What is ‘GOOD‘? What is ‘EVIL’?
Most of us assume we have a relatively proficient (or “good”) grasp on what actions and intentions deserve to fall into either category. Generally, if it serves the betterment of the individual, family, community, nation, mankind, life on this planet, then we will likely call it “good”. If it lessens the performance of the individual, offends, annoys, impairs us in any negative way, makes us die, lessens the value of human life, or all life, then it must surely be “bad/evil”. But unfortunately, like most things in life, it’s somewhat more complicated than that.
The Japanese Red Bug is said to be one of the most attentive parents in the insect world. Tirelessly retrieving sustenance for its young. In some instances, when exhausting her own energy reserves the mother is incapable of leaving the burrow to retrieve food anymore. At that stage, it’s not uncommon for the Red Bug young to cannibalize the mother before finally leaving the burrow to face adulthood. Possibly, some of them might face the same gruesome fate at the mouths of their own offspring. The murder and cannibalization of one’s own mother, is the Japanese Red Bug innately evil?
When Praying Mantises mate, during intercourse the female Mantis has an overwhelming instinct to decapitate the male and will begin to consume him, as copulation continues (the male Mantis is capable of continuing the sex act without a head). It’s been found in some studies that when the female Mantis does not cannibalize her sexual partner, she produces far less offspring as a result. The murder and cannibalization of a lover, is the female Praying Mantis evil?
It isn’t uncommon for some Duck species to bully their own offspring, testing for weakness. The parents cannot afford to spend time, food and energy on a lame duck. So they give the stragglers a peck to the head, knock them about a bit, pick up the speed and see if they can lose them. In many instances, a poorly developed duckling cannot keep up with the brood, and they successfully cull the group. Is that evil?
Well, who’s to say? It’s unpleasant, but most of us assume that insects/animals run on instinct. Merely going through the motions that have led to their species sustaining itself throughout the ages.
To be brutally honest, most of us don’t really care what animals do, as long as it doesn’t implicate or annoy us. If it’s natural, it’s their business. Much of what goes on in the natural world can seem cutthroat, cruel and ruthless through the human lens. But life, in it’s truest, purest form, is an ugly, chaotic, fleeting struggle. But somehow, the natural world finds order, among the haze of chaos. There’s always a calm before and after the storm.
Human consciousness brings us to an entirely different level of accountability, among our species. But it’s also linked to societal and cultural development, how the governing group feel about one another. Equity and the available resources play a part also. It’s interesting how in a time of panic as mass hysteria sets in, people are capable of doing things they otherwise could not justify, even to themselves. People can get swept up into a frenzy and become a ruthless and destructive force.
So in that sense, good is order and self-control, evil is chaos and the loss of self-control.
Murder as a blanket statement, is bad/evil. Less evil if you’re defending your own life or the life of someone weak/innocent. The act of murder somehow almost transforms into a good deed depending on how “evil” your victim was perceived to be. The warrior that kills a tyrant warlord is seen as a hero, but he may be just as much a murderer as the warlord himself.
Someone may think the butchering of animals for meat is evil, but they still eat the meat. They grow fat while their conscience remains clear. In many instances in life, a clear conscience is a luxury most cannot afford. In the same sense, that the billionaire that donates .1% of his weekly wage gets a ball thrown in honor for his generosity. While someone struggling on minimum wage feels bad for only being able to spare 5 dollars to the homeless pregnant teen on the side of the road.
Why do we even give money to most homeless people or charities? Sure, we want the bad problems in the world to go away, but it also feels good to do good. While that is a nice sentiment, it’s also literally self serving (even if not consciously intended that way). You want to do “good”, so you can lay your head down on your pillow at night and smile and think about how you’ve made a difference. Strangely when people do good, they often love to be seen doing it. Anonymous acts of kindness do occur, but wouldn’t that make you feel special? Secretly giving someone in need one million dollars. I personally would love to be able to do that, can’t afford it, but it’d be a nice thought to drag out to pick yourself up every now and then. “I’m a terrible person, well, I did once secretly give someone one million dollars, so I can’t be all bad”.
Somehow I convince myself I’m helping stabilize the very fabric of society by using “please” and “thank you”, when interacting with anyone. Primarily because I was brought up with the notion that it was perfectly fine if you were any kind of deranged maniac, just as long as you were cordial and held yourself with a modicum of decorum. We’re all conditioned, like dogs, “You got me the newspaper, that’s convenient to me, you’re a Good boy!” “Oh, you’ve done a shit on the living room floor, that’s inconvenient! Bad Dog!”
In the end, what I consider to be good and evil, may be completely different to what you do. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is consensus on moral alignment. It’s strange, when I watch a documentary about a serial killer, I often look at the person and think “You must be completely insane. Why would you do something so stupid?” In the same way I would look at someone if they sold their house so they could give all their money to some charity, they can’t afford to be so generous. It’s deviating from the productive standard human behavior. And that is what good and evil is all about, performing to the generalized standard set by the masses. Reward the desirable behavior, punish the undesirable. Leading the herd in the desired direction. Which is in our best interest, if we don’t want mayhem and general pandemonium to ensue.