When we look at the evil deeds of other men, we work hard to distance ourselves from them. The most vile and evil individuals in our history lose their humanity, at least in our eyes, and become monsters, demons or worse.
It’s very convenient that, the minute someone commits a heinous crime or an unspeakable act, that we cast them aside as a monster, forever tossing their humanity to the wind. It makes it easy for us as insecure souls to write them off and distance ourselves from them without giving our own demons a second look.
But truth is never written in black and white and it is seldom convenient. Though we call people monsters or push them aside as animals, the truth is that they are human, the same as you and I are and, as difficult as it is to face, we are all capable of the same unspeakable deeds.
Yes, the lack of humanity some of mankind’s worst has displayed is frightening and even terrifying. We all shudder to imagine what it would be like to be at the mercy of a remorseless killer or under the thumb of a ruthless dictator, but have we ever stopped to wonder that, in a different world, we could actually be that person.
We’re a society of people perpetually on edge, never more than a few steps away from madness and not as far removed from our animal roots as we’d like to think. Our instincts and desires lay there, repressed, waiting to creep up, often in perverted and twisted forms.
That’s why, as much as we love to cast aside societies villains, all it does is toss more sand on our inner demons and shorten the fuse just a hair. The longer we turn a blind eye to what we’re capable of, the easier it becomes for our own sinister side to creep to the surface and make monsters out of ourselves.
The only way we, as a species, can hope to control our demons is by first facing them and understanding them. That, of course, means accepting them as part of our nature and that’s something that, as we’ve gotten more and more “civilized”, has grown harder and harder to do.
And that’s why, even as we’ve prided ourselves on being more peaceful and more humane, hideous “monsters” have continued to rise up among our ranks. Naive thinking such as “Learning humanizes character and does not permit it to be cruel” has made us all blind to the nature humans and the evil that often lurks right underneath our nose.
We can no longer afford to fool ourselves. We cannot let our civility blind us to what lurks within all of us. The world is too dangerous for naivete to be our policy. We must see evil where it lies, not just in the deeds of other men and women, but within our own hearts.
Where it has laid this entire time.