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Reflections of a working writer and reader



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but as a writer, if you don’t move on and present a rational argument for your villain’s motivation, you will remain unpublished.

2 Responses to “Evil? I Don’t Think So.”

  1. Andrew says:

    “Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it….” General Douglas MacArthur (1957)
    While the subject has been broached:
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
    — H. L. Mencken
    Or Richard Perle, leading neo-con helpfully elucidates the worth of a projected evil ememy-“Dictators must have enemies. They must have internal enemies to justify their secret police and external enemies to justify their military forces.”
    Or Hermann Goering-it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

  2. Pearl says:

    That last paragraph sums up exactly the whole issue. There is no plausible accountability in the politics and/of journalism when it comes to terrorist boogie-men. I can’t understand why it still sells copy.