I think Hollywood and modern media paint a the world to be made of good and evil people. When you look at the horrific events of the last 50 years though, I think the pattern tells a different story. Notorious serial killers of the 60s, 70s, and 80s all came from extremely abusive, demented homes where they were beaten, treated like dirt, and often molested. More recently, the acts of domestic and international terrorism are perpetuated by people brainwashed by radical Islam. I think those who flock to radical Islam often do so out of desperate circumstances or are brought up in environments where extremism is all they know. Whether it is radical Islam in the middle east or fundamentalist Mormons out West, when you’re raised in a closed community, right and wrong is defined within your community. Ultimately, I think that most evil is rarely from birth. Evil people are bread by environments that cause mental illness, mental trauma and ultimately mental breaks, and extremist ideas, often originating from extremist religions.
Whether on the news, in a movie, or in our daily lives, I think good and bad is often over simplified. In the movies, good guy characters are developed in corny, predictable ways. The hero intervenes when some jerk is about to hit his wife or kid. Bad guy characters are developed to be cold and ruthless by showing them kill a henchman for a minor error or they hurt women and children. The media talks mostly about what a perpetrator did and the devastation it caused. They spend less time on what drove them to do it and where our society failed. School shootings happen because a child is mentally unstable and nobody gets involved. Gang related deaths happen because we let drug wars operate within our cities. Demented killers are raised in abusive households and are often molested as kids. Why can’t we spend more time talking about who could have made a difference? We are always so mad at the perpetrator. We label them as evil and tell ourselves we would never do such things. Yet use the holocaust as reference. There have been endless studies on this and what we know is that we don’t know what horrible things we’re capable of until we’re faced with horrible circumstances.
If we didn’t allow ourselves the simplicity of labeling people as evil, we might be better at preventing evil from occurring. We judge from a distance and tell ourselves that we are good people and the criminals are bad people. I want to move us out from behind the glass. I want society to have an internal locust of control.
Why didn’t anyone stop the bullying and reach out to that obviously troubled young person?
Why did we let that neighborhood be overrun by drugs and why didn’t we try harder to shut down those gangs before more people got hurt and drug addicted?
Why didn’t we get that kid out of that abusive home? Why didn’t we investigate the suspicions of molestation more thoroughly?
A lot of this comes down to a general mental health problem in the US. Lots of parents are unfit to raise their children and there’s no resources for us to place the child into a better living environment and no effective way to help the parent with their mental illness. Some kids are raised by addicts, alcoholics, abusive parents, depressed parents, or unsupportive and inattentive parents. To be serious about stopping evil acts, we have to get serious about mental illness and we’re very far from that point.
There have been many arguments over Hollywood’s effect on violence. We concentrate on the perpetrators and say, did violence in films and games cause this person to become violent? We never look at ourselves and ask, do these violent acts occur because we let them come to be? Evil doesn’t come with horns and sharp teeth. It is more subtle and our tolerance for circumstances that breed evil results in evil.