Am I Evil? An Exploration into moral truth

I find the importance in questioning what it means to be human. A key element of our existence lies within morality. I am interested in trying to identify where our morality stems from and what causes change in our beliefs of right, wrong and acceptable behaviour. What coincides within this is, is the notion of evil; arguably anti-morals. Within this paper I am setting out to identify what it means to be evil. I am interested in knowing if such thing as evil exists, and if so why it does. What drives me to these questions is looking at the economic divide that we have on a global scale, I am at a loss to understand how there is such a level of indifference to poverty. I am trying to identify why this indifference is not just present, yet is acceptable. Writing this article, it forces me to shuffle uncomfortably and hide behind my personal barricades of denial. It is hard to break my walls to admit that I can understand the immoral actions of leaving a large proportion of the human race struggling for survival. The fact that I am human means I understand human needs. The guilt that arises within me is enough to understand that change needs to occur, my lack of action leads me to question whether I am evil. The knowing that my indifference is immoral and my choice not to act is surely questionable to say the least. Yet we live in a society where this indifference is acceptable, could it be said that our society is evil? I am going to explore historical events of severe servitude and horrors dealt between humans to try and gain an understanding of what causes change on a large scale to occur.

Evil as a thing does not exist, yet Evil actions do. Evil is embodied within humankind. Being human is an amalgamation of ideals and opinions all derived internally and from society that said human has been thrown[i] into. Therefore, just as each human being is individual and cannot be categorically objectified, nor can the act of evil. A few points are being raised here. Firstly, as evil is embedded within each of us, it can be closely linked to free will, to act in an evil way is a choice made by the individual. Secondly I discussed the society that individuals have been thrown into, each society periodically and culturally in any time dimension[ii] will differ. Each differing society will hold different expectations upon its members, so codes and morals will also differ. These codes and morals are so deeply embedded that even down to considering these codes and morals in this way is unique to western culture. Foucault, a genealogical philosopher, argues that western values can be historically identified as being derived from Christianity and Greek culture. What I am leading towards is that due to different moral codes, something that could be deemed as evil in one-time frame or culture could be perfectly acceptable in another. So due to the fact that society and opinions are in constant flux and is ever changing, so does morality and ethics therefore evil is unidentifiable as an external entity.  Yet one emotion that can be closely correlated with evil is greed, as to act with greed often supresses another or disrupts the balance of equality. Evidence of this can be seen just looking at the current economic distribution, Oxfam states that; the world has more than 1 billion people living in extreme poverty, and 1,645 billionaires’[1]. Undeniably greed has been a crisis witnessed throughout history. Currently the Panama Scandal is the most recent high level of greed that has come to the public eye.  The scandal has exposed many tax evaders, included within the lists are large political figures such as David Cameron and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson[2]. A focus in the media is of the scandal and not much is documented in regards to the impact. Oxfam states that ‘each year the poorest countries lose $170 billion to tax havens.’[3] To drive the dividing gap between rich and poor even further by unethical behaviour and greed, surely can be identified as an evil act, yet the focus has not been on the impact on the victimised countries, yet upon the shaming of elite figures. This media focus draws the importance away from the ones who are suffering, even down to the headlines, naming it a scandal as appose to a crisis which further promotes indifference to suffering.

‘What is the purpose of morality in a hedonistic society? If God is dead, then the whole world is a brothel and the only thing to do is to make the most of it until you buy the farm. If the individual is king, then only selfishness makes sense. And if the father is no longer the sole figure of authority, then the only thing which limits violence in a materialistic democracy is the police.’[4]

