Friday, September 01, 2006

What is evil?

Disclaimer : The ideas and views expressed in the following blog are the author's alone and not of all members of the blog. Further opinions expressed on people / conclusions drawn are based on the author's conclusion from analysing various sources.

I have been getting quite a bit of feedback since I posted the the Blog on the Nuremberg Trials. This brings me to a conversation I had with my aunt today where I said Hitler and Gandhi were both alike - Both had a huge ego (stopping short of using the word megalomaniac), both were mass leaders, dictators, intolerant of others ideas, mass murderers (YES, MOHANDAS TOO), eccentric etc. But the biggest similarity in my opinion is that they never stopped thinking they were right. My aunt begged to differ suggesting that Hitler was evil unlike Gandhi, which brings me to the crux of this issue - what is Evil?
Now, most of us do have a value system and when some act shocks us to the core - rape, child murder, cold blooded mureder - for eg. when a person is hacked to death, vampirism (Idi Amin), Genocide etc. we usually agree that the act is evil. Therefore evil is a function of a value system and generally accepted social norms. For eg., in a society if female infanticide was accepted (as is in some villages), in that social setup, it would not be evil. But again, we are dealing on society level here.
Moving to induviduals, now, for me if a child was hacked to death, I would call the murderer evil, and say he ought to be condemned to death. But let us shift sides for a moment. From the murderers point of view, let us say, he ACTUALLY heard the voice of God asking him to exterminate the child (reasons unknown. Note that most people (I refuse to use the word psychopath) who hear God / Unknown voices asking them to exterminate a person is because the voices say that person is evil. A no. of prostitutes have been murdered over the years by zealots for this purpose.), then WE would brand him a psychopath and order him to be committed. But from his point of view is he wrong or evil? HELL NO. He is merely following instructions from God. If he is executed - well it is because WE are evil that he would need to be martyred. How can we even justify the word evil, when we are operating on two different planes? How can we call him a psychopath when for all you know, according to him, we are mad. (Who knows!!)
Therefore, coming to Hitler and Gandhi - I do believe that both were absolutely passionate about their cause. Hitler saw himself as the messiah for Germany, who was merely eradicating pests, the way we might kill some wasps. Can we judge him using our rationale? In my opinion neither are evil, as both sincerely believed in the cause. On the other hand, Himmler, Goering, Goebbels etc. were cold blooded and evil murderers who had no belief in their cause but saw it as a way to gain riches / power / both. These men were evil. Going by the same logic, was Godse evil - No.
Generalising, No man who acts according to his conscience is evil, NO MATTER WHAT HIS CONSCIENCE says. Period.

- Hari


Kartik Kannan said...

Hari Can u pass me over ur mobile number.need to speak to you.When are you leaving India.We can probably meet this weekend, if you are free.

lux said...

well.. i think u started of trying to say something and ended up arguing something else altogether !!

Anonymous said...

Hari, Was a good one da. A reflection of the agruments we have had... good point... people who listen to their concience need not be evil...Lunatics maybe.

Falstaff2006 said...

@ lux...that was merely an outcome of a conversation with my aunt. have used the same thread. I only wanted to say ppl with a conscience r not evil