A recent article in the New Yorker by Paul Bloom (The Root of All Cruelty?) argues against the view that cruel people view their victims as sub-humans. No, the writer argues — the whole point of cruel people is they view their victims as humans. That’s why they feel the need to push them around, denigrate them, subjugate them and kill them. If they thought their victims were just malfunctioning robots or bad dogs the perpetrators wouldn’t be so exercised about them. The evil view their victims a a human threat.
True enough. “You’re an animal” is just one of the put-downs humans use to justify dominating and hurting other humans. Others are “You’re stupid” “You’re crazy” and “you’re evil.”
In certain moods it feels to me like “crazy” “evil” and “stupid” don’t mean anything at all — they are just verbal weapons people use as a way of inflicting psychological hurt, or smoothing the skids to inflicting physical hurt, or death.
But at other times I think there must be some objective reality there because I’ve caught myself being stupid crazy or evil, or thinking or doing stupid,evil, or crazy things.
How can craziness, stupidity, and evil be both weapons and accurate linguistic tools of self-diagnosis?