Inherently Evil

I never did like the idea of inherent evil. I grew up annoyingly strong-willed and a passionate believer in the idea of free choice; I really don't know why either should be the case. I don't think anyone's managed to break my strong will out of me yet, which is really a shame, but through twists and turns of life and most importantly through evidence I've been rethinking my ideas about free will.

Anyway, those two things set me in diametric opposition to the kind of people who believe that some people are inherently good and some people are inherently evil, and never shall they change. After all, people being able to make free choices and then having the will to carry them through sort of puts the kibosh on some people being predestined to make Jesus look mean-spirited, while other people are stuck with just being awful human beings. I have less of a problem with people who think that we're all inherently good; firstly, they're quieter, and secondly, they don't do that much harm.

The kind of people who think that humans are inherently evil, though...Oh. I have been angry with them since I first found out they existed. At first I was angry with them for daring to tell me about how evil I was just for existing when they didn't even know me. Later, when I grew up and learned about things like how you can use guilt and shame to mindfuck people, to break their spirits, to make them blame themselves for everything, I blazed with rage at how people could have the gall to twist the minds of others into screaming self-loathing.

When I was older and perhaps had grown a little as a person, I discovered that these people weren't just shadows but that they still existed. Worse, just as in my shadows, they were influential. Vocal. Said all the right things. Charming.

The important thing is that I thought I could identify them on sight. I could not. I let their hatred, which they justified with words about justice and oppression and the struggle, feed my self-hatred.

I have been linking self-hatred with being a good person, or at least not an evil one, not one who oppresses people just by existing, for far too long. I cannot explain how utterly fucked up it is to walk around every day believing that your very existence is awful, a stain on humanity, that you're inherently fucked up and psychopathic and every kind of bigot in the world, that no matter how hard you try you'll always be like this and so when people say that you should die they're justified, they're just expressing their anger-

-I can't go on any more. One of the reasons I find it difficult to go on any more is because I'm an utter fucking coward and people like that strike fear into my heart.

I believe that environments that encourage doubt, questioning, scepticism and debate are healthy ones. I like to be challenged, to be told "actually, you're wrong and here's why" because I know full well that if I'm not challenged I'll get complacent. And as long as nobody crosses any boundaries, I like having full-on, passionate sparring matches about anything I'm reasonably well-informed about.

The environment created by people like that - I don't really have a name for them - is nothing like that. It is stagnant, sterile, killed by fear, because in environments like that any disagreement is a reflection on you and not the other person. It is a reflection on the goodness of your character that you would even doubt them.

In other words, it's open season on you.

I cannot believe that the kinds of people who will charm you into believing that you're an inherently awful person are actually good people. This is because my metrics of good and evil are "how much suffering does this cause and how much suffering does this end?". I also have difficulty believing this because I've met this kind of person in real life. I'd rather not go into details, but suffice it to say that I was absolutely shocked and disgusted by their behaviour.

Not that I should have been, because it actually kind of makes sense.

Props to anyone who managed to read through this rambling mess, because you probably think my half-baked idea makes about as much sense as the rest of this steaming, incoherent heap of shit. I personally think it makes a little more sense than the rest of this blog post. But first, a gender-based digression!

You're probably familiar with the idea of "I'm a man, I can't help it" - the idea that men cannot control their physical urges, so things like sexual harassment are at the very least understandable if not actually okay (although some people actually do think it's okay and use this argument as a defence). There are many more ideas like that. They all centre around how people do things that are considered bad because they have little or no agency.

I'm not going to say that all those ideas are wrong, because I believe that structural and collective forces exist and that in some cases people have less agency or are less able to use it (for example, being under duress or severely drugged up). What I am going to say is that structural and collective forces are not everything, that individual agency still exists even if it is difficult to exercise, and that the idea that people are inherently awful removes that agency.

Please think about this for just one moment more. If you're inherently awful and can do nothing about it apart from self-flagellate (which won't make you stop being inherently awful, but you will confess your awfulness publicly and have more cultural capital than those poor unfortunate souls who need to educate themselves into recognising how inherently awful they are), and if you're therefore not a good person, why the fuck shouldn't you go ahead and indulge yourself in things that make other people suffer? After all, you can't help your inherent evil. Maybe you make a half-assed apology. Maybe you publicly self-flagellate again. Either way, the act of punishment is temporary relief and you go on your guilt-ridden way having not really learned a goddamn thing about why your behaviour was wrong. There's no point if you can't stop it, right?

This is one more reason, one more goddamn reason, why pushing the idea that humans are inherently awful is a terrible idea. It breaks your mind, it makes you loathe yourself beyond all reason, the damage takes years to undo, and it offers rationalisations and justifications for people to do some truly reprehensible things.