That’s a question I’ve heard, been asked, and wondered about for years. In truth, I think people are neither because we have incredible capacities. These capacities allow us to create and destroy, be heroes and villains and often at the same time, to be great and small. This isn’t to make light of anything. We are capable of good and evil and that good and evil exists both in the eye of the beholder and on a more empirical level. At the same time we have great capacity for self-deception, and as such we are always the heroes of our own tales.
All this is to say that one doesn’t have to be crazy to do an evil and crazy thing. One needs to be motivated. The spiral downward into horror, the descent into evil, isn’t a path that is necessarily one shadowed by insanity, nor is it absolutely teeming with corruption. We should always remember that an amazingly good or evil act is often the culmination of a series of decisions which are usually a combination of good and bad. The bad doesn’t necessarily corrupt the great act. The good doesn’t redeem the evil act. The ultimate end is what is judged.
We live in a time where our abilities to express these capacities are pretty easy to do. It’s amazing what kind of good and evil you can unleash with little money and little expertise. It’s downright scary.
We all have the internal capacity to be monsters and be normal and healthy. We now have the external capacity to give life to those evil fantasies. To vigilantly guard against them, we must be willing to say that any and all of us can do these horrific things and not excuse someone merely because they may resemble us. It’s a trap that’s programmed into our heads, but it’s a trap we overcome.