Evil in the World
There is no doubting the assertion that evil exists in the world, with a number of writers exploring this old phenomenon. Coetzee in the form of a narration explores previous evils and atrocities that have been committed against humanity. She explores the endeavors of a young woman who in a way encounters and fights evil in her own way. One is therefore forced to ask what it is that brings about the existence of such evil in the world, is it that humans are born evil? Or is it their experiences and interactions that make them evil?
Hannah Arendt in her article “The Banality of Evil: Failing to Think”, presents the dimension that perhaps evil comes about as a result of a failure to think critically before acting. She proceeds to claim that perhaps it is the lack of a conscience in the doers that allow such atrocities to be committed, as an essentially good person would definitely be bothered by a bad conscience. Arendt argues that the moral fabric of the society has become corrupt, even citing Nietzsche who equated this to the death of God. Machiavelli in his work “A Prince’s Virtue: Timely Ruthlessness”, explores a different perspective to the good versus evil argument, claiming that in a way, some degree of evil is necessary in the real world.
Voltaire in a way delves deeper into the perspective provided by Arendt, as he is his article “Conscience and Original Sin”, explores further the issue of having a good or bad conscience. Voltaire brings in the aspect of people being born without opinions or principles, but gaining them as they grow up in the world. This therefore means that as people grow up and interact they develop principles and attitudes of what is considered by society to be morally right or wrong. They therefore chose to do right or wrong, essentially meaning therefore that it is not really they who make the choice on what is wrong, but rather the society, as it defines the boundaries of acceptable behavior, thus helping create a conscience in the individual. If the principles that the society instill in the individual are wrong and not really morally upright, then the individual may decide to engage in an immoral act simply because according to his principles it is the right thing to do. Society is therefore in a sense its own worst enemy when it comes to creating and shaping evil, as it shapes individuals through the various morals in place as well as its boundaries of what can or cannot be accepted.
This therefore makes Machiavelli’s assertion which is in a way backed up by Roberto Bolano in his book By Night in Chile, as he encourages people to confront issues that exist in the society. Similarly Machiavelli argues that evil exists in society, and whereas many people may engage in escapism and wishful thinking, it is necessary and here to stay. Exploring the phenomenon of why it is that people commit evil acts, be it as a result of a lack of conscience or due to the absence of thinking is therefore an issue that is still up for debate, more so if one explores already existing literature on the subject.