Me: What do you do?
Guy at Networking Event: I’m in a creative think tank at (shall-remain-nameless) bank (that was recently re-branded after receiving government bail-out funds). We generate ideas for ways to increase revenue.
Me: Sounds interesting–what kinds of things do you come up with?
Guy: We pioneered the practice of crediting withdrawals from an account in order from largest to smallest, instead of the order in which they arrive. That way, if an account becomes overdrawn, we get to charge the account holder for as many late fees as possible. This can account for millions of dollars in earnings per month. Things like that.
Me: Oh. That must be… soul-crushing work.
Guy: [Blank stare]
Different Guy Standing Nearby: [Laughs nervously] She’s got a point.
Guy: Well… I did tell them once that they might get sued. We do get sued sometimes. But we still make more money this way, so I guess it’s worthwhile. [Swigs beer]
Me: [Blank stare] Clearly, we have differing views of what constitutes “worthwhile” work.
Okay, I only *wish* I’d said that last bit. The rest is absolutely true. I had that conversation. For reals.
I like to think that the world is populated entirely by good people, even those who are difficult to love, that underneath it all they are basically good, caring people.
Sometimes I meet someone who challenges my ability to believe that. Sometimes I meet someone so blandly unaware, so pointlessly devoted to a course of harm, that I cannot think of any better word to describe it than this: Evil.
It’s not the obnoxious drunk guy in the check-out line, or the abusive spouse screaming outside the neighbor’s window, or even the child predators in the news who define evil for me. Somehow, I still find their humanity, can feel sorrow for their miserable lives.
No, to me, evil is defined by this: It’s the corporate Joe, with his buttoned up shirt, his conservative haircut, the beer in one hand. It’s the bland pride he takes in finding ways to make his government-bailed-out employer rich again at the expense of ordinary people. It’s not just a lack of remorse: It’s the lack of awareness that remorse is even necessary.
In my book, evil is not a genius. Evil is not ugly. Evil is not even aware that he is evil.
Evil sells himself to a faceless giant. In exchange for a paycheck, he offers up clever tools to squeeze profit from the lifeblood of struggling citizens. For 30 shekels of silver, he sells out his fellow man, and then stands around boasting about his worthwhile work. It’s his obliviousness, the blank stare. The swig of beer.
What is evil to you?