The Differences Between Bad And Evil

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It’s interesting that in English we speak of good vs. bad, but we also speak of good vs. evil.  We use the same positive quality when we are talking about the opposition of two distinct negative qualities.  Somehow differentiating the two negative qualities is more important than creating a differentiation of the two positive qualities.  Through the ages, different people have worked hard to create defined discrete definitions to separate these two negative concepts.  Operationally, we seem to know when a situation calls for the designation of bad and when it calls for the designation of evil, but creating essential definitions is altogether another story.  

I would like to develop a method of distinguishing these two concepts using my philosophical model.  Basically, both bad and evil refer to situations where organic connections between people are damaged.  For our purposes here, we are not going to go into uses of bad in more practical process matters as in food that has gone bad or a bad repair job or a bad presentation.)  But whereas bad in the social sense refers to a damage that occurs in the direct organic bonds between people, evil refers to when someone or some people create significant damage to the grounding that holds people together, the template which creates the orientation and the sense of location that give people the stability to allow them to bond with many different people.

Let’s say a child misbehaves and is designated by his teacher or parent to be a bad boy.  He could get this designation as a result of continually talking out of turn in class, or as a result of hitting a child on the playground, or maybe clowning in the hallway.  In all of these cases, the child has done damage to his connections with specific individuals: to his teacher, to another child, or to the hall monitor.  In all of these cases, the child has only done damage to a particular bonded connection, but not to the whole foundation of meaning on which social discourse in the educational system is based.  Now granted that the other children in the classroom are impacted when a child talks out of turn, but the impact is temporary and either the teacher gets the talker to quiet down or he is sent to the principal’s office.  And when a child hits another child on the playground, the hitter is usually sent to some kind of detention. Depending on how intense the hit is, the child that is hit may simply need to have some calming words from the teacher, or else, he is sent to the school infirmary.  There is no major cosmological impact here.  Finally, when a kid is quietly clowning around in the hallway between classes, the hall monitor usually just quietly tells him to stop it, and if the child persists, the monitor will seek the help of the teacher in front of whose class the student is waiting or, if it is really disagreeable, the clowner will also be sent to the principal’s office.  Not too much evil in evidence here.

This is a very different situation from the school shooting at Uvalde Texas, where a young man brought high-powered weapons into a school and started randomly killing different students.  That is pure evil.  It undermines the whole social contract on which any educational institution would be based.  Any one of the mass shootings today has a way of destroying the meaning in all of our lives.  How can we fully trust our encounters with any stranger we meet or even a person who is familiar to us when any encounter could be our last?  Such a shooting destroys our social grounding and leaves us floating in a social vacuum.

The ultimate in evil occurred on October 6 this year on the border between Israel and Gaza.  Every rule of war was broken, every implicit notion of what it means to be human was denigrated.  Even if every member of Hamas is killed, the memory of what happened on Oct. 6 will remain not only among the survivors, but among all the Jewish people of Israel as well as every Jew in the whole world.  This was an atrocious attempt at destruction of Jews using the sense of touch, the sense most literally associated with organic bonding and grounding.  If every time one touches another human being, one is reminded in a way of the horrible uses of touch on October 6, then one will most likely avoid touching another human being or at least get little joy from it.  This is what we Jews will have to contend with for a long time into the future.  How evil is that?

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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