Doing no harm can be the most effective response to persons who harm others.
|There's a saying going around the internet. This is the saying.|
Truly evil people don't just hurt others. They take pride in the pain and then try to blame their victims.
There's common sense in these words. It's a definition of evil that not only fits the behaviors and beliefs of those we define as criminal but it also fits the behaviors and actions of those we meet in everyday life. It also fits the belief systems of terrorists.
Our social policies toward those we define as criminal should not in turn fit this definition of evil. If we return evil for evil, we not only contradict ourselves but we are also justify our own evil and encourage others to do the same. In our policy responses to criminal behaviors, an effective response is to figure out how to create conditions where people who act on beliefs that lead to evil are given opportunities to reconsider. This happens when our policies support building relationships with these people and inviting them to talk as long as they want about the actions that they take that the law defines as harmful to others. There's more to this, but the main point is to build relationships and not to seek to harm them and blame them for our harmful actions.
On a personal level, when we are in situations with people who behave in ways that fit this definition of evil, do not behave as they do. Walk away as soon as possible and realize that they really don't know what they are doing. Some don't realize that they are taking pride in hurting others. They often believe that the actions they attribute to others justify their own actions. Here are some examples of justifications
o she's too big for her britches
o got to time him down a notch
o she's an idiot
o she's not being honest
o she makes me look bad
o he deserves it
If someone believes this about another person, that other person is likely to experience emotional abuse of some sort--exclusion, mockery, distortion of her worth, disrespect, lectures, and scoldings, for example. These beliefs about others are examples of how we blame people we harm.
Don't be tempted into behaving this way toward another person. Instead, seek to understand the situation of this person. Engage in conversation. Listen. Turn off your own thoughts. Don't assume. Don't fit what the other person says into your own preconceived categories.
You may find that what you think is true about this person doesn't line up with what the person shares with you. You may continue to have negative beliefs about the person after several conversations. If you do and if you have to be in this person's presence, then, in your everyday interactions, look for behaviors and other qualities that contradict your beliefs.
Seek to undermine your own beliefs. If you find that the other person's behaviors continue to fit with what you believe, it is possible that this person is not good for you. Without doing evil yourself--that is hurting the other person, enjoying doing so, and blaming the other person--detach emotionally from that person and if possible do not put yourself in the presence of that person. In other words, leave if you can. If you can't leave, then detach emotionally. Take pride in doing no harm.
Terrorism is a huge problem today. For the most part, responses to terrorism is a matter of social policy. People create social policies. Any little bit a single person can inject into conversations about social policy can have an effect. As Victor Hugo said, "Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come."
For terrorists, the idea whose time has come is that harming others brings about good. This idea fits the definition of evil that is under discussion in this essay. Terrorist acts harm others. Terrorists believe that the harm they do brings about good. This belief is so powerful that some strap bombs to their bodies and die for their beliefs. They take pride in harming others because they believe that their harmful acts bring about good.
Terrorists who survive their terroristic acts may not know about moral injury. They don't realize that human beings have a moral compass that they are born with. Whenever we hurt another person, we hurt ourselves. We may not recognize that hurting others hurts us. One place when we recognize that hurting others hurts us is when we are alone with our own thoughts. I don't image that many terrorists seek to be alone to experience their own thoughts.
When terrorists do any form of harm, from sniper attacks to massive bombings that kill thousands, sensible social policies do not respond in kind. Responsible social policy considers every form of response and the consequences of these responses. Responsible social policy considers multiple points of view on each of the responses.
Prevention of terrorism is a response that some are considering. To prevent terrorism, we have to understand the causes of terrorism and the conditions that create it. We can being such inquiries by assuming that all human beings want the same things: dignity, respect, autonomy, fairness, and love. As we understand conditions that create terrorism, we can then work toward creating conditions that lead to peace. These are social conditions that create opportunities for young people and for everyone else and that offer dignity, respect, autonomy, fairness, and caring (love) to everyone.
Creating such conditions means that some people have to give up something and become concerned about the common good.