A thought for Sunday night

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” — Simone Weil




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2 responses to “A thought for Sunday night

  1. Zosimus the Heathen

    I think I’ve encountered this quote before – I seem to recall it appearing at the end of M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie”, a book about human evil (I skimmed that book once when I found a copy in a library, but sadly haven’t read it properly yet). It reminds me of an interesting observation I’ve heard made by people who’ve encountered real-life evildoers – that, a lot of the time, such people come across as strangely empty, as if beneath their exteriors there’s really nothing there. One such evildoer was the worst mass shooter in Australian history (so far anyway): an individual by the name of Martin Bryant who gunned down over thirty people in 1996 in an incident now immortalized as the “Port Arthur massacre” (you may have heard of it yourself). According to one of the policemen who eventually apprehended him after a prolonged shoot-out and siege, Bryant came across as this utterly vacant idiot: someone who really epitomized the saying, “The lights are on but nobody’s home”. There’s also this British documentary maker (and former EastEnders actor!) called Ross Kemp who’s travelled the world, and interviewed all manner of dangerous people living in equally dangerous places. In one of the books he’s written about his travels, he claims that despite meeting so many scary individuals during the course of his work, he’s only met a couple who he’d really describe as evil, and he likewise made the observation that they come across as empty shells of human beings. One was a hardened South African prison inmate called Johnny Mongrel (who Kemp nonetheless seemed to harbour some strange feelings of affection for, despite all the horrible things he’d claimed to have done), while the other was an Indian sex trafficker, who lured girls and women from poor families into the slave trade, and had no compunctions about killing them whenever he deemed it necessary. (I wondered if the latter individual might have been a bona fide psychopath, but he apparently started crying during Kemp’s interview with him because, somehow, he ultimately saw himself, rather than all the people whose lives he’d destroyed, as the real victim. I suppose that only reinforces the above point that real evil is generally quite banal and pathetic, rather than glamorous or exciting.)

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