There is no such thing as a normal person or an evil person

There are two kinds of people in the world. Surely you have heard that one before – sometimes as a joke, and sometimes deadly serious. The social worlds we live in are full of such false dichotomies.

Two of the worst such false dichotomies are the one between good people and evil people, and the one between normal people and people who are not normal. These are often merged into the very false dichotomy between good people and non-normal people.

So, why are these dichotomies false? Well, first of all, normal people are a myth. They don’t exist. Second, evil people do not exist. They are merely cases of slander and over-reaching condemnation. Third, the lines between good and evil and between normal and non-normal are very much in dispute, and for very good reasons.

Normal people does not exist
What does it mean to be normal? Well, it either means to be within the statistical norm of what’s average, or to be within the social norm of what’s acceptable. In either case, it is about a specific trait. For example, the average person has a clear gender identity and is sexually attracted only to individuals of the opposite sex. In other words, most people are cisgender heterosexuals .

In the statistical sense of the word “normal”, transsexuals and homosexuals are minorities rather than mainstream/normal. Some people would also argue that it would somehow be immoral to be transsexual or homosexual. However, such statements require a very dysfunctional understanding either of what it means to be transgender/homosexual or of what morality itself means. In any case, being transgender or homosexual is still considered controversial in many societies.

If it is normal to be heterosexual and cisgender, does this mean that such a person is normal? No, of course it doesn’t. All it means is that two of his or her traits are normal: Two out of millions. Every human being has millions of traits. These are millions of ways in which one can be average or different-from-the average. They are millions of ways in which one can be more or less socially accepted, based on more or less reasonable social norms.

It is likely that every human being deviate in many ways. Deviate from the average, as well as from what society has declared that we should be – or even has declared that we truly are, regardless of our own experiences and feelings. We are all individuals, we are all different, and not a single one of us human beings is normal. The only differences are in what ways we deviate, to what extent we hide it from ourselves and others, and to what extent society happens to put emphasis on our particular deviations at the moment. On the other hand, this means that it is actually normal to not be normal. In fact, if a person would be average in every single way that a person could be average or not average, this would be a big deviation in itself. This is perhaps the biggest deviation of all.

Whether something is “normal” or not should not matter. We are all humans with the same human rights. If a person’s behavior should be condemned, it is because the behavior is destructive and/or violates the rights of other people. This brings us to the next issue…

Evil people does not exist
If the concept of “evil” is to be used at all, the most reasonable definition is that evil is behavior that is very harmful, behavior that hurts or violates or destroys in very serious ways. However, a person cannot be reduced to some of his or her behaviors. Every human being does a lot of behaviors, some of them better or worse than others. Even those who do the worst kinds of things have other sides to them as well. It is not reasonable to reduce a person to be only his or her worst actions. We humans are more than the sum of our own actions. And the sum of our actions is in itself more than the sum of our worst actions.

Evil is often understood not as something you do but instead as something that you are. It is not about doing bad things, it is about being inherently bad. But why would a person deserve to be considered inherently bad? Especially if the person doesn’t actually do anything bad? I mean, beyond the nonsense condemnation of “you are evil, thus whatever action you take is an inherently evil action”. Sometimes psychiatric diagnosises are used as an excuse for labeling someone evil, but this is really little more than a flimsy excuse.

The concept of “evil” people really go back to the bad old days, where it was considered good to murder people who had another skin-color, religion, nationality or whatever than you. Kill them and take their land. Advice from certain old books has it that you ought to keep their female children as sex-slaves while you are at it. The idea of calling people evil is really nothing more than a shallow excuse for killing people. Or rather for convincing your followers that they can and should kill without remorse. Traditionally, it is not even about individuals being branded as evil as much as it´s about branding entire populations.

Some behaviors are destructive and abusive. Some people have beliefs and opinions that encourage such behaviors. Throwing the label “evil” around does not help us to solve this problem. All this tool helps us do is to kill or harass those we have labeled as evil. If we are truly decent and truly fight for a decent world, then we have very little use for such tools. This doesn’t mean that we should accept the bad things. Instead, it means that we should find out what those bad things are and why they are bad, then tell each other why and how to stop doing them. Telling people that they are inherently bad doesn’t help.

If we flip this coin, what about calling people good? In my opinion, it is far less problematic than calling them evil. Less problematic both because it doesn’t come with such bad consequences and because less evidence should be required for praise than for condemnation. However, I still see it as rather pointless, considering that all humans does bad things as some points in their lives. Good and evil are nonsense absolutes, reality is far more complex. Life is for better and worse, not good OR bad. We should strive to maximize the good and minimize the bad. Pure good and pure evil are both nonsense concepts, as long as we are talking about the physical world.

It is one thing to believe that God exist (in spiritual reality, not as a person in the physical world) and is Good with a capital G. Or that the devil exists (in the same non-literal way) and is pure Evil. But it is quite another thing, and a quite awful one, to reduce human beings to such abstractions. The physical world is infinitely complex, and the human brain is among the most complex things known to exist in this world. Black and white morality is harmful. Viewing ourselves as “good” or “evil” may also encourage us to do harmful things. If we see ourselves as “good”, we risk viewing whatever acts we do as good acts. If we see ourselves as “evil”, we risk allowing ourselves to harm others because “that is who we are”. Religions tend to say that God alone can judge, and that is for good reasons. Being self-righteous and narrow-minded does not make you a better follower of your religion, and it most certainly doesn’t make you a better person either.

A human being is too complex to be normal or abnormal, too complex to be good or evil. We all have normal and abnormal within us, and if such shallow concepts as good and evil are to be used at all then we all have them both inside us as well.

There are no normal humans, since everyone has some non-normal traits.
There are no non-normal humans, since it is normal to have non-normal traits.
Having traits that are not normal does not make you a not-normal person.
A person can be more or less accepted in a social group, for reasons that are better or worse.
But that is about how they are treated, not about what they truly are.

There are no evil humans or good humans, since we all do both good things and bad things.
Some people do much more good than bad and deserve praise for that.
Some people do horribly bad things that must be condemned rather than merely criticized.
However, pretending that they are monsters rather than humans doesn’t make things better.
It does make things feel easier, but that is only an illusion: A dangerous illusion, one that make it easier for us to commit horrible acts of our own.

  1. dylan said:

    i fully agree with this

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