I’ve been noticing a trend in social media over the last year or so. Namely, whenever any sort of horrific event happens, whether real or (in the case of Rolling Stone’s UVA Rape Story) imagined, there is an overwhelming outcry that society needs to teach Group X not to do Action Y. Teach White People to not be racist. Teach Men not to Rape. Teach People to not Hate. Et cetera and so on.
Now this is probably going to come as a shocker, but I actually agree with this. We absolutely need to teach people, all people, to look beyond race, gender, religion, creed, sexual orientation, and to judge others solely by the content (or lack thereof) of their character. We absolutely need to teach men to respect women. We absolutely need to teach and preach love and respect and understanding rather than hatred and disgust. If you’ll forgive me quoting a certain Hollywood team of vigilantes, “Do not kill. Do not rape. Do not steal. These are principles which every man of every faith can embrace.” And I agree with that wholeheartedly.
However, the same social media force that launches the “Teach Group X Not to Action Y” mantras seems to believe that that single action, that teaching Group X to not do Action Y, will completely stop Action Y from ever happening. That simply teaching people to not do bad things will stop bad things from happening.
This idea is one that I absolutely reject, that I do not, cannot agree with.
You cannot teach away evil. To believe otherwise is wishful thinking at best, and a dangerous delusion at the worst.
I will say that a decent amount of hatred in this world is what I’ll call “learned hatred.” Children who are taught to be racist. Boys who are taught that women are second-class humans, or property, or little more than animals (such beliefs seem to be especially common in certain areas of the world and in a certain religion that have all become very politically incorrect to criticize). Societies have been brainwashed into hating particular races, as happened (again, forgive the example) in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Those people weren’t born evil: they were taught that particular brand of hatred, and they can be taught to reject it or let go of it as well.
Unfortunately, some people can’t be taught out of hatred. They can’t be taught out of it because they either don’t want to be, or else they weren’t taught it in the first place. Either they’re not wired right to begin with, or something goes wrong inside their head. Maybe it’s a chemical imbalance, or a neurological issue. I don’t know. I’m a writer, not a psychologist, neurologist, or biologist. But they’re out there. There was a guy at my high school who was very obviously not wired right. He’d been institutionalized when he was a kid, and he was institutionalized again partway through my sophomore year. And honestly, I’m glad he was: the more my friends and I talked to him (we couldn’t avoid him entirely since he was friends with a friend of ours, and the two of them stuck to each other like glue), the more scared we became of him, to the point where we all agreed that sooner or later he’d probably come to school with a gun and start shooting people. I thank God to this day that we never had to find out if we were right about him or not.
Now, granted, most of these people who are suffering from these conditions can be treated. But some people aren’t suffering from a physical condition that causes their hate and anger. The fact of the matter is that some people – an extreme minority to be certain, but a decent number all the same – are just plain evil. We usually call them psychopaths or sociopaths. But no matter what you call them, it doesn’t change the fact that they don’t care. They don’t care about what’s right or what’s wrong. And no amount of teaching, of begging, or pleading, will convince them otherwise. Because they do not care, and they do not want to care. All that matters to them is them, and what they want, and what they have to do to get it, and how big a risk trying to get it will be. It’s a predatory drive distilled down to its elemental core. You can’t simply teach that away. It’s like trying to teach a lion not to eat an antelope because the antelope never did anything to hurt anyone. The lion doesn’t care about the antelope. All it cares about is putting meat into its own stomach. Two legged predators are the same way. They don’t care about you or me. All they care about is how they can use us to fulfill their present desire or need.
We as a society do indeed need to teach right from wrong and good from bad. We do need to teach our youth and our fallen to love, respect, care for, and cherish one another. But like it or not, evil exists in this world, and there is nothing you or I or anything else can do that will change that, no matter how hard you might try. To believe otherwise is to live in a fantasy world.