Fairy Tales and White Knights

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Each week, we will be releasing one of the student blog posts from the Thinking Series Online Course that we find excellent. Today, we share with you a post written by Niamh Reynolds. Her original article can be found here.

If you asked me if evil exists, my first response would be Yes. Follow up that question with asking me for an example of evil in the world, and you will probably meet awkward silence.

The first place my mind jumps to with evil is fiction. I could easily describe evil in terms of Sauron, Voldemort or Hans from Frozen. It’s easy to understand evil in these worlds because it’s so black and white; you are either on the good side or the bad side. It’s quite effective to make characters inherently good or evil because there is no confusion for the reader who they should be rooting for. If only the real world was so black and white.

The assignment for this week was to find a recent news story that proves evil exists – a project that should be relatively easy. Yet as I scoured the recent headlines, I struggled to find one I was truly happy with. There were many that made me outraged and deeply sad for humanity. There were many where my first response was “that’s wrong”. There were many where I could see deep suffering but my mind revolted at the idea of calling it “evil”. It felt like a step too far to call it evil, as if evil is something that only exists in fairytales and fictions and has no place in the real world.

For too long, movies and books have decided for me what evil looks like and it’s usually a person, not an action. Yet evil doesn’t look like that in this world.
In our culture, what you do is who you are. To say that the crime someone committed is evil is to call the person evil and that’s not something I’m willing to do. Our world is not black and white; we are not destined to belong to one side of the good-vs-evil battle but to struggles between our pull to both sides. Humans commit atrocious acts that are evil in essence but I refuse to believe that any human is evil in essence. I’ve experienced that level of darkness, of evil, before with demons and humans are not capable of that level of inhumanity.

I think my problem is adjusting my idea of evil. For too long, movies and books have decided for me what evil looks like and it’s usually a person, not an action. Yet evil doesn’t look like that in this world. Evil is the corruption of what is good and there is plenty of that in the world. In Kenya, government representatives are stealing taxpayer money from the people and claiming on expenses like $85 ballpoint pens and sex toys. This is clearly wrong. The government is a morally good idea: of the people, for the people. Yet, they have corrupted the system for their own gain and betrayed the trust the people have put in them. There is no way to deny that this is evil. However, that doesn’t make the people evil.

I would like to believe that humans are inherently good but I can’t say that they are completely good. The world of morality isn’t black and white in this world and we can’t assume people are either. It would certainly be easier if we could label people as good or evil and leave it at that but people don’t work that way. We all have our moments of good and our moments of evil but that in itself, proves that evil exists in this world. If we continue to view evil as this fairytale notion we will cease to see the danger it offers. Evil is real and active in this world and we need to be aware of it.

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