Evil? I Don’t Think So.
During the last years our politicians, playing to the lowest common denominator, have stressed the existence of evil in the world and the need to combat it. George Bush gave us the axis of evil; before him Ronald Reagan described the Soviet Union as the evil empire; and over images of British soldiers being killed in Iraq, Tony Blair called on the world to hit out against this ideology of evil.
Against these so called, rational, western leaders, there are the Islamist fundamentalists condemning the Great Satan, again, playing to people’s fears and feelings and, like their western counterparts, refusing to acknowledge their own responsibility in what is happening in the world.
For the time being the politicians seem to be getting away with this nonsense, simply because the people who vote for them are also not demanding rational argument.
My job brings me into contact, mainly, with writers and readers, and it is unusual in those circles to come across many who subscribe to the fancy of evil or the will to evil.
Small children sometimes believe that they do bad things but more mature people act against society or other individuals because they are psychopathic, or greedy or frightened or poor. They may commit crimes from some ideological or chauvinistic conviction, perhaps convincing themselves that the ends justify the means. Vandalism is not brought about by evil, but by envy or boredom.
It is sometimes necessary to point out to beginning writers that discerning readers do not want to see a crowd of hooligans destroying property for the sake of it, because they are evil; but in place of that vision perceptive writers will construct a number of individuals, each with his or her own motivation.
It used to be all right to show the crowd of hooligans, but we have moved on. It used to be all right to particularize the villain of the piece by a physical disability or by the colour of his skin or his ethnic background, but we have moved on.
Apparently it isn’t the case with politicians, they haven’t moved on; but as a writer, if you don’t move on and present a rational argument for your villain’s motivation, you will remain unpublished.
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