I read with rather intense interest this City Journal piece by Theodore Dalrymple, The Frivolity of Evil. Also very interesting was Wretchard’s thorough take on it, as well as Billy Beck’s. I think that a lot of what I’d have to say about it would overlap what’s already been written. On the other hand…
Among other things, Beck says:
…it makes no sense to pose good and evil as mutually exclusive in human nature without knowing human nature to include the element of free will. "The barriers to evil" are erected and mounted one mind at a time, willfully realizing itself in the purpose of choosing life over death.
It just seems noteworthy to me that after millennia of religion-induced guilt, followed by centuries of modern state-induced guilt, that it has come to this. And yet, in spite of all the evil, there’s no greater evidence of the heights of goodness and accomplishment to which men can ascend than in things we can see being done by great individuals today.
History, apparently, has never been short of either great men or evil men–or the deeds of both. On balance, it’s fair to observe that the good has outstripped the evil time and again. But to whom do we owe the general triumph of good: to religious indoctrination, force of the state, or to individuals who’ve simply chosen to do good instead of evil? Huh?
Yet we continue to prattle on about how "we’re all just one part of ‘God’s creation’ or ‘Society’" (take your pick). It matters not a wit to me that seemingly smart people continue to fashion meaningless distinctions between the church and the state. Neither has forsaken the individual and his potential greatness. They’ve just never championed him as an individual. He’s never been anything more than a handmaiden to God and his brethren–or just a handmaiden to his fellow man.
Individualism may not rid the world of evil, but it will give you the moral sanction to ignore it to the extent it doesn’t affect you. It permits you to deal with only the truly moral–forming a "society" unto yourself. And the only morality that’s really worth a shit–that can begin to be trusted–is the sort of morality that’s freely chosen by a man, because he’s rational–because he can.