Tags: consequences, ethics, evil, morals, religion, Society
A writing prompt asks: If there were no consequences, what’s the most evil thing you would do?
Here is my response to that prompt:
There can be no such thing as “no consequences” for doing something evil. The concept of evil is social, cultural and religious/spiritual/ethical. It therefore affects people, as it is from people and their beliefs that these concepts come. If an action has nothing to do with people or their world, then it has no moral value and is therefore not classed as evil.
Following from this, to be evil, an action must have a moral value attached to it – it must be something immoral. If it is immoral, then it is against the ethical values of a society, culture or religion, or of an individual. If an evil action is carried out, it must have consequences of some kind.
I cannot rob an institution or an individual without it affecting the institution or individual, or indeed others, in some way, whether it be through the initial loss, or through increased costs of insurance. I cannot injure somebody without consequences – their pain and suffering; the cost of treatment; loss of income or ability to conduct normal activities; increased fear in them and others; policing costs; etc.
One might consider that some actions, normally considered evil, can be justified in certain situations. This may be eliminating a person who has done terrible things: a child molester; an evil despot; a mass murderer. For those there may be the death penalty, the legal consequence for certain crimes in many countries. For others, assassination does the same thing, but without legal sanction.
But what if you could get away with assassinating the person and ridding the world of their wickedness? Would that not be a positive thing for society? Perhaps, but one must also consider what effect such an act would have in the mind of the assassin. To kill one person for a “good” cause can lead to a range of outcomes, from guilt at taking another life to the belief that killing is not such a bad thing after all. Some serial killers grow out of what they perceived originally to be a purifying action.
I would not carry out what I might be tempted to, even if I were told there would be no consequences, because I know that there is no evil action that has no consequences.
© Linda Visman 17.12.10
Tags: nature, peace, Society
I wrote this one winter day, and have revised it. The situation remains the same now.
I’m cold as I sit at my desk or move around the office doing my routine tasks. Even though the heater is going, it doesn’t quite get to where I’m working, and the chill makes my arthritic fingers hurt. A task reminder pops up on my computer screen. I need to go to the newsagency in the village, about two kilometres away by road. I can drive there and be back in five or ten minutes – or I can walk. I’ve promised my husband I will continue walking while he is away working in New Zealand, even though it is often hard to motivate myself. I decide to walk.
Outside, the sun shines from a clear blue winter sky. The light breeze is cold, but I know the exercise and the sun will warm me. I set off for the lakeside walk to the village. It is longer than by road, but if I am going to walk then I might as well make it as enjoyable as possible. I walk briskly, no hand to hold this time, or strides to keep time with. Up the hill and across the road, the usual pain clutching at my chest. I don’t stop or slow my pace though, as I know the easier grade down to the water will ease the pain. One day, I think, it’s going to be a heart attack and I won’t know the difference!
As I reach the lakeside path, I pass a woman heading the way I’ve just come. She carries a large bag with ENJO on it, and looks preoccupied, hardly acknowledging my “G’day” as she passes. Looks like she walks a lot, fit I think. Maybe she’s trying to make a living selling Enjo products and having a hard time of it.
This walk is a great idea! The sun is warm, especially out of the breeze, and the aches in my legs and feet don’t detract from my enjoyment at all. An elderly lady approaches, walking slowly with the aid of a stick. A middle-aged gentleman has almost caught up with her. They both respond cheerily to my “Good morning” and I can hear their voices as they carry on, chatting.
In the distance, I see two women with shopping bags and a boy about four years of age. The boy is sitting in what looks like a pedal car, and I think how good it is that he is getting exercise. As they approach though, I hear a whining sound, and suddenly the car skids to a halt. The whine begins again as the car moves forward – it is battery-operated! One of the young women almost trips over it as the boy skids to a halt in front of her.
“Drive properly!” she says with a frown. “Don’t keep stopping like that!”
“Can I drive fast?” the boy asks.
“Yes, you can, as long as you keep out of my way.”
The car whines loudly as the boy presses the accelerator pedal and sets off at top speed along the path. None of the group even look at me as I pass. I wonder what kind of driver that boy will be in a dozen or so years. I also ponder on how much kids are given these days, and how much they expect; how little exercise many of them get on their motorised or electronic gadgets. Well, at least this lad is out in the fresh air.
On the bench seat near the artist’s house and gallery is an elderly woman. She appears to be waiting for someone, but smiles as I walk past and says good morning. I reply likewise, adding that it is a lovely day.
“You wouldn’t think it was winter, would you?” she says. It is indeed a beautiful day, and I feel great as I walk on.
I am suddenly startled as a bicycle appears from behind me. The rider, a young man with a pleasant, open face, smiles at me and says, “How ya goin’?” I smile back and said “Hi” as he slowly rides past. As I walk on, watching him, he begins to zig-zag from side to side of the pathway, obviously enjoying himself and his control of the bike – and maybe showing off a little.
A boy of about twelve rides his bicycle, again from behind, but rather faster than the man. He ignores me. I’d seen him going the other way, riding slowly behind the motorised car group, and I’d thought he might be with them. But he’d probably just been waiting until I passed so that he could overtake them. I’d smiled at him then and said “Hi”, but his face had a closed-in look. Though he’d looked at me, he hadn’t responded. Poor lad, I thought.
A couple of elderly men stand by the lake shore, chatting about boats. One has a little dog on a leash, obviously out for a walk. He acknowledges my greeting, then goes back to his discussion. The other fellow hasn’t looked across and appears intent on their conversation. A little farther on, another couple walks by the other way, smiling as they pass me. A scruffy-looking man at the boat ramp is launching a dinghy. It’s a bit late in the morning to be going out fishing, but the lake is almost as smooth as glass, and it must be great just to go for a row.
As I head uphill, away from the lake shore towards the main road and the shop, a chap walking the other way gives me a big smile and a cheery Howyagoin’? It’s a gorgeous day,a lovely walk. How wonderful to have so many people open and friendly enough to exchange greetings as they pass. I’m so glad that I walked instead of driving.
In the newsagency, I pick up the “Sydney Morning Herald” and take it to the counter to pay. Another cheery “good morning” from the newsagent, and I wish her a happy day as I leave. Back across the road and down to the lake, I find that a young fellow has taken possession of the bench I intended to sit on before walking back to the office. He is intent on his meal, a hamburger wrapped in paper. I walk on to the next bench instead, finding it better than the other one, in the sun instead of in shade.
I sit and soak in the sun for a few minutes, and then open the folded newspaper. A subsidiary headline above a copy of a CCTV picture catches my eye: “Dressed to kill, but they bought return tickets” – the London bombing of eleven days ago, a story about the young Muslim fanatics who blew themselves up as well as anyone else that they could.
I suddenly feel deflated. There is too much evil in the world, too much hatred and greed and disdain for others. How can I reconcile that with the beauty and friendliness I’ve encountered on my walk? There is only one way that I can think of. I will walk back the same way and smile and greet those I meet along the path. It is only a tiny thing, but at least this little part of the world will be a better place for it.
© Linda Visman