Humans are dangerous creatures capable of great evil. This inescapable truth bombards us every time we turn on the news. The weight of this knowledge bears down on every human soul, and with every tragedy, we are starkly reminded of it. We cry out for someone to save us from our inherent capacity for evil. Or perhaps we say to ourselves, “I could never do that.”
But you’re wrong, you could do that.
Humans can kill. We can harm, we can steal, we can commit grave atrocities. Why? Because we are free.
Being free means that your choices are your own. There is no government agency capable of monitoring our every action, our every violent thought, our every evil instinct. No government organization can prevent every act of violence because every act of violence is an expression of human power. There is no bureaucracy that is more powerful than the actions of individual humans who are free to choose to be evil.
With every tragedy—every school shooting, every act of terrorism, every high profile murder—we as a species ask why this is happening. How could any human choose to do harm? Yet perhaps the question isn’t why it happened. Perhaps the question is why more of us don’t commit atrocities.
We Cannot Be Good if We Cannot Do Wrong
Psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson says that we can have no insight whatsoever into our capacity for good until we understand our capacity for evil. I think he’s right. Until we acknowledge that humans can be evil, we cannot choose to be good. If we did not possess the ability to do great harm, there would be nothing commendable about not doing so.
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