Casual, Boring Evil

When we think of evil, we often think of fanatics foaming at the mouth as they rant against those they wish to exploit or harm, spewing hatred with hyperbolic and inflammatory remarks.  In fact, evil can be mundane and bland.  The banality of evil can arise in a cultural milieu where the dehumanization and depersonalization of certain classes of persons is commonplace and unremarkable.  This is on full display as Amy Richards describes her “selective reduction”—how her first thought was “getting rid of one of them” (one of the three children in her womb), as she put it.  (You can click here to watch the clip.)  She explains that, for her, the reasons she decided to kill a human being (something that is a scientific fact, even if one disagrees on the personhood of the child) did not matter.  What mattered in her mind was that she was in control of her decision.  She states that we’ll never be able to know what’s right for other people.  This mentality, this rejection of objective morality, is frightening and can justify virtually any crime against humanity.  This clip exposes the poverty of a certain form of bourgeois morality, which often can present itself as reasonable, fair-minded, and tolerant.  But the moral relativism that allows one to be casual about killing others, regardless of the way it is articulated, is just as pernicious as (and is perhaps more dangerous than) the blood-thirsty mindset of a mad true believer.  If right and wrong are different for every person, they don’t exist.  They are figments of the imagination, delusions.  And in their absence, the potential for human cruelty and barbarism is virtually limitless.  Even those proponents of legal abortion who see abortion as tragic but necessary should be able to see the evil in Richards’ worldview.  And I hope they join me in condemning those who want to make having an abortion the moral equivalent of eating cookies before dinner.