Saturday, April 21, 2007


Over at the Carnvial of the Feminist (which everyone should check out, by the way, because it's wonderful) people are discussing relationships that they have with women in their life, particularily their family. And there is a thread that run through it, that I think people ignore a lot:

People are complicated.

Normally, I hate the clichéd(and normally misleading) phrase "on both side of the political aisle" but in this case, it actually is true. People are complicated and it is so easy to forget that, no matter your politcal leanings. We are fed a sugary lie as children, sucking on the empty calories of fairy tales and cartoons. We consume it with in larger qualities and with more garnish growing up so that we are addicted to it when we reach adulthood. This lie is that there are "good guys" and "bad guys". Someone is the ruggedly handsome hero, who represents and protects all that is good and holy in the world, and someone is the evil villian, ugly and decietful who wants to tear down good and glorify the evil. Aside from the obvious spongy nature of what "good" and "evil" is, no body on the face of the earth is like that. No one is completely good, and no one is completely evil.

Consider the recent masaccre at Virginia Tech: Cho Seung-Hui is being painted as a hate-filled, violent man who destroyed innocents and was opposed by a great number of heros.

Cho Seung-Hui is a villian, wheras others like are the clear heros.

Yet, that's wrong. Cho Seung-Hui acted villainous and acted heroic, but they were more than merely archetypes. Perhaps Cho also opened doors for people who had huge packages and gave notes away in class for people who had difficulty with a subject. Maybe liked to ridicule students in class. I know neither of these men, so I couldn't tell you.

Before anyone says it, this does NOT mean to justify or minimize either's actions on the day in question. Merely that any one action itself does not make someone "good" or "evil".

We so desperately want the duality of good and evil. We crave the sureity that it gives us: we want this person to be a sinner and this one to be a saint. We want this person to be a bigot and this person to be an activist. We want to know if we should love or hate someone. Shades of grey annoy us; and complexity overwhelms us. In "The Riches" Minnie Driver's character tearfully says "Do you know how much it hurts to hate the one person you love more than anyone in the world?".

My friends are perfect examples of this: they run the gambit of humanity. Some days I get so frustrated with them I could scream (such is when they ask for the 30th time why giving advice to women to protect themselves from rape is a bad thing). Many days they can be downright cruel to me and each others. Once, I broke down in tears at the table, and they responded by mocking me.

I have been asked many times online why I stay friends with people who share next to no of my political leanings, and more than that, are hostile and apathetic to the idea of activism. Some days, when I am frustrated and would like some more tangible support than what they give me, I think the same thing and vow never to talk to them again.

And yet...

When an ex-bf dumped me, there was one of my friends with a house to crash at, bottle of Saphire Gin, Spaceballs, and a face that looked the other way when I started to cry so I didn't have to be embarassed.

After watching "The Shining" and being terrified, my completely exhausted friend stayed up talking to me until 4 am and never once asked why I felt the need to ramble about hotels.

The cruelest of my friends never once questioned what possible reason I could have for coming into his dorm room at midnight to silently watch television with him, on the days that I needed to escape my roommates and/or boyfriend.

My friends are neither evil, nor are they saints: they are people. Disturbed people, to be sure, many of them with more mental and emotional baggage than even me, but people none the less.


At 4:56 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I believe some people in society are completely evil, some just bad, and the rest some degree of good and bad mixed.

Cho, I think although partly sick in his mind was also evil, though not entirely. Even people who are evil can be complicated. Part of that complication is deception and he certainly did that.

He will be relegated to history as a bad person because nothing in his life was good to the point to balance the scale. Similarly Harris and Klebold were mental defects who were also had a streak of evil in their souls. They did not do anything in life that balances the evil and thus they are regarded as evil as a whole.

Some people are selfish, some lack the ability to be empathetic, some are co-dependant in a variety of ways, and everyone lies. Yes they are all complicated, yes they have good in them too, but in the end, either they are more good than bad, or we as individuals don't want to be around them. Why would anyone bother?


At 7:56 AM, Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

I can't and won't believe that there are some people that are all evil. "Evil" is such a nebulous term, anyway: I think in order for there to be evil, it must both be an evil action AND an evil intention. Cho was sick: he wasn't capable of an evil intention.

Why would any one bother? Because they, and we, are human, and we don't eat our own. We diminish our own humanity when refuse to help people who need our help the mmost.

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous mermade said...

I can see both yours and Chris' points on this one. I think there are real evil people in the world. Although someone may be sick, it doesn't mean that they're not capable of doing evil. He had an evil intention (kill people and himself) and an evil action (following through with it). Whether or not he was sick, I think, is irrelevant because what he did was itself evil. Pedophiles are evil. Hitler was evil, and he was definitely sick. I don't think his illness made him any less evil. There are opposite ends of the bell curve on this. There are the Mother Theresa’s, average people like you and me, and the BTKs.

But it is also the little things that average people like us do that matter. Why do we complain about the world being such a bad place? Every little thing we do, I think, is a choice between good and evil. (And I don't think of that in God/Satan terms). If you have a cup of water, all it takes is one drop of black dye to make it turn gray. And if everyone dropped in a tiny black drop, it wouldn't be long before the whole cup is black.

PS. I send you an email.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I whole heartedly believe that there are people who are entirely evil. I do not, however believe they start that way, but rather evolve to this state of being. People have to choose to do things that are evil. I think evil is some thing of a cancer that grows and becomes easier with each decision. I don't think there are hundreds of thousands of these types of people around, however, there are some entirely evil, demonic, vile people, and they walk among us.

Cho may not have been entirely devolved into evil; however I do believe he gave into the darkness of evil that can and does become all consuming, if you give into it over and over. I do not think you have to run around killing people, like he did to be defined as evil. He is one of the few who decided to take as many innocents with him as he could, thus making himself infamous. I believe in his sickness, he was fully functioning, and chose a path that got him what he wanted. He has forever disgraced his family, himself, and our society, and I believe these were choices freely made. It was easier for him to choose evil, than it was to choose to seek and make use of help that was in place for him.

We don’t eat our own: No we don’t and we should not. Perhaps my position is somewhat short sided and I should do more to follow the Bible on this issue. That being said, I do try to be a good person, to help others when I can, and to set an example to my kids and family, that you have to try to be a positive force in society. I do not however excuse bad behavior, or play this demented game of pluralistic non judgment. Bad behavior should be called what it is, not treated as some kind of ‘choice’ or ‘freedom’ that is publicly tolerated.

I agree with how ‘Mermade’ illustrated it, with the water and dye. My efforts to be a decent citizen is in a kind of pay it forward theme. If I set a good example of how to treat people, my kids will see that and probably model it in their lives. If I do something good for a person, maybe they will be kind to someone they see in need. All of this is done in an effort to ‘keep the water clear’ so to speak.



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