Checks And Balances

Daily Post prompt: Write about evil: how you understand it (or don’t), what you think it means, or a way it’s manifested, either in the world at large or in your life.

This is a subject for in-depth discussion like a doctoral thesis, not a blog post. If I wrote a doctoral thesis on evil, would that make me Dr. Evil?

I’ve experienced way too much evil in my life. I’ve looked it in the eyes as it had its scaly fingers around my neck. I’ve tried to turn away from it as it violated me, but there was nowhere to turn. There is no escape. There is no amount of struggling that will set you free. The after effects of an encounter with pure evil last a lifetime.

For those of you who are unsure, let me tell you, evil does exist. It exists in all of us, but most of us don’t let it out. Most of us don’t run with it like a big dog on a leash. It is the rush we get from accidentally shoplifting something, cutting someone off in traffic or getting away with running a red light. It is our evil that gives us a high from doing wrong.

Evil is pure adrenaline. Most of us keep it bottled up inside and only let it out when it can do us some good and it can do good. It is that evil inside of us that allows us do amazing things like lift an entire car off of someone in an accident. In a life or death situation, our evil is strong. It keeps us together and helps us keep going. How many times have you heard someone who rushed into a burning building, pulled someone out of the way or otherwise saved someone’s life, and they said it all happened so fast that they didn’t have time to think? We don’t think about it; we just do.

We all have it. Every single human on the planet has the capacity for good and evil. The vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle. It is the rare person who sits firmly on either side. Ghandi was a regular man and a lawyer before he became Ghandi. Hitler loved animals.

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Then, what makes us tip toward either side? We do. Each human is ultimately responsible for the good and evil they sow. Most of us have an internal checks and balances system called a conscience. While the evil may give us a momentary high while running that red light, after the fact, our conscience tells us just how dangerous that was. It reminds us that we were lucky not to hit anyone or get a ticket. It makes us feel badly for our brief lapse and tells us not to do that again.

Some people have managed to find workarounds, so their consciences are greatly underdeveloped. Some consciences aren’t loud enough to be heard over the cacophony of evil inside human heads. Some people choose not to listen to that voice of reason until it atrophies from disuse and shrivels up altogether.

The human brain is incredibly complex. It is an imperfect system. We don’t always seem to have control over the inner mechanisms. An encounter with pure evil, especially at a young age, can shift the delicate balance. The good news is that is rare. Most of us listen to our consciences. Most of us know right from wrong, and even if we do wrong, we are aware of it and feel badly for it. That reasoning leaves us unlikely to do it again.