I can't see evil as anything but a product of the conscious self and
conscious decision. When a cat catches a mouse and torments it, as
cats do, before killing it, I can't see that as evil, though it's
very bad for the mouse. An earthquake may be disastrous and
destructive, but it's not evil. If a child pushes another child into
a river, drowning him, as happened here a few years ago, that child
isn't evil. Despite the headlines say of the Bulger case or Mary
Rose. Gita Sereny's book on Mary Rose is maybe her most interesting.
I'm not sure that determining the origin of evil is very useful.
There probably isn't one, unless you believe in Manichean forces, and
in the instant of decision, it is the present self which decides.
Evil, in the only way I can understand it, happens when someone who
is capable of making a moral decision decides to do something evil
rather than not: shoot that child, starve those million peasants,
eliminate all Jews. These are crimes in which one human being erases
the humanity of others. Evil can only exist in a moral universe, and
it's human beings who created a moral universe; moreover, we create
it out of drives and understandings which are not very different from
the cat's, whom I just said was not evil. It's obviously not a
simple question: there are obviously degrees of culpability and very
few people who are wholly evil; to the extend that we all participate
in a consumer economy which causes great suffering to many people, we
too are implicated in evil actions. And also, quite clearly, there
are very few clear lines which can determine evil; to some degree, we
are all culpable, and to some degree we are all innocent. One of the
wrongs that is done to a child who is abused is that the child is
introduced into an adult world of morality the child is not capable
of understanding, and this warps the child's sense of self,
irrevocably. Some children can survive this, but many cannot; and
none can survive it without help. Which brings in that other human
At 1:25 PM +0000 24/3/02, domfox wrote:
>I come back to this priority. The conscious self, the social self, the
>"civilised" (for better or worse) self is a latecomer. The problem that it
>has with identifying and understanding evil, and evil is not the only thing
>it has this problem with, has to do with origins, the inaccessibility to an
>historical mind of what it can only represent as its own prehistory.
>Deconstruction has an ethical bent insofar as it tries to deal with the
>unthinkability of certain unthinkables, not to strip away our defences
>against horror but to place them under review. The open secret is that there
>is no one place of origin, which means that the entire scheme organised
>around an inaccessible no-place where everything begins/to go wrong is
>always a mystification.
>This theme of origins, originary corruption, original sin is already
>overdetermined when one comes to talk about children and the abuse of
>children. The evil (scandal) that befalls the child is an original evil,
>like a blow which does not register as a sense impression, still less an
>intelligible event, but disorders and cauterises the senses themselves,
>directly (still-conscious patient undergoing lobotomy is asked by surgeon:
>"what's going through your mind right now?" - answers, "a knife"). So
>Lyotard, on the differend, talking about the earthquake that destroys all
>the seismographs. The asteroid that wipes out the asteroid-watchers...
"The only real revolt is the revolt against war."