Gangsters in Ukraine
Imagine you are living your life and one day a crowd of gangsters break down the doors of your home and start shooting indiscriminately. They seem to have no object except to destroy your place and they pitilessly kill your mother and two children in front of your eyes. While you wail in horror they set fire to an outhouse containing garden tools, smash up the kitchen and drive their 4×4 over the family dog.
Not just Ukraine, of course, but many places in a world at war with our humanity.
Watching the parade of utter misery as refugees flee the country and fathers stay behind to fight the aggressor is like witnessing a violent home invasion by thugs. Except that these are soldiers who have been ordered into battle and don’t see any criminal intent in what they’re doing.
DeNazify A Brother State
At least most of them believe they are there to deNazify an errant brother state which needs to be brought into line.
How is it that normal decent people come to behave in this way, under orders from the top, and do not see what they actually doing to other normal decent people?
The murder, the mindless destruction, the agony of loss and the hatred craving revenge. I search in my own mind and heart for an explanation but can find only clichés about propaganda, ideology, religious evil, territorial claims, authoritarian discipline, and seething anger against The Other.
None of these explanations seem sufficient to answer the deep question – Why?
Putin is not alone in waging this war. He has willing followers and abetters, soulmates in the pursuit of a triumph over pity. Whatever their motives – from material plunder to settling old scores – they appear simply to lack an understanding of their own actions. Surely people with mothers and children and brothers and pet dogs must somehow be able to grasp the brutal truth about what they are unleashing on others just like them?
Forgive them, for they know not what they do? I don’t think so.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do? I don’t think so. They do know what they are doing but refuse to connect the parts of their lives that mean something personal to the other parts that involve public behaviour and conformity with outward goals.
But does evil spring from within as well as from without?
The question “Why” may be impossible to answer. It doesn’t help to give vicious behaviour the name of evil, because there may be no common denominator in all the forms it takes.
Russians in Ukraine are doing evil but they are hardly “evil people” while the thugs who kill families certainly are.
The problem of evil
Philosophers and religious thinkers have tussled with the problem of evil and have always ended in contradictions. For example, if evil, as Plato said, is the absence of good, we would need to believe that Man is essentially good and only lapses sometimes – but that’s a circular argument. Maybe good is the absence of evil.
And if God is all powerful, how is it that evil exists in the first place to challenge His power? Is Paradise Lost because an angel fell from grace to become the devil?
I don’t know but I do know that Putin’s war in Ukraine is terrible and is causing avoidable suffering apparently because that is what is intended. Bloodshed and wreckage are part of the strategic plan to put democrats in their place and subject them to a fearful dictatorship. It’s a lesson in power.
But even the lust for power seems insufficient to explain the murderous attack on Ukraine in all its heartlessness. Putin’s malice is a mystery that even he would be unable to explain.
The war is what it is because he is what he is, a thug in state clothing, hurting for the sake of hurting.