Sunday, December 30, 2007

Evil Pt. 1 (re-posted from my LJ)

Tam has a great post up regarding a misinterpreted quote by Will Smith. I think what she's said is dead-on, though I'd add that I think evil men like Hitler almost certainly didn't see themselves as evil. I think that's human nature, to rationalize beliefs, behaviors and actions in ones own mind, though that certainly doesn't excuse evil acts.

In fact, one of the things that makes Hitler so pertinent as an example is the very fact that most Germans rationalized what he was saying and doing until their fellow citizens were being herded into railway cars. They didn't see him as evil, just as he himself didn't consider his actions inherently evil. They didn't recognize evil until it smacked them in the face, and I think that's telling because some of the men considered most "evil" by history were in fact immensely popular during their time because those evils were committed with "good intentions." Keep in mind that I'm not saying Hitler isn't evil, nor am I attempting to excuse what he did.

I think most of the worlds worst atrocities are carried out by governments with the support of at least some honest citizens. If you look at the worlds best politicians, they are able to sell themselves and their policies no matter how misguided they may be. They can look you right in the eye, tell you a bold-faced lie, and do it in such a way that you'll actually believe it. Bill Clinton is good at this. His wife tries but isn't as successful. I can't remember his name, but the head of Hitler's propaganda machine said something along the lines of " if you tell the public a lie long enough, and with enough conviction, they will eventually believe it." And the bigger the lie the more this is true. ( I can't believe I can't remember his name)

I believe that all men are capable of committing evil acts if they have rationalized such actions in their own minds. Do you really believe that every German soldier, every German man or women who went along with Hitlers "final solution" was truly evil? Of course not, they allowed themselves to believe that their actions were necessary given the circumstances.

It brings to mind the phrase "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

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