Some stories stream into our lives with the resonance of events that happen to far away people – they are never about people within our circle, people we know. A desire to connect leads us straight into an ambush. In the midst of the conundrum, we are nothing but a blend of humiliating rage. Yet, oddly, the rage inflames the implausibility of our situation. We can’t believe we are victims of a trap surely popularised by its past victims, within the exact conditions upon which their stories shine: we’ve been cornered by hoodlums through meeting a person we know nothing about, at night, through Grindr, because he held the promise of love.
We may find ourselves in luck. Fortune prances before us singing her own praise. Her tune comes through our phone. It resonates through the voice of our friend, the one closest to our heart. The joy of laughter shared over jokes moments ago, before he wearily dropped a nervous hint that he was enroute to a “hook up”, has become a calm-inducing panic. His voice is dull, damp, and heavy. His request, empty of explanations, is ₦130,000. The part of our mind tasked with making us believe things comes faulty; we know what’s happening, but it couldn’t possibly be happening. We find ourselves in the presence of our fortune. Somehow she draws zestful presence from the proximity of the misfortune speaking through our phone. She sings: it could have been us, but it isn’t.
Reality points to the existence of evil. We call it different names – injustice; violence; murder. Somehow a portion of our mind holds the psychological certitude that we will always remain removed from certain kinds of it: we can get bored, become depressed, or be weakened by malaria, all of which are evils in their own right, but we can never be part of actual evils, like war, poverty, or the victim of an ambush. Our belief lays itself on the foundation of one reality we seldom entertain: we have never been in contact with ‘actual’ evil. But at moments when it draws unbelievably close, when fortune threatens us with unpleasant tunes, like when a friend calls to ask for a ransom through the voice of another, who threatens to kill our friend if we fail to meet with his demand, one question plants itself in our mind: what is our place in the eradication of evil?
We might approach the query by looking through three lenses.
- The pessimistic view.
- The optimistic view.
- The realistic view.
The pessimistic view is to let it be, for we have no power over it. The optimistic view is to wish it away, for we have no power over it. The realistic view is to put in the effort, to try, even though we have no power over it. All three views serve in their own right. Some call evil part of the human condition, a necessary part that makes “good” what it is. The question worth exploring might be far from ways to eradicate evil but for ways to live with it. How can we live knowing evil exists? And how can we live with it knowing it is being served up to our brothers by men who have chosen to exploit an opportunity which festers from the sexuality of our brothers? A helpful starting angle is the one that keeps evil within view through whatever lens we decide.
Dismissal is often our automatic response to events that lack any bearing in our reality; it is our response to stories that stream with the resonance of far away happenings. We sympathize with rape victims, we sympathize with children thinned by hunger, we sympathize with gay people who end up in traps of coordinated violence. Yet our sympathy dissolves the moment their stories slides away from our minds; it is incapable of stirring us into versions of ourselves poised to eradicate these evils. Evil happening far away doesn’t get us to think actively about it, which leaves us conspirators of the greatest evil of all: ignoring its manifestation when we know of it. On the hand, the proximity of evil places us closer to otherwise far away victims. Its encroachment means we get to be in more intimate contact with its manifestations, places us into being more likely to be in the shoes of its victims. This increased possibility, to be in the shoe of another, inflames our empathy. We can feel what it is like to be at the mercy of evil. Truly understanding the misfortune of another makes it difficult to dismiss the agony brought upon by such misfortune.
Fortune might sing tunes reminding us of her importance and fragility. She might draw zest from the presence of misfortune, taunting us with threats of what it might mean to lose touch with her good side. But we needn’t wait to hear her it-could-have-been-you song. We can be actively involved in eradicating the features of life she uses to threaten us: evil. To get a lead on how we can eradicate evil we might turn to the feature that gives fortune her taunting power: the distinction between the kind of evil we can do nothing about and the kind of evil we can do something about. Fortune draws zest to provoke us through the latter.
When we sense we are doing nothing over problems we feel we can do something about we feel like non-contributors to the general good. Our place in the eradication of evil is recognizing the kind of it we can do something about and becoming involved in it. The remedy isn’t so much that we need to steer clear of fortune’s praise, even when she serves it through the misfortune of a friend. It is that rather than taking relish in her song, counting our blessing and dismissing those who lack it, we become involved in spreading the good bit of what she has to offer, especially to those with stories that resonate with the ring of far away happenings.
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