I very recently read an interesting statement from Canadian writer Will Ferguson’s 2012 Giller Prize winning novel 419 (four-one-nine). In the story one of the characters says, “We are born good, we choose evil. Life forces these decisions upon us.”
This, of course, will open up the whole philosophical debate regarding predetermined life and you, Dear Reader, are free to choose the philosophical doctrine of fatalism or side with the philosophy that every action has an effect and a consequence and that circumstances beget circumstances, or, in a nutshell, life determines life. Do you know what I mean? Are evildoers evil at birth or do life’s circumstances turn good people into evil people as per Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the Star Wars saga?- “Come to the Dark Side…Luke.”-Never heard of it? Google it please.
Whichever philosophy you choose to follow there is no denying the fact that evil has haunted humankind since man’s inception. Take the recent deadly bombings and their aftermath at this year’s Boston Marathon. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his younger brother Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, placed, (you can forget the “allegedly” this time as it’s pretty obvious who did it regardless of a future court’s outcome), two bombs near the finish line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon and the two explosions from the bombs killed 3 people and injured 183 others. At least 15 of the injured were in critical condition as of April 16, including two children.
By all appearances these two brothers “chose” evil. It was not thrust upon them. It didn’t spontaneously appear and it certainly wasn’t visible in any way, shape or form on the day of their birth.
I am not a psychiatrist but I have put in fifty-six years at the school of life and over that time I have formed a few theories of my own in regards to the human condition and it is my humble opinion that everyone is born with an on/off switch and whether they choose to flip that switch on or off is determined by many factors leading up to that point in time when a moral choice has to be made. Switch On? Switch Off?
Parentage, geography, religious beliefs, social status, or lack thereof, intelligence and independence are all factors that can influence one’s thinking. These are factors that influence the on/off switch not excuses for the decision that is ultimately made.
I reluctantly included religious beliefs as a factor when I know perfectly well that it was a definitive factor in the brothers’ motivation in the bombing but I am reminded of what David Letterman said during his opening remarks on the first live airing of his late-night talk show right after the World Trade Center attacks of 9/11 when he said, “We're told that they were zealots fueled by religious fervour... religious fervour… and if you live to be a thousand years old will that make any sense to you?” Factor…yes…excuse…no. Too often religion provides evil a mask. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist…it makes no difference. Evil is just evil regardless of its face.
I am in no way saying that religion is evil. Or religious beliefs are evil. Religion is good for society. People are evil. Fanaticism is evil. And anyone who uses religion as an excuse to turn the switch off when it should be on or turn it on when it should be off is…well…evil.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.”-Buddha