Just read this great article in Rolling Stone and it got me thinking about evil. The RS article follows the story of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. If the name doesn't ring a bell, he was the guy in charge during the the worst mining disaster in the US since 1970, the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 miners in May of 2010. In the five years leading up to the explosion this particular mine, overseen by Mr. Blankenship, received 1,342 safety violations. It received 57 in the previous month alone. Many of these sited the improper ventilation of methane and poor escape routes that were key causes of the disaster.
Needless to say, nothing was done about these violations and there is every indication in the world that Blankenship knew of these violations and did nothing about them. Fixing things would have cost money and slowed down coal production. Money and human lives were put on a scales and guess which won out. So there's bad behavior, there's immoral behavior and then there's this other thing that we call evil, which seems to have a grander, almost mythical connotation. A kind of absolute zero of iniquity. For me Blankenship's actions crossed the line into evil, but I had to stop a moment and think about why.
What defines evil?
For me, I think the root of evil is the absence of empathy. Without some ability to appreciate the pain and the humanity of others, to be able to see them as you see yourself, maybe it's not so hard to overlook a pile of bodies for a pile of money. But simply not caring for others is probably not enough. I think we don't see real evil until a lack of empathy is married to power. Put the two together and you've got Don Blankenship.S
To expand it even further this person needs to live in a society that looks the other way. Sure, Blankenship is the root here, but he couldn't have done what he did without the help of regulators who issue 1,342 safety violations but do nothing to see that actual changes are made. He couldn't have done it without a government and a community that allowed it.
Now I'm sure that definitions of evil may diverge wildly from person to person so I'm curious to hear what you all think.
What is your definition of evil?