problems around e.g. the IOC, FIFA, whatnot.) The employees harassing people in the street, at least in Germany, are typically not volunteering do-gooders—they work for a marketing firm hired by the charity.

Why was I on a four-day excursion to Bonn? Renovations started up again on the 19th, in form of hours upon hours of very, very loud hammer strokes. Even a conservative estimate lands at thousands of strokes that day alone (to what purpose, I do not know). I barely got through the day. On the 20th, the hammering started again, but this time less loudly, and I thought that I would manage. Then the drilling began … This at a volume that made a further presence intolerable. I left the building and made the impromptu decision to go to Bonn until the evening of the 23rd, having received notification that the works would allegedly be ended on the 23rd. (Going by the noises today, the 24th, the main Christmas day in Germany, this was not true, even though the disturbance today was much smaller.)

This provides yet another example of the complete disregard for others discussed above, even the works*, themselves, aside: it would cost next to nothing to just put up a sign at the house-door two weeks earlier, warning those living in the house that e.g. “I have ordered renovation works between the 19th and the 23rd. There might be some considerable noise. For any questions, please call [etc.]”—something which would have both lessened the impact of the negative surprise and made it easier to work around, e.g. through a better planned** trip. How did I know that the works were supposed to end on the 23rd? No sign, that is for sure: I had contacted the authorities for advice on my situation on the 19th, and there was apparently some type of record.***

*I have serious doubts as to whether this type of work, especially in a year which has already had months upon months of loud renovations, can be justified; however, there is at least an obvious “egoistical trade-off”: the renovator improves his apartment and someone else takes the hit. With the lack of sign, there is no such trade-off, the costs of a sign being dwarfed by the benefit to the others living in the house. Is the perpetrator truly too stupid to understand the damage done or is it a matter of simply not giving a fuck? (Other explanations exist, but all seem far less likely to me, e.g. that there was a sign, that someone tore it down, and that the perpetrator did not discover this until it was too late.)

**Indeed, because I made up my mind long after leaving the apartment, even deciding on the destination only after my arrival at the train-station, I did not even have a change of clothes or a tooth-brush with me.

***I have not investigated the details of or reasons for this, but it is remarkable that someone would bother to notify the authorities without seeing the need to notify those actually exposed to the disturbance.

Excursion on stupidity as a root cause/characteristic:
A problem with stupidity is that it tends to pervade a person’s being, development, other characteristics, whatnot. For instance, someone more intelligent is more likely to have an awareness of others and the potential consequences of actions on others, more likely to have a better developed ethical system, more likely to be able to put himself in the other party’s shoes (“do unto others …”), etc. In this, stupidity is the root cause of many other problems, be they related to evil or not. (Unrelated examples include a lesser likelihood of being proficient at a given task and a lesser return on education.) Both Hanlon’s Razor and the Dunning–Kruger effect are notable in this context.

Excursion on this Christmas:
If today is the main day of Christmas in Germany (and Sweden), why am I writing and not celebrating? The days in Bonn contained a never ending stream of Christmas decorations, trees, sales, whatnot—I need to come up for non-Christmas air. There will be some food and Christmas related DVDs tomorrow.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 24, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] Two issues in the overlap between some recent texts ([1], [2]): […]

  2. […] Excursion on working conditions, etc.: It is well-known that the individual deliverers are under undue time and whatnot pressure, putting the ultimate blame on DHL. However, this does not absolve the individual deliverer. If in doubt, pushing the problem onto the recipients merely ensures that the situation will not improve for anyone. This is, by DHL, the individual deliverer, and (sometimes) the sender, another example of evil through ignoring the rights of others. […]

  3. […] my recent trip to Bonn, I picked up a number of books in the larger-/better-than-in-Wuppertal bookstores. Among these, two […]

  4. […] own happiness needs extension with “human lack of respect for others”, as above. Also see e.g. [3] and […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s