Minding Evil: Explorations of Human Iniquity

Minding Evil: Explorations of Human Iniquity

Minding Evil: Explorations of Human Iniquity

Minding Evil: Explorations of Human Iniquity

Excerpt

Minding Evil: Explorations of Human Iniquity brings together fifteen essays, versions of which were presented at the Fifth International Conference on Evil and Wickedness, held in Prague in 2004. The volume examines evil and wickedness from a variety of disciplines, including criminology, cultural studies, gender studies, law, literature, peace studies, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. In so doing Minding Evil keeps in play the doubled meaning of its title: on the one hand, to tend to evil, that is, to oversee, cultivate, and deploy it; on the other hand, to be bothered by evil and so, in learning to identify or recognise it, to try to understand its workings and thus contain or control it and, perhaps, repair or undo it. While the essays taken together work to show the difficulty and at times the travesty of not being able to distinguish between the two meanings, it is this second meaning that remains key. What are the individual and collective responsibilities entailed in minding – being troubled by – evil? This is the central question of this volume.

Indeed, the three essays in Part I, “Groups, Activism, and the Tools of Ethnic Cleansing,” engage this question. Part I begins with Frank Faulkner and Graeme R. Goldsworthy’s piece, “No Place Like Home: The Role of Landmines in the Twentieth Century,” in which “minding evil” might well be understood as “min[]ing evil.” Landmines have been in use for millennia. Cheap and highly portable, they are the “poor man”’s weapons of mass destruction. Marking the landscapes of some of the most impoverished and war-ravaged regions of the world, they lie largely outside of international regulation or concern. Accordingly, Faulkner and Goldsworthy conclude, “for displaced persons, and those too powerless to resist upheaval in neglected parts of the world, the future looks bleak.” For them, the terror of landmines includes the indifference of the international community to preventing their spread.

Following this essay is one by Mark Burgess, Neil Ferguson, and Ian Hollywood, “A Social Psychology of Defiance: From Discontent to Action.” In this essay the authors take up the issue of protest, both violent and non-violent, as a means of effecting institutional change. Through a series of interviews with people “who had engaged in action with the specific intent of altering existing institutional structures in Northern Ireland,” Burgess, Ferguson, and Hollywood seek to explain why individuals “with similar beliefs and similar backgrounds mak[e] such different decisions regarding their specific mode of collective protest.” Their findings indicate that an individual’s choice to engage in one form of protest rather than another has less to do with a given psychopathology than with a “critical moment,” in which the individual recognises how a “confluence of social forces” shapes his/her understanding of his/her future behaviour.

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