Evil and Must Be Destroyed

If something is evil, it is not to be understood. It is only to be destroyed. In fact, the word “evil,” and the phrase “must be destroyed” go together. “It is evil and must be destroyed,” was once the stuff of children’s cartoon dialog. In the 1989 film, Steel Magnolias, Ouiser (Shirley Maclaine) rebukes her friend Clairee (Olympia Dukakis), and tells her,
“you are evil and must be destroyed.”
It was a funny line. Since then a lot of things have been designated as “evil and must be destroyed.”

Interested in the popular culture’s tendency to link the concept evil with an imperative to destroy, I turned to my trusty internet search engine, and typed in the phrase “evil and must be destroyed.”

I read the claim that 40% of the population believes that liberals are evil and must be destroyed. On a Star Wars blog, I read that the Sith are evil and must be destroyed. On historyexplained.org, we read that the United States has historically, in effect, insisted that dictators are evil and must be destroyed.

Evil and must be destroyed?

Cincinnati, the font Papyrus, bacon-wrapped jalapeno thingies, sweet popcorn, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the handvac, the mainstream media, Newt Gingrich, Lady Gaga, dogs, cats, wasps, inheritance, derivatives, emulators, cartels, college football’s Bowl Champion Series, and everyone who isn’t part of Glenn Beck’s army of God have all been publically declared, by someone, “evil and must be destroyed.”

“Evil” and “must be destroyed” seem to be pretty tightly connected in the popular mind.

I prefer: evil and must be understood.

The better we understand what’s really going on, the better we can respond more effectively than a blind urge to destroy.

Evil – or what often gets called evil – takes social forms, as when whole groups reinforce each other in a mob mentality capable of genocide. Evil also takes anti-social form – as in individual sociopathy. That’s the form "The Liberal Pulpit" will explore in this "Evil & Sociopathy" series.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard reference work in the mental health field, sociopathy is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others as indicated by any three or more of the following seven:
  1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
  4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain steady work or honor financial obligations;
  7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
Why are there sociopaths? It might be a kind of genetic defect, like Tay-Sachs or Fragile X syndrome. But those have a specific mutated chromosome. Sociopathy is different. It’s an evolutionary strategy. There's a niche for the sociopath in the ecology of human society. Building and maintaining the networks of human society takes a lot of cooperation and coordination, and that, in turn, takes a lot of empathetic skill. Once you have a majority of people maintaining a society, there's space for a "free rider" to hop on. That's the sociopath's niche.

Cooperation is a difficult business. In being cooperative, we are at risk of being taken advantage of, suckered, conned, exploited. Yet proto-humans and humans have been slowly developing ways to provide us with the protections we need in order to safely cooperate. Setting up a police force and a legal system establishes outside enforcement that allows us to make contracts with some reassurance that we aren’t being suckered: there’s a system to enforce compliance. As our cooperation grew more extensive and elaborate, we inevitably created space for the free riders, the "cheaters on the social contract." In human evolutionary history, it turns out that about 2 percent of us will find noncooperation a viable strategy for staying alive and producing offspring.

* * *
This is part 2 of 4 of "Evil & Sociopathy"
Next: Part 3: "Carrying Capacity of Walter White"
Previous: Part 1: "'Evil' = Thought Stopper"

No comments:

Post a Comment