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Evil and/or Stupid
One of Henderson’s first statements is that we all like to believe that we are incapable of committing evil when in fact there are various ways to goad us into acting evil even if we might otherwise fight against it. There are forays into the intentionality of evil, and the myth of pure evil.
As we have seen both in our recent times, and throughout history, evil will be with us always. It can take many forms. It can lash out in many ways. It can cause horrible things. But it is not something that ever goes away entirely.
I think everyone would do well to read this review of the nature of cruelty and evil to help immunize yourself against the obvious attempts to do evil acts, compose evil laws, and attempt to build a government based on evil ideas. Perhaps then we can find a better way to progress through the next few decades. If we don’t, many will suffer, perhaps even yourself and your family.
Stupidity As A Major Societal Problem
A related problem to evil is that of stupidity. Stupidity allows or facilitates the commission of many evil acts. The damage stupidity does is just as great, and perhaps even larger than the damage caused by evil alone. Evil can be understood and guarded against, but stupidity is much more insidious.
To be clear, we can all be stupid on occasion. It is a human trait that is part of our very nature. That said, for me, one of the great powers of humanity is our ability to reason. While we may commit stupid acts out of inattention, anger, and ignorance, we can and should fight against it. For me, I understand that I can do stupid things, but I also understand that it is important for me to do as few stupid things as possible to make my life, and the lives of those around me, a little bit better each day.
Most of us, I think, are frustrated most by those who fail to recognize their stupidity or do anything about it. I call this wanton stupidity. They care not to cure their ignorance and in some cases fight to retain that ignorance in the face of all evidence against it. These are your everyday contrarians who have decided that they know better than everyone else. They think themselves more important than anyone else. It seems that times they barely even consider those around them at all. They cause so much daily inconvenience and outright pain to those around them and yet know or care not.
These are the people who drive as if there is no one else on the road or the other drivers are simply supposed to understand what they are doing and read their minds. These are the people who refuse to follow rules that were made to help society function better for everyone. These are often the people who turn their own lives into a bag of chaos they carry everywhere with them and into whatever endeavor they are engaged in.
What can we do?
The most frightening realization is there is little we can do about these types of people. They simply don’t have the will, or ability, to reason and empathize with others. This makes them dangerous. Through their stupidity they can put others and themselves at great risk, they can cause censorship, bad laws, racism, homophobic behavior, abuse, and even death, in the worst cases. Yes, intentional evil is dangerous, but random stupidity is, too.
There was little we can do to counteract these stupid people except isolate them and shun them. We need to identify them and quickly understand that we shouldn’t do business with them, we shouldn’t interact with them as friends or even family, and we certainly shouldn’t support their stupid actions. We owe it to ourselves and others to try to break the cycle of stupidity and reduce the amount of damage it can cause.
Do you have wantonly stupid people around you? Are they leaving damage in the wake? What can you do to limit the damage? Always remember that it is very unlikely you will ever change their stupidity. They can only make that change by their thoughts and actions.
Their stupidity is often deeply ingrained and in many cases, they will fight for it. They will accuse you of the stupidity that they are guilty of. They will call you names. They will get angry with you. They will attack you. Regardless, reining in their stupidity benefits everyone, even the stupid themselves. In many cases, you are preventing the self-harm that these people will bring upon themselves.
Malice vs. Stupidity
There is an old “law” – Hanlon’s razor – that states “…never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” I think about this statement every day. Yes, there is evil in the world, but day-to-day I think we are much more affected by stupidity.
One clear way to make the world a better place is to address stupidity – both personal and societal – whenever and wherever you see it. This has an important carry-on effect. For each quashed act of stupidity, you are preventing countless follow-on effects. One small action can end up improving all.