Moussa Diarra: A Brief History of Evil

In the dead of night, when clouds burdened with rain cover the moon, when the stars seem to have fallen out of the sky, when all other lights go out, the echo of things most intrinsically beautiful and malevolent in the annals of history sends a piercing whistle through the impenetrable void that is the human mind, only to be turned away. The overall success or impending doom of mankind will be determined by our ability to learn from history. There’s an ancient pandemic sweeping the earth, and it’s a sickness not of the body, but of the soul. Humanity’s capacity for malevolence is unparalleled in power; time and time again, the roots of envy, lust, and wrath have reared their ugly heads to reveal a hidden factor in the complex equation that is human nature. Allow me to take you on an expedition of sorts through humanity’s defining moments in history; the times we have turned brother on brother, father on son… let me provide you with perspective as to why such horrible things happened. In this brief history of evil, I will show you why power corrupts, for, as plato said, “the true measure of a man is what he does with power” (Plato); each decision he makes tipping him towards the light, or leaving him in darkness. We live in a day and age where the past serves not as a reminder, but as something to forgive and forget; but let me tell you something: history never forgave, and it never forgot.

What makes one man superior to another? What gives one man the right to dominate and control another? Is it money? Is it stature? During the time of the Egyptian empire, in 5867 B.C., for one man to hold the life of another in his hands was interpreted to be nothing less than the will of God. “The belief of the ancient Egyptian was that so long as his body remained intact, so was his immortality,”(2), but at what cost? The cost of building a monument to his immortality was paid by breaking the backs of men, women and children alike. The great pyramids as they stand today, are monuments of absolute power; built to shelter the remains of mighty Pharaohs of old who were revered as gods in human form. In reality, these “beautiful works of art” were built on the backs of Hebrews, slaving in the heat, waiting for a saviour to lead them to the promised land. The Ancient Egyptians believed in gods whose very names “breathe suggestions of mystery, cruelty, pomp, and power,”(2) and it has always been humanity’s natural course of action to follow the example provided by the gods, regardless of any moral compass. Living, breathing human beings were used merely as tools with which to build, and fortify, and when the tool was worn down by hunger and decay, it was to be replaced instantly with a newer, and sharper one. Men, women and children alike, all beaten, raped and used; why? Because it was commanded by the gods; a poor excuse for such heinous acts.

It is often the case for us to use divine entities as an excuse for our horrific courses of action. From Allah, Yahweh and Jesus to Lucifer, Shãtan and Beelzebub, mankind is never lacking in scapegoats whom they claim to serve in the quest for a “higher purpose.” Jerusalem, also known as the Holy Land is the birthplace of Christ, who allegedly died to save humanity from their sins and the wrath of God. Ironically, it is also home to what are among the bloodiest battles men have ever fought: the Seven Crusades; several armies, all desperately grabbing at a common holy land to fulfil a common God. “In 1095, Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade to regain the Holy Land”(4) from the Seljuk Turk Muslims who killed their Abbasid Muslim brothers for it. After every oration, before every battle, the Christians would cry “God wills it.” What God wills it? What God would condone the slaughter of over 1.7 million of your brothers and sisters? What God would ask His people, would ask children to stand knee-deep in blood and beg for mercy? This was the will of one man in his misguided quest for control, God had nothing to do with it.

Our most precious asset as human beings is the ability to dream, and to make that dream a reality. Most dream of a world where we are all at peace with our fellow brothers and sisters, and some believe that the only way to achieve this goal is total world domination; some often confuse the notion of peace with quiet. In the year 1939, Adolf Hitler, one of history’s most notorious figures, rose to power and invaded Poland with the single goal of achieving what he called the “Final Solution”(7) to all of his people’s problems: the complete eradication of the Jewish faith and its people, whom he considered “an alien threat to German racial purity and community.”(7) Although Hitler’s root motives for such horrific actions such as the Holocaust are unclear, his motives came from the same place as any other man’s; he had a dream. Physicist Leo Szilard also had a dream, a dream of a world free of Hitler’s monstrosity, and the culmination of his dream was that “a bomb of unprecedented power could be made by tapping the forces of nuclear fission;”(8) in simple English, the culmination of his dream was the Atom Bomb. Physicist Albert Einstein endorsed Szilard’s idea, and pleaded with President Roosevelt to develop this weapon before Hitler had the chance to. The game was set, and the players were ready. Then, as a warning to the Japanese, two of these bombs developed by the Americans “equivalent to that of more than 15,000 tons of TNT”(1), were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing a total of more than 120,000 innocent men, women and children. When any fight takes place between anyone, expect collateral damage to those who aren’t involved. All this because two men’s dreams were in conflict with one another. What one person hopes will always be in conflict with another person’s hopes. The notion of “good” is relative, and means different things to different people. There is no cure for this because it is not a disease, it is just human nature. But to kill and destroy in the name of these hopes is to kill and destroy in vain.

These atrocities I have recounted to you may have one wondering if God will ever forgive us for what we have done to each other, or if we will ever forgive ourselves… this is irrelevant, the past is past, but it also serves as a lesson, a lesson we refuse to learn, or a class we don’t even bother showing up to. One man or woman cannot make a difference, only together can we rage against the dying of the light. The struggle that marks the peak of human suffering is always yet to come, one that will at last change the way we think, one that will render this brief history of evil minuscule and obsolete.