Good and Evil

Good and Evil

Posted by Matt Little on 27th Feb 2022

As I write this, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine is less than a week old. Stories from the conflict are flooding social media and news outlets, both mainstream and alternative. With our society, and arguably the global one, as polarized as it has ever been in my lifetime, it’s tempting to view this conflict and its political underpinnings in a zero-sum fashion.

Life and reality aren’t that simple however. We can believe that the Ukrainians fighting for their country are courageous without agreeing with their government’s stance on political freedom. We can believe that the Russian invasion is wrong without demonizing the individual soldiers. We can believe that economic and political pressure on Russia and aid to the Ukraine are the morally right acts for our country to take without wanting our military directly involved on a large scale.

Make no mistake, there is evil in the world. Any cop who has dealt with a sociopathic killer or any soldier who has witnessed war’s atrocities can tell you graphically how very real it is. And there is good in the world as well. But failing to see the ethical shades of grey between both extremes is a crucial error of judgement, tempting though it may be, and a dangerous one. It is vitally important that leaders and warriors avoid making that mistake.

Demonizing the opposition, viewing your enemies as evil caricatures rather than real people, is exactly what allows good men to do evil acts. Understanding the shades of grey between the black and white extremes prevents us from doing evil in the name of good. It’s what prevents us from losing our way. It is possible to do necessary violence without hatred or bullying. It is possible to be justifiably ruthless without becoming needlessly cruel. And that distinction is where the truth of good and evil actually lies.