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The Relevancy of Evil in the Contemporary
West

Vanessa
Nowakowski

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HUMA
3005

January
10, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The concept
of evil can be seen by many as no longer relevant in the contemporary West. To
those people, the question is – what is evil? Perhaps it is a construct made by
society to explain the bad things that happen in the world. It could be a word
which makes society feel safe and gives them a sense of security. Being able to
group the “bad people” or the “darkness” of the world into the category of evil
is somehow a way to explain certain things in the world. Considering the common
definition of evil, I believe that the concept of evil is still relevant in the
contemporary West based on widespread obedience to powerful individuals,
conformity and the nature of humans.

 

            Obedience is something that has been
tested by many social psychologists over the years. It is something that many
people do without knowing and as a result, can cause severe negative
consequences. In terms of evil in the world, obedience fits in in a very small
but significant way. In the contemporary West, all it takes is one powerful, fierce
leader to lead the world to destruction – or at least try to. As humans, we
tend to listen to these powerful leaders and do as we are told –  whether the act is,  in its essence, good or evil. For example, the
Milgram experiment involved normal, every people being directed by a doctor to
shock another person. Majority of those normal, every day people complied despite
the harm it may cause (HUMA: Blackboard, datevn1 ). The conventional society in which we
live in would deem this act of causing harm to others as “evil”. However, this
is only one example of obedience taking its course in society and proving that
evil is still relevant in the contemporary West.

 

Obedience is also relative to the issue
of conformity in society. Many individuals conform to the roles that they are
given, despite those roles being good or evil in nature. Society creates
constructs of certain role – some good and some bad. The act of conforming to
certain roles can potentially give people the perception that they have power
over others, depending on the social construct of the role. In the Stanford
Prison experiment, Philip Zimbardo told one half of a group to act as prisoners
and the other half to act as prison guards for a set amount of time. These
individuals conformed to these roles so much so, that the prison guards began
to abuse the prisoners (HUMA: Blackboard, datevn2 ). Conformity in this case lead to the evil
act of abusing and harming others, which may be related to the essence of human
nature. Society believes that prison guards are authoritative, strong and
powerful. This social construct created a need for the prison guards to act in
the way they did, proving that evil is still relevant in the contemporary West.

           

            When establishing whether the
concept of evil is still relevant in the contemporary West, it is important to
look at the nature of humans. Of course, this topic is a matter of speculation
and personal opinions, however there is some truth to both sides of the
spectrum. Some say people are inherently good while others say people are
inherently bad. I personally believe that humans are inherently good, however
the contemporary West makes individuals evil. Mencius had the idea that we
(humans) are inherently good. In fact, he believed that humans, if stripped
down to nothing, will genuinely want to help others (HUMA: Blackboard, date????)vn3 . Essentially, if there were only a few
people on Earth all fighting for survival, those humans would actually give up
their own food and shelter to help others. Furthermore, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
said that in the state of nature, we are good and civilization (the
contemporary West) makes us evil. (HUMA: Blackboard, date????)vn4 . All that we are learned, all the propaganda
and corruption makes humans evil. The fact that we are in school for typically
20 to 25 years and then attend work every day for the rest of our lives, is a
perfect way to portray how civilization and the constructs which are made up to
make money circulate, affect the mindset of people. Essentially, if we were to
take away all of these factors, humans will be good, therefore, in the
contemporary West, evil is relevant.

 

            Evil can be defined as those people
that do “bad things” and cause harm to others. Obedience to leaders and
conformity are two ways which show how evil is present in the world. However,
the nature of humans shows how these factors, along with others, continuously
ruin humanity. The relevance of evil to the contemporary West can be debated endlessly,
however my opinion is that evil is present in the world and it will continue to
be present until miraculously there is no civilization, social order and
conformity to sway the minds of the good.

 

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