This blog has often over the past ten years grappled with issues of evil, and today reminds us that the human being is capable of atrocities that no animal could imagine.

Indeed, Greene's famous dictum that evil is a failure of the imagination is clever but sadly false - as is the idea that a lack of empathy is to blame - indeed, the deepest forms of evil require both imagination and empathy, in order to be executed with fully diabolical impact.  You cannot prudently hurt a creature you do not understand, except by accident.

70 years ago, the war against Japan ended. We have been reminded that during that war, among other barbarisms, Japanese medical doctors performed vivisection for medical students on Allied prisoners of war.  Human Vivisection is the worst crime imaginable - it is surgically altering a living sentient being for experimental purposes. I cannot describe these wretched and utterly degrading surgeries here properly, but medical students were forced to watch prisoners kept alive and suffering horrific alterations and woundings, for hours, and sometimes days. This included removing organs, injecting toxins, and brain surgery. The Germans and Chinese also practised these actions during the war, and there is some evidence that the Allies also experimented with deadly biological weapons; and of course we know they experimented with atomic bombs.  It is important to recall the depravity humans are capable of.

Now we have learnt that IS has adopted a "theology of rape" where so-called "wives" - female prisoners of war - are used as sex slaves, then often killed. In short, while this blog has often condemned this new scourge as the enemy of good, it cannot be said to be the only opponent or side to entertain monstrous acts against prisoners.

War, it is sometimes said, is Hell.  This is an excuse.  It seems the human animal is demonic, in part - and some human animals, led by a demonic aspect which I call evil, wait on the opportunity to explode into untrammelled action against others when laws and limits break, bend or cease altogether, in the chaos of wars, disasters, and economic collapse. This is because predation waits for an opportunity. Almost all evil occurs only when an opening occurs in the social fabric, however faint or momentary such a rending may seem.

We need to avoid wars precisely because they afford maximum playtime for wickedness - and make no mistake, that wickedness has been historically central to human behaviour since day one. Some call it sin.

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