'Pure Evil' is a great headline that sells newspapers but it doesn't help us, as a society, to move forwards, argues David Hare


It reinforces a misguided and dualistic view of the world, generated mainly by the red-tops, that simplistically divides people into 'villains and victims' or 'goodies and baddies'. Reality is not so black and white.

All of us are capable of evil and of good. Even Hitler cared about animals. A 'cruel murderer' can come home and show compassion to his children, a 'kind nurse' can come home from work and be aggressive to their family. What Karen Matthews did was undoubtedly stupid and greedy and she deserves to be punished for her cruelty. However I'm sure that if we looked hard enough we could find a positive intention behind her actions. It is her underdeveloped emotional intelligence (as much as lack of IQ) that prevented her from finding a more positive way to reach her goal. 

As a Nichiren Buddhist and personal development coach/trainer I believe that everyone without exception makes a subconscious choice every day: do I reveal my innate stupidity, greed and anger? Or do I reveal my innate wisdom, courage and compassion? The first approach makes the world a desperate place, the second, which takes huge effort and determination, makes society more peaceful, inspiring and creative.  

In Buddhism we have a saying that it only takes one candle to light up a cave that has been dark for billions of years - there is no such thing as a purely evil person, just people who haven't yet discovered how to light the candle. This hopeful view of the world does not yet sell newspapers, but I pray that one day it will.

Visit David's website here.

The work of Dr Philip Zimbardo is also interesting in this context.

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