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Monday, April 12, 2021

Who is capable of evil?

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By Alagie Saidy-Barrow

No one is totally evil or bad, or totally good to everyone. No matter how good you may think someone is, another person may see them as evil based on their experience or interaction with them. And no matter how much good a person does, or is doing, it does not mean they are incapable of wrongdoing or evil. I’m speaking of us mere mortals. How many times have you heard someone say, “oh, Alagie is a good person, he is respectful, caring and humble, (Gambians love to say someone is caring and humble), and he’s not capable of doing this or that? Or, he would never do this or that! Basically, what they are saying is that, Alagie is so good that he’s not capable of what he’s been accused of. But is that so? Is Momodou so good that if he’s accused of assault, we should hearken back to his “goodness” that we know of, and conclude that he’s incapable of assaulting someone? Is Ebrima so religious that we can definitely conclude that he will never steal when the opportunity, ability and environment are all favorable?

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Who is capable of evil? How do you know who is capable of stealing? Is Momodou so good that we can conclusively determine what he’s capable or incapable of in a given situation? Is Ousman so bad that if he’s accused of anything, it follows that he’s guilty because he’s totally evil? Is anyone totally evil? Is anyone beyond wrongdoing? Again I speak of mere mortals.

The fact is, I’m yet to meet anyone that is beyond doing bad or evil. A person can be kind, caring, loving to some, and still be a rapist. A person can be religious and still be a murderer or thief even if being truly religious is incongruent with being a thief or murderer. I am also yet to meet anyone beyond doing good. As evil as Alagie may be to some people, there are people who think he’s a good person. Some think Hitler is a good person and others think King Leopold of Belgium, who killed uncountable number of Africans, is also a good person. Human nature, as much as we hate to admit, is capable of a lot and that includes evil with all its attendant vices.

What we are capable of doing depends on our motivation, the environment, the opportunity and our ability to get away with our actions. Sometimes, what stops us from doing bad things is not that it is a bad thing in and of itself, it is the fear of being caught that stops us. For a lot of us, the higher our chances of getting away with evil or wrongdoing, the more tempting the evil act becomes and the higher our chances of acting on the wrongdoing!

I have heard of someone who committed a crime by robbing a bank, calling the police and waiting for them to come and get him so he can go back to prison where he felt more at home. But those types of cases are outliers. Few wrongdoers want to get caught and even when caught, few will ever readily admit to the wrongdoing.

Our first instinct in the face of any sort of accusation of wrongdoing is to deny that it ever happened, or that it didn’t happen the way it’s been put out, or we blame another factor or person for our behavior. There’s no wrong that cannot be justified in the mind of the wrongdoer. Of course, there’s always a reason for every action we take, good or bad. But the reason for our action is not necessarily a justification for the action. Not many of us will concede wrongdoing especially if it will embarrass us, or cause us to lose our freedom, or simply cause a dent to our reputation. Denial is as old as Adam and Eve, who blamed the Serpent for eating the forbidden fruit. And because at our core, we are often tribal, it is always tempting to side with our kind (our friends, family and associates, club-mates, political party mates etc) even when they’re wrong. You see this with a lot of Jammeh supporters who are confused and unliberated in their understanding of tribe. We tend to just jump on the bandwagon of denial simply because our friend or family member is “incapable” of what they are being accused of. Or simply because we feel we know the accused better than those accusing him/her. That’s when you hear people saying Buba will never do this or that. They fail to realize that all that wrongdoing needs to thrive is the motivation, right opportunity and environment! If evil acts are possible within a certain environment and the opportunity is there, one should be careful about dismissing those accused simply because “you know them to be good people.”

As good as Lamin may be, he’s not beyond evil. The guy that bankrolled the genocide in Rwanda is a quiet, calm and “nice” family man. Yet he had no issues sponsoring the killing of hundreds of thousands! After all is said and done, human beings can be too complex for anyone to accurately predict all that an individual is capable of because we “know” them, and they are “kind”, and “humble”, and what have you. The best among us ordinary humans is capable of evil and the worst among us is capable of good. Our actions often depend on the opportunities before us and the circumstances around us. If both are favorable to our desires, we are capable of the best but we are also capable of the worst! You may know Demba as an angel but someone else may know them as a rapist! Both of you may be right. Beware!Who is capable of evil?

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