“Whatever evil you let ride becomes commonplace, eventually. Problem is, it’s easier to get used to it than carve it out.”
– Fiddler, Deadhouse Gates
Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson
This quote comes out of a snippet of conversation most especially regarding evil, terror, and corruption. People tend to think of one potential tyranny as worse than another, but Fiddler, a soldier and a sapper, understands that every hall of power, no matter how foreign or familiar, will be where the worst elements of a people will gather to thrive and spread their cancerous influence. The moment it gets a foothold, if it is not gotten out, then it will inevitably become commonplace and sicken the entire structure of a society, to the detriment of all.
Fiddler was speaking very specifically, but his words can be applied almost universally. Everything from a bullying child to familial abuse to every form of infidelity and every kind of harm that one can do, it all flourishes because, at some point, it was allowed to persist, and spread, and become common.
In regards to corruption in the government, well, it is true, no people or government is perfect. However, imperfections notwithstanding, there is, on some level, a choice in what is allowed and accepted. There are probably numerous reasons for any such choice, but whatever those reasons may be, it cannot be denied that even the most complicated and convoluted reasoning can be boiled down to a simple decision. In this case, corruption was allowed to creep in and stay and entrench itself, and now many people are suffering in despair because it seems all but impossible to reclaim government from the swamp in which it has sunk.
It is far easier to just leave it sunken and rotted, rather than go through the hassle of restoring justice to the courts. Much like it is easier to simply lay down and die from a brain tumor instead of operating to remove it.
There was once a croup of criminals who lorded over New York City. There was once a gangster in Chicago who was impossible to bring down. There was once a ring of greedy murderers in the area of Santa Fe. There was a band of outlaw cowboys, over a hundred strong, which dominated their corner of the wild west. All of them were brought down, each in their turn.
A tyrannical British government was thrown off by the thirteen colonies they stepped on. The Holocaust of Hitler was brought to an end. The Soviet Union fell apart.
Slavery was once commonplace in America, and now it isn’t. Jim Crow was overthrown despite a century of entrenchment. Women were once forbidden to vote.
All of the above were terribly costly and painful to remove, but it was done, each time, by men and women who simply chose to do what was more difficult and dangerous. They chose not to allow evil to ride unchallenged. It was painful. But it was worth it.
We live in a world where evil seems to have free rein over the land and seas and even the skies. I doubt I truly need to go into detail, but entire encyclopedias could be filled to bursting with lists of ongoing depravities, truly horrific in number, scale, and diversity, which would leave most anyone all but crushed and despondent. And, it must be said, not a one of us can possibly do everything, not even with an entire world of help. It would be so much easier to do nothing, to just let things happen, to keep one’s head down and look after oneself and one’s own. After all, we’d get used to it easily enough.
But that’s no way to live, is it? Just hiding and waiting our turn for the guillotine?
Here’s the thing: we don’t have to do everything. We don’t have to solve every problem right now.
We don’t have to remove every evil immediately, and it would be a fool’s errand to try. But we can start by picking just one problem to start with, and doing our own part for it. The world has been changed many times simply by people choosing this problem or that problem to solve together.
Engineers constructed sewers which remove filth and disease from much of our cities. Did they do it alone? No. They had a lot of help. And things are still not perfect, but they are better than they were before.
So it is with everything else, especially every evil.
Rampant addictions to drugs, alcohol, and pornography? Countless souls operate treatment and rehabilitation centers as well as offer counseling.
Thousands of souls fleeing war as refugees? International organizations are cooperating to provide shelter, safety, and necessities.
Corrupt liars run the government and hurt hundreds of millions of people with their evil? Armies of citizens can march in peaceful protest, or vote for better candidates, or take up the mantle themselves by running for office. The restoration of justice may be far simpler than many realize. Government can be freed from the swamp if we just put in the work for it.
All evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing. But, conversely, the eradication of evil requires only that each person stand up and say, “No. No more.”