Is evil irrational?

Is evil irrational?  Tens of millions of people died under the rule of a Russian communist dictator named Stalin. Some were worked to death in the freezing wastes of northern Siberia, some were tortured horribly, some were starved to death, etc. And it was all for what? For an ideology called Communism, that was an arbitrary concoction of two men, Marx and Engels, that interpreted the world in terms that are simply not correct, and made predictions that have been consistently disproven, and which has failed miserably whenever implemented.
All that evil – all that suffering, and for what?
Even more people died under Mao of China than under Stalin. And again, unto what purpose?
Religion has killed vast numbers of people too. Most recently we see what Islamic believers did to the people in two high rises in New York city, and we see suicide bombers blowing up both infidels and their fellow Moslems quite often, in the name of Islam.
Christians also had major wars of religion – between Protestants and Catholics, for example.
And again, we can ask – for what?
And try arguing with any of these ideologues.  Their victims sometimes do, but it doesn’t work.
In Cambodia, a Communist dictator named Pol Pot decided that the cities were bad for society, so he emptied the cities and had people do arduous rural work instead. His utopian and very murderous followers caused the death of about two million Cambodians. Imagine being one of the expellees in a rice field, lifting up your head from your toil and telling your Guard that “This whole enterprise you are part of is a complete illusion. Communism is nonsense, you have just ruined the Cambodian economy, caused vast amounts of unneeded suffering, horror, and death to your fellow Cambodians, and you really should redeem yourself by killing Pol Pot.”
You would be lucky, in that case, to have a quick death. But everything you would be saying would be correct.
Interestingly, many Russians today think positively about Stalin, and the Chinese government hides the truth about Mao from its population. I would call that evil.
Was Nazism rational? After all, if it had succeeded, the German people would have owned vast lands, would have dominated slave peoples or killed them, and used eugenics to breed a race of physical supermen.  It’s true that free-thought, free speech, and criticism of the leaders, would have been a thing of the past, but if all truth comes from the supreme leader, who knows best, then there is no need to think for yourself.

Personally, I would think that I would not want to be a indoctrinated ideologue who was taught that it was right and proper to dominate others or slaughter them for the Volk.

Turkey is a Moslem country that committed genocide against its Christian Armenian minority.  Their fate was truly horrible.  Turkey will not admit to it, even now, but the leader does say that “Zionism is a crime against humanity.”
Is it rational to ignore what your people did to the Armenians, and concentrate on what the Israeli Jews did to the Palestinians, when the first was genocide, and the second was the aftermath of a defensive war that resulted in Palestinian refugees being forbidden to return?

Is criminality rational? Does crime pay? Well for some people it definitely does. I have read more than once of people who switched from law-abiding occupations to criminal ones, for the excitement and other benefits.

Likewise aggressive war pays off for some people – even today in some parts of the world the predatory warriors get loot, women, slaves, etc.

Of course if we were all criminals, then our society would collapse.

Our goals are often not rational, but our actions to achieve those goals may be very rational. Intelligent scientists built nuclear bombs for North Korea, biological weapons for the Soviet Union, and so forth. Intelligence is not incompatible with evil goals, or with being deluded enough to work for a regime with evil goals.

I was targeted by a vigilante mafia that felt that it was in the interests of justice and the rightful order of things that I be “kept down” (in their words) or “annihilated” (also in their words). If you find this hard to believe, it was even harder for me to believe. It seemed so irrational to be attacked so viciously, over a prolonged period of time.  It is true that in the past I’ve done things that I wish I hadn’t, but, I said to myself, other people have done much worse things and not attracted this kind of attack.

My experience made me think that reality is more shaped by sociopaths and psychopaths than most people think.  In my own, minor case, my career was derailed, my physical health was damaged, even my appearance was changed from being very handsome to looking old and wrecked.   In a more conventional example, I read of a local popular eatery and bar that had to close down, because its owner would not pay extortion to the local organized crime organization   So in these very minor cases, the appearance of things changes, whether it’s the nature of the stores that you see in Elmsford, NY, or the look of that prematurely aged individual walking down the street of Elmsford, NY.  And in both cases, it’s because of bad people.  And those bad people won’t shout from the rooftops what they’ve done, quite the contrary.  (though in the example of the restaurant above, the truth came out due to the courage of the owner).

Political groups that have goals that would not look good to the general public also generally hide those goals until they get into power.

But when these groups get power, like Pol Pot, and then are defeated, you get evidence (see photo below) of their willingness to use methods that horrify us, for goals that were irrational to begin with.

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One thought on “Is evil irrational?

  1. My short answer would be yes, evil is irrational. If you define it as something like willingness to hurt and destroy others for your own purposes, maybe just because you enjoy doing it, then it is clearly irrational, in practice, because it carries the seeds of its own destruction. Take the Nazis as an example of people who were undoubtedly evil and highly intelligent and resourceful. As you say, if they had succeeded in their dream of world domination, they would have had everything that they wanted. So why didn’t they? Clearly Hitler’s decision to open the Eastern front was one element. Here his hatred of the Russians and of Communism overcame his sense of strategy– in other words, his evil led him to an irrational decision. Again, the Germans had the evil, but logical idea to put able bodied Jews into slave labour camps working for the reich. But, as in the huge underground V-weapon factories, their hatred of their captives caused them to treat them so badly that they had little to lose by sabotaging the rockets, and were in any case so weakened by their lack of food and facilities that they could hardly have been efficient workers. (Speer was so shocked by what he saw on his only visit to the site that he argued strongly along these lines, to no avail obviously). A small but equally telling example: the Germans developed radar around the same time as the British, but were never able to make good use of it. Because they distrusted their own people, skilled radio technicians were in short supply: amateur radio had been banned early on after the Nazis gained power, as a possible way for anti-Nazi groups to communicate with each other. In contrast the British (and, I suppose the Americans) could draw on the skills of thousands of ham radio operators. Moreover, the Germans made the truly irrational decision to divide the distance and height finding radars between rival groups, making it work much slower at identifying the course of incoming planes. So in many ways evil defeats itself, no matter who or what ideology it is nominally supporting, not least because everyone can see clearly how rotten and corrupt it is.

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