Tag Archives: imagination

Forest Path

Come now, my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we’d be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest?”
–Kenneth Patchen

Of course this narrow little trail is in reality neither dangerous nor is it anywhere near the ‘very darkest part’ of the forest. But a little imagination and a little creative lighting, and perhaps what I see can override what I know.

Do You Have to be Intelligent to be Evil?

The question is “do you have to be intelligent to be evil?”

Everyone has different degrees of what he or she considers evil, but there are certain thresholds I’m sure we can all agree on. Typically what springs to mind when using the word evil are examples of mass murder, genocide, and such. The killing fields of Cambodia, the Rwandan Genocide, Hitler’s anti-Aryan policies, or any number of dictatorial actions against humanity.

These are horrible actions, and I doubt rational people would disagree with that; but the action by itself I wouldn’t describe as evil. Rather, I think these actions are the manifestation of evil. Evil itself can’t be seen or felt or touched.

Is intelligence necessary to be evil? I think, simply, the answer is somewhere along the lines of a definite maybe. Unintelligent people can act out on a small scale in ways that appear evil: the looting in Ferguson, Missouri for example isn’t particularly intelligent. Furthermore, this reaction lacks imagination; it’s a knee-jerk reaction based nowhere near the facts (all of which were unknown when the rioting started), and endorsed by racist leaders like Al Sharpton and Barak Obama who have made race baiting a cornerstone of their political platform. So stupid people like those mentioned above can do evil things; it doesn’t make them evil.

Why did I mention imagination above and its absence from those actions? I think intelligence and imagination in people inclined to perform evil acts serve to make their manifestations more efficient. It’s evil enough to gather the people together that you wish to exterminate and then let them die from starvation, disease, and the elements. But heartier types will still survive these natural causes – if the term can so be applied in such a scenario. If extermination is what you’re after, more efficiency is desired.

Picture the scenario where the first person imagined the mass grave. It’s more efficient than digging single ones. If this person wasn’t the leader, what sort of promotion was he given when he suggested the idea? It’s only less efficient than leaving the bodies where they died if you want to use the land you’ve just conquered; and isn’t that the point? There hasn’t been one piece of technology invented that it wasn’t immediately put to use by someone to subject someone else to his will. And that’s not even the technology invented strictly for the purpose of eradicating the earth of our fellow men. The technologies with that origin are particularly efficient in their purpose.

Fists, sticks, rocks, slingshots, catapults and trebuchets, cannon, pistol, revolver, repeating rifle, machine gun: mankind is particularly efficient in devising ways to kill each other. But there seems to be a threshold for what we can believe. When someone imagines an act of genocide and the means to carry it out, the rest of us tend to refuse to believe it possible that such actions can exist on the same planet as the so-called virtuous.

There is hope, I have to believe — or more accurately I have to believe there was hope once. In the face of some unspeakable evils there is always someone who stands up for his convictions and refuses to bow to tyranny. There will be a Thomas More, a Winston Churchill, a Thomas Jefferson.  And as a society, we’ll be lucky if there are enough of them to speak out against the evil and effect a calm for before the next evil arises.