Commentary and Philosophy Fiction posted April 4, 2014


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I'm no sheep!

The Irony of Evil

by mfowler


I flop into the back row of the lecture theatre. I'm five minutes late; I've been caught up in an altercation with neo-nazi protestors in the student car park. I couldn't go past the sign: ISLAMIC STUDENTS-INTELLIGENT TERRORISTS, without sharing my truth.

As the half-table clatters, and echoes through the theatre, a hushed silence follows, and Professor Zeigler looks over his glasses in my direction. I feel the disgust of the group, and shrivel into mortified silence, when the finest philosophy lecturer on campus targets my stare.

He returns to his notes, "Evil exists; it is real and as abundant in our society today as it was during the holocaust." I'm writing furiously, and imagining the face of that screaming fanatic with the swastika tattoos, who 'chested' me when I spoke up outside. Those eyes; such hate, such brainless ignorance.

"But, the evil that is most potent, most dangerous, isn't that of the megalomaniac, or the serial killer. It's the evil which metastasises throughout society through sheer banality of thinking." There's a lot of side chatter while the professor takes a sip of water.

I'm still grappling with the big words, let alone the scope of his comment. I always thought of evil as being just that; bad things done by bad people. I have a few problems with what's good and bad, but in general Hitler was bad, Stalin of course, and people who run around with guns shooting people randomly because they've had a hard life. Yeah, that's evil.

"For example, you might characterise Pol Pot as evil, because he led the genocide of innocents in Cambodia. It's clearly wrong, and he has perpetrated evil. But, have you considered the people below the top decision makers. The lieutenants, the sergeants, the people's committees, the executioners. The killers, themselves. Ordinary people, following orders, giving up thought and conscience to do their duty. Is that not evil?"

I can't stop thinking about those bastards in the car park. Their anger, and lack of care about the rights of Islamic students in our schools. Lots of these kids are ordinary citizens. They're no Osama bin Laden's. The skin-headed freaks make me want to puke.

"In every person, there is the potential to be evil. Just as there is the potential for courage, love and greatness." I know he's talking about me. I've got good Christian values, and I'm a free thinker.

"In every generation, someone, some group, suspend thinking, making judgements about right and wrong. They join like those cancer cells, impose their wills on otherwise good people, and metastasise throughout society with their cancer."

My notebook is flowing over with this man's brilliance, and I'm doodling swastikas around the borders of the page. Then, I'm scribbling angrily over each one, while I think about the hate and ignorance I confronted in the car park.

Leaving the theatre, I detect a buzz among the students milling around the notice board. "What's going on, Harry?" I ask the guy who shares a History tute with me.

"Oh, we were talking about what the professor said about group evil. Gertrude says Hitler and the Jews. I was thinking the Taliban. Zu says Mao. Sharon reckons that the Jewish mob that turned on Jesus was the best example."

"Yeah, good list. What about those skinheads in the car park?"

Abir steps forward. "They spat on me as I was coming in. They called me a slave because of my hijab. I have never been so frightened." The students listen and I can feel the anger building in me and the others. Abir is a favourite among us, as she is normally so forthright and full of life.

Lawrence suggests we go in number and tell the racists to leave. It seems a sensible idea, given the common grievance we feel for Abir. I'm very ready for this. I still haven't got the stench of that guy's sweat out of my memory, and that language of hate reverberates. There's fifteen of us. It seems unanimous that we confront evil on our doorstep.

The protest goes badly. The skinheads batter us with their signs; Abir is thrown to the ground and kicked. I get in a few lucky kicks and send one the bastards to hospital. We're all arrested for public fracas.

I'm waiting in the police station for charges to be formally set. Lawrence says, "Ironic, mate?" I'm too sore and annoyed to get what he means. "You know, what the Professor said." Lawrence is taken away before he expands on his point.

I thumb through my notes. I see the swastikas. "We showed them," I think. Then I read: Ordinary people giving up thought and conscience to do their duty. Is that not evil?"

The penny drops. I feel shame.


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