Day of evil Ian on Sunday
Stabroek News
September 16, 2001

There has always been evil in the world. But in recent times who can doubt that its dark shadow has loomed larger than ever before. There have been events - the planned and methodical industrial killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis; the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia; the Rwanda tribal slaughters; the massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo - which are not so much about the struggle between good and evil but more about the triumph of evil. We have Jurgen Habermas's words about the Holocaust to give us some idea of this evil of a new kind:

"There in Auschwitz something happened that up to now nobody considered as even possible. There doubt was cast on something which represents the deepest layer of solidarity among all that wears a human face. Notwithstanding the usual acts of beastliness in human history, the integrity of this common layer has been taken for granted ........... Auschwitz has changed the basis for the continuity of the conditions of life within history."

Perhaps such unique evil reaches out and infects the world forever more and in all its neighbourhoods. On September 11, it reached out a frightful hand and infected New York and Washington - thousands of human beings slaughtered in their workplaces by men without a trace of pity.

We cry with pity and despair. We feel our common humanity is Vernichten, a German word hard to translate but nearly meaning "turned into absolutely nothing". At such times it is easy to share the dark and baleful view of the poet/priest John Donne who saw man as sinful through and through even from the first moment of his conception. "There in the wombe", he wrote in one of his sermons, "we are fitted for workes of darkness, all the while deprived of light. And there in the wombe we are taught cruelty, by being fed with blood ........ "

The human mind is by far the most potent tool, or weapon, in the world. An infinity of computers cannot match it. Jonathon Franzen, the American novelist, in a recent heart-rending New Yorker article on how Alzheimer's slowly destroyed his father's brain, describes the extraordinary capacity of the human mind: "The human mind is a web of a hundred billion neurons, maybe as many as two hundred billion, with trillions of axons and dendrites exchanging quadrillions of messages by way of at least fifty different chemical transmitters. The organ with which we observe and make sense of the universe is, by a comfortable margin, the most complex object we know of in that universe".

Thus the human mind can, for example, devise and carry out a scheme in which a handful of men carrying knives can circumvent the security arrangements of by far the most technologically and militarily advanced country in the world and deal death and destruction which shakes the world.

Because it is so infinitely powerful, when the human mind is evil the harm it can inflict is unimaginably great. The supreme example is Adolph Hitler whose demonic mind generated untold misery on the world. In the conflict which he initiated, 150 million died and billions suffered - the equivalent of perhaps fifteen thousand September 11 outrages. Hitler has become the exemplar of evil in the annals of mankind.

In comparison with a Hitler the organisers of terrorism in our era are smaller scale. But, of course, evil is evil and qualitatively there is no difference between a Hitler and the man or men who ruthlessly, deliberately, coldly set out to murder as many thousands of innocent people as they possibly could on September 11 in America.

Pure evil, as in this case, is never rational and always sadistic.

The perpetrators of the September 11 horror, and I mean the planners in the shadows even more than the hideously deluded pawns knew and know full well that whatever cause they may choose to use as an excuse will not be served by this action.

Is it the downfall of Israel? But Israel, previously on the defensive, will now be in the vanguard of the opposition to terror and will be immeasurably strengthened. Is it the cause of a secure home and state for Palestine? But this action has greatly postponed such a possibility as major players in that drama turn to frying other and larger fish. Is it the cause of strengthening Islam? But in this action the good name of Islam is sullied and its best teachings contradicted. Is it done to weaken America? But America, whose power and influence were diminishing under the burden of increasing doubts and suspicions about its policies and purpose, will now be made more determined and much stronger with the support of all the world with hardly any exceptions.

No, such actions are not rational but flow from a deeply infernal spring. Blood lust and the plain love of slaughter are involved. What is done is done for the love of killing and the sadistic satisfaction it gives this breed of men. Let us be in no doubt about what will now be confronted in a sustained and all-out war. It is evil itself.

A supplementary word if I may. Since when has the Editor of Stabroek News become a prophet? Either that or an exceptionally well informed observer of the international scene. Just six days before September 11, the beautifully written editorial in Stabroek News towards its end expresses this fear: "Alas, there is another doomsday scenario. One day it may happen that some Palestinian in desperate anger and throwing prudence overboard will organise the mass destruction of people and property in Israel or elsewhere".

Well, so said so happen. I will read Stabroek News editorials with

even more attention in the future.