By Richard Kassab
Religious or not, every human being is born with a basic sense of morality. I do not think you need to be born in a Christian household or under certain civil laws to understand that murder or theft is wrong. Take someone born and raised in the middle of an uncivilized area, with no teachings about the Christian faith or any other faith that preaches peace and love. Would this person have a basic respect for human life? I think so. Look around the world; people aren’t randomly killing others the way animals do, in order to survive. Certainly, children do not have this inclination. And I will even argue, an individual part of ISIS are also not born this way. Human beings, it seems, are born with an inscribed conscience despite their religious views or laws they are surrounded by.
If this is true, then why and how do we find evil all over the world? How does someone get to a point where committing murder is acceptable? I think to explore this question, we have to understand our human nature better. If we are born with a sense of “good” and “bad” then we have to ask, can this certain “sense” or intuition, be lost? This purpose of this article is an attempt to show that our predisposition to basic human morality can be forgotten, and almost destroyed, due to the choices we make.
This is precisely what happened to Walter White, the main character from the hit show Breaking Bad. He justified his immoral and illegal actions, initially, as a way to provide for his family. His intention to leave his family with a comfortable life, at least financially, is honorable. But is that enough of a reason to justify wrong deeds? The show beautifully portrays how dangerous this mindset can be to our human nature and conscience. Even more accurate is how the writers show the hidden motivation behind breaking our conscience. There are countless times where Walter continues to justify something immoral to reach his “honorable” goal. “This is for my family!” he said at least a dozen times throughout the series. The writers are clearly illustrating the danger of the Machiavellian philosophy, where the “ends justify the means.” That is, you can do anything necessary in order to achieve a goal (even if it is dishonorable).
How often do we find ourselves in an analogous situation? Maybe we aren’t tempted to murder in order to achieve some end, but perhaps lying is OK when we need get out of trouble. Or cheating on a test to graduate, get a good job, in order to provide for your parents. Isn’t that OK? Certainly Walter White would think so. But justifying this behavior, as Walter did, means we have to ignore our human conscience. And when we ignore something enough, it eventually goes away. A skilled liar didn’t become skilled after one day of lying. It first took ignoring the inclination to tell the truth the first time, and then a second, third and so on until lying became a part of him. It gets to a point where their conscience was no longer heard at all.
We all agree that Nazi members that burnt human beings alive were sickening, to say the least. Who could imagine doing such things? But remember, Nazi soldiers were human beings just like us. And their evil acts started somewhere. It took continuously breaking and ignoring their human conscience to get to a point where murder became just “a job.” Now, maybe most of us are far from such heinous acts. But comparing our seemingly minor acts of immorality to greater ones does not justify them. It is just another excuse that Walter used to lie, drug deal, and murder, because, you know, family.