Evil a Learned Behavior

Topics: Elie Wiesel, Human, Psychology Pages: 15 (6329 words) Published: May 11, 2011
“Evil, a Learned Behavior”
What is evil? Is it characterized by a desire to cause hurt or harm, “an evil mood”? What causes people to do evil? The strong feelings of hatred and dislike that builds up in all of us or simply that all our emotions are constantly on the dark side for such a long period of time. What is right from wrong when the hate in our hearts makes us all make terrible mistakes and commit evil. The writings of Confucius say, “There is no light without darkness, no positive without negative, no good without evil.” Throughout the history of humanity, humans have committed inconceivable and unthinkable acts of cruelty towards one another. From the brutal wars during the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, to the modern area of ethnic cleansing and genocide one cannot help but wonder what is the root cause of this evil. Unthinkable numbers of human life has been lost in every corner of the world from the genocides in Armenia and Nazi Germany to the guerilla wars in Vietnam and Cambodia and presently to the devastating conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sudan. Evil is a learned behavior which is illustrated in dictators, school violence, and classical novels such as Lord of the Flies by William Golding and Night by Elie Wiesel.

Humans are fundamentally good, and then are corrupted by their environment. It's because of evolutionary purposes. Every organism wants their species to continue (if they don't, they die off and aren't here any more). The same goes for us. If our species started off fundamentally evil, none of us would be here right now. People would've killed each other off instead of working together in communities to survive. It's the same as any other species that has made it this far. All characters, wherever they come from, may not be born evil, but they live up to this evil behavior eventually. According to Freudian theory, violence is a basic human instinct, described as a redirection of our self-destructive impulses onto others. The history of humanity and its primitive relations to violence may provide insight on whether or not violence is, in fact, human nature, or if it is a learned behavior. By exploring one's childhood and family life, it's possible to point out potential causes for excessively violent behavior. As well, the society we live in may serve as a catalyst for violence among its habitants. By using anthropology, psychology and sociology it is possible to discover what causes humans to be violent creatures. “In the human brain, just under the cerebrum stem is the source of aggression and violent behaviors, called the limbic system. This part of the brain is not only responsible for aggressive behavior but for sleep and wakefulness as well as sexual behavior, which may explain the perceived correlation between sex and violence. Males tend to be more aggressive than females, and in 2003, males committed 63.7% of all murders, while females only committed 7% and 29.3% remain unknown.”(Williams, 45) Historically, causes of violence among males have been defense of territory and proving their dominances to other males as well as females. Every human has evil stored deep down, but when they shall or shall not use it is how they reach for it as a key goes to one type of door. If the emotions they have are dark then they will fight, be aggressive, and commit evil.

A good example of how humans are fundamentally good but corrupted by evil is Churchill's decision concerning the small, ancient city of Coventry in WWII. The decoding mavens of Bletchley Park, the Cryptanalysts, had cracked the Nazi's 'Enigma' code that they used for all their transmitted messages. All decisions concerning actions based on these intercepts went directly through Prime Minister Winston Churchill - now chief War Minister. One day, during the Battle of Britain, a message was decoded that made it very clear that the city of Coventry, with its churches going back to the time of Charlemagne, was...

Bibliography: Landy, F. Psychology: The Science of People. 2nd Ed. Prentice Hall
(Englewood Cliffs, 1987)
Works Cited
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Leckie, Robert. Delivered from Evil: the Saga of World War II. New York: Harper & Row, 1987. Print.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Columbine Massacre - The School Shooting of April 20, 1999." 20th Century History. Web. 20 May 2010. <http://history1900s.about.com/od/famouscrimesscandals/a/columbine.htm>.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Bantam, 1982. Print.
Williams, Anne, Vivian Head, and Sebastian C. Prooth. Criminal Masterminds. London: Futura, 2007. Print.
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