Beigbeder raises an interesting question, what is the purpose of morality, has our morality been brought down to legislation and jurisdiction of the police force. He is investigating these questions in the form of a novel, but being a novel it has the capacity to make predictions and descriptions of a mentality that could arise. His question raises great concern for me, as a removal of morality would cause ultimately a loss of autonomy and freedom for the majority. If there is no purpose in morality, then that would come at the cost of losing control of what we as society believe to be right or wrong. Our jurisdiction will become obsolete and our perceived notions of evil could easily become implemented within our society, and new notions of evil could arise, being problematic as it allows all moral judgement to be taken out of the people’s hands. The self has become important within the 21st Century, the community and group mentality is becoming dissolved into a bubble mentality, focusing on the individual and self-gains. With the rise of technology comes even further disinterest with the neighbour. Ironically by becoming more connected we are becoming more separated, the separation occurring in the everyday with less interactions, a new focus has arisen to keep communication in the palm of the hand. All power has been passed, as Beigbeder states within his novel, into the hands of multinational corporations and governmental enforcers. Through becoming an individualist nation, we are losing our identity and our power. So Individuality in this sense is problematic, but only if it spirals out of control and into selfishness. I believe a focus on the self is important and essential within the western world today, but it is as important to not become entirely self-absorbed and losing the sense of community, else or morality and freedom will become lost. The relevance of Windows on the World is that it is describing an event, the September 11th attacks, which has shaped history and created a shift in perspective. Beigbeder is aware of this significance and relates it with Nietzsche and the beginnings of the modernist movement, another key shifting point for western perspective. Arguably the attack signifies the end of the 20th century and brought us into post 9/11, and the ‘War on Terror’[5], which came with changes of attitudes and a fear of the unknown, terrorism. The attitudes from 9/11 are still significantly evident with today’s refugee crisis. There is great fear of extremists which is preventing the shelter of millions of Syrian Refugees. Obviously there are many other preventions in place, such as the oppression shown due to economic reasons and fear of disrupting internal balances for each country. Yet these attitudes are Western attitudes, take Lebanon for instance, who are currently housing the equivalent number of refugees as a quarter of their population[6], this does not show individual attitudes, but more of a humanitarian approach. There is action taking place. The morality of Lebanon can be distinguished as being more communitarian, and enables a stronger response. I am not expressing that an entire shift in perspective is needed, but merely to exemplify the strength and benefits of community and highlight that it is a notion that should not be forgotten as Beigbeder predicts it could.

To take a further step back from the refugee crisis and look at humanity at a global level, why then are basic human needs not met? There are enough resources to feed and shelter all humankind yet there is so much poverty. ‘The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.’[7] This are harrowing statistics that have accumulated this far due to predominantly greed. Much legislation and restrictions are put into play in order to maintain the economic hierarchy of dominance over the poor. This issue is so large and can only be tackled from the top down[iii]. I am interested in knowing what will cause change in attitude and an identification that the fact of high poverty levels need to be addressed. Is there a need for a spark, a catalyst to create change or could change occur gradually?

To consider how change can occur it seems relevant to assess certain aspects of history and to understand why opinion change. What I am interested in is attempting to uHaitai.jpgnderstand what it is that sparks this change in attitudes and therefore social moral values, this notion of change must come from somewhere; what was it that changed opinion to that of slavery being wrong for instance, or why did we stop human sacrifice[iv]? Rebellions and actions are what caused change and led to the abolition of slavery predominantly. The Haitian Revolution 1791-1804 shook the slave trade on a global scale, it was a successful revolution that overthrew French domination over Saint Dominique[8]. Large scale revolts, to revolts on an individual level such as Carpenter Ned doing literally nothing and being an “idle” servant[9] were common across all slave holding countries. What I find of great interest in regards to the abolition of slavery is opinions. The ownership of slaves was the owning of property, so whilst pro-abolitionists where arguing the fact of the humanity of slaves, the opposition was challenging them for fear of losing “property”[v]. This is where I find the correlation of greed and evil action. I can only speculate, but I am of the opinion that during this period of slavery and the slave trade the same feeling of guilt and unease would have been present as there is today in regards to poverty. Due to an accepting government and broad social view of the ownership of slaves an indifference to this feeling was adopted. The abolition is an incredible accomplishment for the immediate impact that it “liberated”[vi] slaves but also as it is an example of changing morals and a shift in perspective of what constitutes evil on a global scale. The thought of holding slaves today is unimaginable. So that leads me to question what will it take for a change in attitude from guilt and unease to action taking place, so basic human needs can be met on a global scale. A voice and a disruption to the current system is needed. It is not until the current system ceases to work that the issue will be recognised. The striving for this changing of opinion the, catalyst of change has potential to be identified as the purest sense of good, as it has been totally unaffected by personal will and biases. It is sheer determination to disrupt evil action.  A hope is there that a liberation for the impoverished will occur so that one day we can look back in horror that there was such an equal distribution of wealth and power, much like we look back at slavery now.Cole_Thomas_The_Course_of_Empire_The_Arcadian_or_Pastoral_State_1836

