While most of us have pretty good cookie cutter definition of what constitutes the difference between good and evil we sometimes fail to recognize that certain acts without intent become inherently evil by those perceiving it. So who gets to define what exactly is evil and what is just perhaps mean? Does teasing and bullying fall into this category? What about high school? Some of the most evilest people I ever remember where during my high school years. Jocks (not all) tended to play a major role in facilitating acts of evil against those who were academic achievers or part of the rebellious crowd of smokers, skateboarders, Goths, and the obvious poor. Always a instigated fight in the locker room before the end of gym class by someone trying to manipulate someone else or someone trying to impress someone else but rarely the instigators themselves. Girls spreading rumors about other girls who may have said high to their man. Maybe to a boy that liked her about another boy who dared to approach her publicly as to teach him to stay in his social class. The popular crowd (often associated with the best dressed and those financially well off) who has such a fear of losing their status that they continually label all others to make sure everyone knows “where they fit in at”.
Fortunately psychology has answers for us in this four year battle royal of hormones, pimples and braces. It is known that the teenage years up until we are in our early twenties are a significant and sensitive time in our lives concerning brain development. The Pre-frontal cortex begins the long task of rewiring the mainframe to increase efficiency and eliminate neural connections no longer needed and create new connections in areas that were previously unused or underused for lack of need. It is believed that this part of the brain is what acts as the executive function in decision making and receives social cues about how we are supposed to act in a given situation. It is where logical thinking occurs and is responsible for regulating drives that are primitive in nature but necessary for survival with the exception of sexual drives. At this time the Hippocampal region which is where hormones and chemical messengers that trigger other hormone release are controlled. Excessive outward emotional expression as well as increased appetites and sexual urges all tie in to individual perception of ones self as well as others. Increased risk taking behavior and more of a desire to be around peers as opposed to the ever oppressing adults that are always messing up their good time. Do you remember when you were a teen? Are you now an adult that has a teenager? Ringing any bells yet?
Sorry to have to bring my next point of contention but consider for a minute two people. The first is in Aurora Colorado where the person went into a Batman movie and killed people who were watching it for no apparent reason. The next is Sandy Hook elementary school where a man walked into a school with guns and killed young children as well as teachers with no apparent motive for doing so. Are we calling these people evil or are calling their acts evil? Can we even separate the act from the person? This is where we as a society need to be very careful in how we label and publicize the horrific acts perpetrated by two random people. My personal opinion is you can not separate the act from the individual. I would venture to guess from media reports that both of these people potentially had some kind of psychiatric disorder. Does this imply temporary insanity? No because the individuals could make clear distinctions between right and wrong however, there is this earlier mentioned process of teenage brain remodeling.
We know that there are markedly different reactions and chemical release and inhibition from people who have been diagnosed with some of these disorders. There also seems to be a sort of disconnect between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain in some patients diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. So there is/was a potential for these two individuals to be helped. Unless of coarse they were indeed evil then we need an exorcism perhaps instead of psychiatric care. If they did suffer from a mental health disorder then these can be typically treated with medications that alter the way chemicals interact with neurons such as SSRIs, SNRIs, anti-psychotics, neural modulators and the potential combination of these drugs. If we decide to label these acts as evil then we are saying to people that if you have a disorder then you are evil and this could further impact the stigma associated with having these disorders. and potentially cause the further decline in people seeking out help because they don’t want to be thought of as a potential mass murderer by friends and family. Parents would be less apt to have their children diagnosed for fear of stigmatization in school settings.
So what is evil? In my opinion evil is the person who witnesses an event where a person is being harmed and does nothing. Evil is the deliberate act of causing or causing to happen something that could or does harm another. That person knows what they did and does not have any intention of doing otherwise. Actually taking pleasure in causing another individual harm. Manipulating people who are in positions where they are subordinate to the manipulator. (boss : employee, Doctor:Patient or staff). Even in the before mentioned instances it is theoretically possible that these types of actions could be prevented through chemical manipulation or Cognitive Behavioral therapy.
In short there could be no such thing as evil intended only evil perceived. Maybe those three monkeys were on to something after all. “See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil”.