Recently, I've been researching the topic of human evil from the psychological perspective. There is a difference between human evil and demonic evil which I am working towards defining. There is a line over which men cross and their small sins become monstrous acts. I think it is important for us to know the difference when we are helping people struggle with their consciences.
One aspect of evil is when we work to overcome our natural instincts not to do something evil.
So, I am reading this book, Ordinary Men http://www.amazon.com/Ordinary-Men-Reserve-Battalion-Solution/dp/0060995068/ref=la_B001H6UQXM_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341932273&sr=1-1, about a German police unit in WWII that commits some of the worst human atrocities of the Holocaust. It is not so much a psychological examination as it is a detailed account of how a group of middle-aged, ordinary, working-class Germans went from being sickened by orders to shoot unarmed civilians to being highly effective at it.
The Nazis were not a stupid bunch in many ways. A soldiers and police began to have mental breakdowns from the butchering they were ordered to conduct, their leaders devised new ways to commit mass murder. One of the first methods, which was used throughout these actions, was the provision of alcohol. In fact, the High Command made sure that soldiers would have vodka and schnapps available each morning before they began their work and throughout the day. The alcohol served as 'fuel' for what became 'orgies' of violence.
Was alcohol the fuel? No, what was the real fuel was the suffering the men experienced from the very first murders they committed, mostly in the name of trying to fit in with others and truly 'belong.' As their guilt increased, they became more and more angry at themselves. Once alcohol was added to the mix, their violent hatred of themselves and their desire to 'take it out' on themselves became the force behind their killings.
Humans do not kill other humans, they kill themselves.
Our hatred of others is not about our hatred of them, but really our own self-hatred. We project what we hated about ourselves onto others, and this becomes our justification for our sins against others. It is the scapegoat mentality, and what alcohol (or other drugs for that matter) does is provides enough mental slowing to make the transfer seem utterly reasonable.
Alcohol and drugs lowers our inhibitions, those inhibitions that would have stopped those policemen from any further killing and put them on the path of repentance. Instead, they drank, felt numb, and went out to kill more.
What it shows is that these men never actually became true deviants in accepting what they were doing as 'good.' It shows, however, that man can use the numbing effects of drugs to overcome his conscience.
Recovery is about digging deep into the conscience sodden by alcohol to uncover the goodness burdened by the memories of our evil. This is why there is always hope deep beneath the pain. The tragedy is how men can willingly and purposefully overcome their consciences. We do this all the time in small ways, but such a habit can have greater consequences.