I watch crime documentaries to find out what makes evil people tick, nodding in agreement when the narrator mentions the usual traits: lonely, loony, irritable, and psychotic. But one thing these criminals have in common is that they look like regular folks you see at the shopping mall.
When I look at these people, I see my colleague going through a messy breakup. I see them in you, my dear friend, fed up with the world and the odds stacked against you.
You’re probably scrunching up your face at the suggestion that your heart is full of evil. You believe that even if the world is in utter chaos, nothing can corrupt your moral compass. But until you’ve known adversity, until your life has come under threat, you’ll never understand how close you are to breaking bad.
Let me show you why your heart is full of evil.
In the words of Solzhenitsyn, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.”
Every society recognizes the presence of good and evil in rigid moral dichotomies like Yin and Yang. You want to be a child of the light, but the darkness within you wants to come out and play.
Carl Jung referred to this darkness as the “shadow” — a representation of everything flawed, depraved, and diabolical within us. The shadow is the antithesis of a good conscience, and both constantly battle for control over your soul. It is that part of us we suppress when we get angry, that character deviation we hide from other people.
That’s why we need a moral compass fuelled by church or state. The entire point of religion is to help you magnify your inner light and banish the shadow. Follow the light and walk not in darkness. But the same religion can harness that shadow to make you commit atrocities in the name of a god you’ll never meet.
Where religion falters, the state continues. Together, they dictate rules and guidelines for keeping your shadow in check, as it struggles to manifest itself in public. Their rules, laws, and commandments get distilled into your brain like a nursery rhyme—your conscience recites them to calm you down whenever your heart rate spikes.
Run from it, evade it; the shadow is inevitable. Beyond the realm of religion, harnessing your shadow self will help you navigate life and fuck society like Mr. Robot—even at the risk of getting killed or landing a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay.
With time, you’ll learn how to get away with blurring the lines between good and evil to fit into civilized society. You’ll discover that the light in you has to face the reality of thriving in the cold, mean streets.
Bribing your way into lucrative opportunities becomes routine, like rites of passage for your shadow self. Instead of letting your inner light power your moral compass, you confide in your shadow to shield you from the real-life implications of your actions. That’s how you can live with yourself.
In the wider society, you practice selective morality cloaked in the veil of situational ethics. Jack picks up a gun and walks down the street to shoot a woman and her five kids. Kene joins the army and kills a family of five because they are “potential” terrorists. You recommend one of them the Medal of Honor; the other person gets the electric chair.
Even at this stage, you won’t consider yourself evil. These are venial sins or misdemeanors, fixable by almsgiving, ablution, or confession. At least you didn’t get your hands dirty.
But what if you had to? Would you be able to embrace your shadow?
In the 1930s, one man with a funny mustache convinced a nation of the most educated people in the world to systematically exterminate an entire ethnic group.
With the gift of hindsight, we can say that the Nazis, especially the SS guards, epitomized evil. The Germans were a highly literate population, but the Nazis were able to harness the collective shadow of a zombified nation through propaganda. Like zombies, these regular folks shot children in the back of the head, cried about it at night, and still went back the following day to gas the survivors with Zyklon B.
You are probably thinking: “there is no way I can go to such lengths to murder strangers. My heart might harbor evil, but my moral compass is still intact.”
That’s where you are mistaken. The truth is that you’d probably be one of the murderous bastards roaming the streets, armed with an axe to grind and a misguided ideology. You are not White Rose; you are not Oskar Schindler.
Whenever evil happens on a massive scale, ordinary people with broken moral compasses act as propellants for the flame of decadence. And if you lack the strength of character to stand by your convictions in the face of menacing evil, you will find yourself at a makeshift checkpoint in Kigali, clubbing your neighbor’s kids to death.
But if you master your shadow, you will stop viewing life through rose-tinted glasses. By embracing those demons you’ve ignored all your life, you’ll be able to tame and summon them when needed.
You’ll flaunt the skeptical confidence of a dictator with a nuclear warhead, knowing that you and everyone else are just one rude word away from setting the world ablaze. And by knowing this, you’ll have absolute control over your worst tendencies; you know what you are capable of, but you keep yourself in check. That’s the source of your power.
Even at this stage of depravity, you are still not the worst because your evil deeds still weigh heavy on your conscience. That means your shadow has yet to stifle the final flicker of light in you.
To gain respect on these mean, shadowy streets, you’ll need to strive for psychopathy—an absence of any concept of good and evil. At this stage, your moral compass is just an accessory. That’s how you can cut kids open like Mengele and dine like Dahmer without feeling a thing. You are now on the final level of this 22-point scale of evil.
And if you are not on the scale, then you are the Devil, Hades, Satan, Shaytan, or Satana. You are the reason religions exist. Humans blame you for everything because they’d rather die in denial than take personal responsibility for their misdeeds. Gods will continue sending armies to capture you because of your little rebellion. You cockroach, I finally found you.