Prime Minister David Cameron has described the murder of 2 policewomen today as an act of ‘pure evil’.
Clearly, he could do nothing other than seriously condemn the shootings. Yet whilst the use of the phrase ‘pure evil’ may solely be intended to demonstrate how seriously he takes the situation, it is also not particularly helpful.
Why? Because it encourages and promotes ‘good vs evil’, black-and-white thinking. It ignores any attempt at understanding why such crimes are committed, and how they can be prevented. After all, if someone is pure evil, then there is nothing that can be done to change their behaviour. Education and poverty reduction can’t combat pure evil. Only the mystical Forces of Good can.
But the reality is we know that crimes are committed for reasons. Lack of hope for the future, anger, depression, hatred. Even because of boredom and for personal pleasure. Committing murder because of boredom might sound like pure evil, but again, there will be deeper reasons as to why someone decides to relieve their boredom by killing, rather than seeking an alternative. Psychopathy/lack of empathy for others, for example. This in turn has genetic and environmental roots such as certain gene variants (e.g. the monoamine oxidase A gene) combined with serious neglect during childhood.
Dismissing even the worst perpetrators as ‘pure evil’ does not encourage people to think about the causes and reasons behind actions, and fails to acknowledge that behind every murderer there is a person, and behind every person, there is, in the right circumstances, a murderer.