Fighting Evil (and Why You Can’t Destroy It)
There are a lot of people that are interested in fighting evil. They want to destroy it and have all kinds of approaches to make that happen.
There’s only one problem: you can’t destroy evil. Here’s why.
Smoking and Evil
If you want to understand why you can’t destroy evil, you need to look at smoking. Millions of people try to quit smoking each year, and yet typically less than 10 percent of smokers quit.
Why? Because for the most part you can’t quit. It’s just not something human beings can do.
If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out how around 10 percent of people did when I say you can’t and how that has anything to do with fighting evil, I promise you it all makes sense. We just have to take a quick detour through the work of pulitzer prize winning author Charles Duhigg.
The Habit Loop
If you’ve ever tried to quit a bad habit like smoking, you’re probably like most of us and failed miserably. You may have tried several times and had varying degrees of success that lasted from days to months, only to spring back into your old habit. Why? Because of something called the habit loop.
In the book The Power of Habit, Duhigg describes how habits work. First there is the cue. This is the trigger or the nudging that makes us consider acting. Next is the routine. This is the action we perform, which we typically think of as the habit. Next there is the reward or what we get for performing the habit: praise, attention, stress relief, etc. Finally there is the craving: the thing that makes us start it all over again.
Here’s the thing that smokers or anyone else stuck in a habit will tell you: if you remove the routine, it won’t stop any of the other parts of the habit loop from acting. You will still get the cue that will trigger you to engage in the habit. You will still look for the reward you get from the habit, and you will still have the craving for the habit.
When you try to get rid of the routine what you do is create a habit vacuum. All the other pieces are in place, so all you do is build up more and more craving until finally you give in. There’s a much different way, and if you’re fighting evil, it’s something you need to know.
Changing a Bad Habit
If you want to stop smoking, you don’t.
I’m going to say that again. If you want to stop smoking, you don’t. Don’t stop smoking. All you will do is create a habit vacuum that will make it come back with a vengeance.
You don’t stop smoking; you replace smoking. You find a new healthier routine to perform whenever the cue or trigger hits that gives you a reward that you crave.
Are you looking for stress relief? Maybe take up running instead. Are you looking to connect with others for a quick break? Maybe play a quick game of cards. You don’t stop a bad habit; you replace it.
Which is why when you’re fighting evil you should now realize why you can’t destroy it.
You Can’t Destroy Evil
There seems to be a prevalent thought in the mind of many that you just destroy evil. If there is someone or something that is doing something evil you kill them or generally put them out of commission and the problem is solved.
But it isn’t. Just like you create a habit vacuum when you remove a habit, you create a power vacuum when you remove something you consider evil. Something else will come and fill that void, perhaps much worse. It has happened time and time again in instances such as the removal of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent infiltration of ISIS.
You don’t destroy evil. When you are fighting evil, you replace it. You give people a better option. You replace evil with goodness.
GM and Rats
In the 80’s GM worked with Toyota to reopen an old GM plant. Both parties saw this as a win for various reasons. But the job wouldn’t be easy. Why? Because of the way the plant was run.
According to Duhigg in his book Smarter Faster Better, the old plant saw employees drunk, having sex in the warehouse, snorting coke, and hiring prostitutes in the parking lot.
That all changed when they reopened the plant. Why? Because previously people were treated like cogs in a wheel and when it was reopened they were valued, listened to, and respected.
Likewise there was an experiment in the 50s and 60s that found that lab rats would prefer drugged water over normal water to the point they would drug themselves to death. But a group of researchers dug deeper. They thought perhaps it was the isolation and the cages that brought about the rats self-destructive behavior.
They ended up creating a well-known research project known as Rat Park where rats could socialize, play and enjoy themselves. When given the choice between drugged water and regular water, the inhabitants of Rat Park overwhelmingly chose regular water.
If you want to fight evil, you don’t try to destroy it. You can’t. Like the workers at GM or the rats in the cages, the horrible behavior and the drugs aren’t the disease; they are the symptom.
The disease is the feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness. You don’t destroy evil by getting rid of “evil people” (actions are evil, not people) or things. You replace evil with good. You give people hope. You give them something to live for. You give them value. You make things better.
You can take the drugged water away from the rat but it doesn’t make him happy; it just removes his ability to avoid the pain. Instead, remove the thing that is causing his pain: the isolation and pointlessness of his life.
If you are fighting evil, don’t try to destroy it. You can’t. You only create an evil vacuum. Instead, replace it. Replace it with hope, value, and possibilities. Otherwise you’re not fighting evil, you’re simply fighting the truth.