I set out to try and identify if it would be possible for a harmonious global society to ever exist where all basic human needs for all humanity are accommodated for. I think that it is possible as we have the resources yet it will need a shift in moral opinions and significant action to take place. Due to the subjectivity of the notion of evil, this shift in moral opinion is possible much like how it occurred with views on slavery. But saying this I believe that I think there is too much distrust and greed within our genetic makeups that has been imposed by society, and our forever growing sense of individuality creates an inability to slowly procure the dissolution of poverty. The fact that we have not created a harmonious world after all the years we have shared the planet leads me to question if it is possible to ever achieve a Utopian world for all. We have the capacity to change our morals and set forward towards global equality, yet our genetic makeup hinders us. The convoluted amalgamation of emotions and feelings that we embody also include the possibility of evil, therefore pain and suffering will always be part of being human. This is why writings such as Thomas Moore’s Utopia are so popular as they are universal dreams that is unachievable.

[1] Oxfam, 1,645 billionaires [accessed:18/04/2016]

[2] Ben Gliniecki and Ylva Vinburg, Capitalism is Corruption: Panama Papers scandal claims its first scalps (In Defence of Marxism, 07 April 2016) [accessed: 18/04/2016

[3] Oxfam – It’s time to end the time of tax havens [accessed:18/04/2016]

[4]Frédérick Beigbeder, Windows on the World (London: Harper Perennial, 2005) 143

[5] President George Bush, Bush declares War on Terror (abc news: 20 Sep, 2011) [accessed 28/04/2016]

[6] 2015 UNHCR country operations profile, (UNHCR) [accessed 09/05/16] Lebanon

[7] Anup Shah, Poverty Facts and Stats (Global Issues: 07 Jan 2013) [accessed 01/05/2016]

[8] Claudia E. Sutherland, Haitian Revolution 1791-1804 ( [accessed 08/05/2016]

[9] Willie Lee Rose, A Documentary History of Slavery in North America (Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1999) 256

[i] Throwness is a term coined by Martin Heidegger Being and Time.

[ii] The time dimensions I am discussing are the past, present or future.

[iii]I would like to express that I am writing in order to highlight my concern for this global issue, I am only attempting to raise awareness and not to solve the issue. This is why I am leaving this section short and expressing that it is an issue that needs to be dealt with from the top, by top I am describing the world elites and primarily the richest 20% of the population who are housing this wealth.

[iv] I am looking into the Aztec culture here. It was the Spanish Inquisition that overruled the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan with the defeat led by Fernando Cortez, Spanish enforced jurisdictions along with Christian principles. Within these principles was the stopping of Aztec religious practice, the sacrificing of humans included within this.

[v]  Emperor of Brazil Dom Pedro II, delivered a speech in 1860 for the “liberation of the womb” an act that would free new born children of slave women. This speech was successful and the act came into play but came against some great opposition. There are many examples of legislation and acts trying to come through and fought against.

[vi] “liberated” as a loose term, there was not an overnight change from slavery to equality. It took years for African Americans in particular to shake oppression with such legislation as the Jim Crow Laws. Some will argue that there is still not equality between races in the United States of America.





Beigbeder Frédérick, Windows on the World (London: Harper Perennial, 2005)

Conrad. Robert Edgar, Children of God’s Fire: a documentary history of black slavery on Brazil (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994)

Castillo. Bernal Diaz del, The Conquest of New Spain, trans. J. M. Cohen (London: Penguin Books, 1963)

Gliniecki. Ben and Vinburg. Ylva, Capitalism is Corruption: Panama Papers scandal claims its first scalps (In Defence of Marxism, 07 April 2016) [accessed: 18/04/2016

Heidegger. Martin, Being and Time (New York: Harper & Row, 1962)

Moore. Thomas, Utopia (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1965)

Oxfam – It’s time to end the time of tax havens [accessed:18/04/2016]

Oxfam, 1,645 billionaires [accessed:18/04/2016]

President Bush. George, Bush declares War on Terror (abc news: 20 Sep, 2011) [accessed 28/04/2016]

Rose. Willie Lee, A Documentary History of Slavery in North America (Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1999)

Shah. Anup, Poverty Facts and Stats (Global Issues: 07 Jan 2013) [accessed 01/05/2016]

Sutherland. Claudia E., Haitian Revolution 1791-1804 ( [accessed 08/05/2016]

2015 UNHCR country operations profile, (UNHCR) [accessed 09/05/16] Lebanon



Am I Evil? An Exploration into moral truth

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