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Is anything “evil?” Geez, people, wise up.





We’ve been having this conversation since at least 300 BC or so. I’m sure it had been going on for millennia before then.

Evil is pretty simple: If you know the right and just thing to do and do the opposite for any reason, you are doing evil.

You ever done that? I know I have. I’d wager that most reading this now have done evil at one time or another, in some way or another.

My kid does it, too. The other day I told him to get his cub scout shirt on for a meeting we had to attend in 20 minutes. Instead, he walked over to my swivel chair where the cat was lying peacefully. He spun it around and the cat flew out. He laughed. It was evil. He got a stern talking-to and a timeout. That was for being evil. He was sorry.

I’ve had a lot more time on this planet and thus a lot more opportunities to do evil things than has my son: things a lot worse than disobeying my dad and screwing with the cat. You don’t get to 46 and through two failed marriages and a few careers without accumulating some damage points. That’s what we call “life,” though ideally we shouldn’t.

The point of evil is that it’s not necessary. We can choose to be good. We sometimes choose not to be.

Still, am I evil? No. Neither I nor my son are so habituated to evil behaviors to be called “evil” ourselves. We both do the right thing most of the time. There’s a moral sense we share with most people in the world that keeps us from stealing things, lying, destroying stuff and hurting people just for entertainment. And that’s good. Most of us are good most of the time.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t do evil things now and then.

People can become “evil” if they do evil things by habit. They come to sense a reward by disregarding what others take as solemn directives. They might have been good at one time, but no more. They are solidly in the habit of doing harm, and it’s become the essence of their lives. The ones who are most evil (the ones best at it) generally are the ones with the greatest capacity for good. That power gets inverted somehow and then does the greatest harm–far greater than just any weak-ass minor-leaguer who basically doesn’t give a shit.

Man is generally regarded as the only animal who can be evil. A bear grabs fish out of a stream because he’s a bear and he’s hungry. He doesn’t want to hurt the fish. He needs to eat. There’s a fish. Time to eat. When you’re camping and the bear attacks you in your tent he’s not doing so to affirm some existential need for power in the world to bolster low self-esteem that came as a result of parental abuse. As he mauls you he’s not thinking “Am I evil?” He’s hungry and you smell delicious. You’re also all wrapped up in that colorful sleeping bag that makes you look like a Hot Pocket. How novel!

So although much of what we call “evil” is just consequential and relative to ourselves and our interests (after all, cancer cells need to eat, too) there is a real thing called “evil” out there. It’s what almost all people do some of the time, and what some people do almost all of the time.

My advice is to try and be good as much as one can, and to work to correct oneself when one realizes he’s done evil. Don’t let it become a habit, lest one become evil.


There’s a lot of good and a lot of evil in my novel Eye of the Diamond-T. Check it out at