16 October 2009

Evil against the ‘other’

One aspect of Neill Blomkamp’s film District 9 (see my previous blog) that intrigued me was the question of man’s willingness and capacity to do evil. Not just evil against the ‘other’ (depicted, in the film, as the aliens or the ‘prawns’), but also evil against a member of one’s own tribe – that is, another human being (the film’s protagonist, Wikus van de Merwe).

Of course, in District 9, at the moment of evil, the human in question was, perhaps, not entirely human. For, Wikus van de Merwe, after exposure to an alien fluid, was biologically (that is, genetically) transforming into a ‘prawn’. So, perhaps, at the moment of evil, Wikus van de Merwe had become the ‘other’... and the treatment meted out to him by the humans was justified.

But, was it? Was that how it worked?

When I look at the recent spate of bombings and killings (and even beheadings) that are taking place in my own country, India, as well as in neighbouring Pakistan, I am, once again, troubled by the question of man’s willingness and capacity to do evil... to his fellow men. Because, it’s here, in our daily lives, that I see no ‘real’ difference between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’.

But, that’s not how it seems. In defence of their actions, I suppose, the men of evil in question here can justify themselves: in India, the Maoists defending the rights of the farmers and the peasants against a (still active) feudal system and oppression; and, in Pakistan, the Taliban and its allies protesting against the government’s inability to run its own country peacefully, without foreign intervention.

Is this justification enough to destroy innocent human lives? In the minds and the hearts of the Maoists in India and the Taliban and its allies in Pakistan, apparently, it is. For, to the Maoists, the Taliban and their like, those who are not with them in their struggle are considered the ‘other’. And, any evil against the ‘other’ is a logical end in itself.

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