Some people hold up the banner of kindness and take pride in wearing the medal of altruism. However, his words are nothing, dust and air, when they are witnesses of daily evil and do not react. They are inoperative when they choose to turn their faces, close their mouths and remain mute before the injustices and humiliations of others.
One of the classic examples of evil corresponds to that of a genocide exterminating entire peoples. We think of people who take life from others with violence. We imagine a torturer and the terrorist who takes lives in the name of a god. However, and this must be clear, acts of evil happen at every moment in our closest environments, in the most familiar, to which we have direct access with our senses.
“The world is not threatened by bad people, but by those who allow evil.”
On the other hand, most of us do not have a real chance to make saviors in all those warlike contexts that we see every day on television or in social networks. Now, sometimes it is enough to raise the face of the screens to witness events that completely violate our sense of humanity, and of which we are often silent accomplices. To see and shut up, to turn the face, swallow saliva and direct our attention to another goal.
We speak for example of bullying, we speak of those screams that we hear in our homes through the walls, where the children cry and one of the spouses suffers the mistreatment in silence. We also refer to that neighbor who hurts his pets, to that woman who treats her son badly when she takes him to school or to that manager who verbally exploits and humiliates a worker…
Evil has many faces, many forms and infinite channels through which it extends its power and its evil arts. However, if it survives it is for a very specific reason: because “supposedly good” people do nothing to hinder their action.
The origin of evil and its tolerance
Arthur Conan Doyle used a really curious term at a given time when Sherlock Holmes had to face Professor James Moriarty. He said of the latter that he suffered from “moral dementia”. It is undoubtedly an expression that unwittingly contains an idea that most of us have in mind: only people who are sick or with some kind of psychological disorder are capable of committing an act of evil.
It may be that under the “pathological” label we calm down and find a certain sense in those acts that lack logic and explanation. However, as devastating as it may seem, after most of these adverse, harmful and even destructive reactions there is not always an antisocial personality disorder, there is not always an illness.
Sometimes, the evil act comes from the hand of a normal, close and familiar person displaying simple learned acts, behaviors resulting from a dysfunctional or deficient education. Other times we speak of a person with a low emotional control who is driven by impulses or by the influence of third parties. Finally, other times it is the environment itself and the circumstances that create the current that pretend to drag us to evil.
Albert Ellis himself once explained that evil as an essence or as a genetic component does not exist or is not really common. In fact, all of us are capable of being accomplices of evil at a given time and under certain conditions.
The why of the immobility before the injustices
Let’s go back to the statement in this article: one of the reasons why evil always triumphs is because supposedly good people do not do anything, but … why do not we act? What explains that immobility, those closed eyes and that look that seeks another place to look? Let’s see some basic explanations on which to reflect.
The first reason is simple and categorical: we tell ourselves that what we are seeing has nothing to do with us. We are not responsible, we do not provoke it and the person who suffers is not ours. The lack of emotional involvement is undoubtedly one of the first causes of immobility.
The second aspect has to do with the need to maintain the harmony or functionality of an environment. For example, the adolescent who witnesses how a bully harms another student may opt for silence before reporting it. This passivity can be caused by the fear of breaking that balance or by fear of endangering the social position that enjoys in the center.
It is not easy, we know it and more when those who can “win” are others and what we can “lose” is us. However, we must be able to get involved as much as possible, to seek new mechanisms, actions and channels with which to defend the person who needs help. As the philosopher Edmund Burke once said, justice exists only because people make the effort to be against injustice.