By Adam Dachis Aug 2, 2011
It would be easier to view the world as black and white, but often things just don’t work that way. Sometimes rules fail you, what’s designed to be good turns out to be bad, and ignoring the evil things in the world makes us anything but safe. Here’s why getting in touch with your dark side can be the right thing to do, and how you can use a little bad for good.
Know Your Enemies
Knowing your enemy is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the harms of the world. Some people will do bad things for bad reasons, and the more you know about their methods the better you can recognize what’s happening, protect yourself, and make more informed choices.
For example, it’s unquestionably useful to understand whether you’re a good victim and what makes you a good target. If you know why you’re being selected by the bad guys as a good mark, you can look at the different methods they may use and consider how you can counteract them.
Identity theft is a frequent problem, but you can better protect yourself by understanding how easily identities are stolen. Understanding how to crack and pick locks will give you a better understanding of security and which locks are at greater risk. (Apart from the purely practical reality that sometimes you forget your combination or lose your key.) People may try to break your confidence when selling online, and you can be ready for it by knowing how its down. The more evil tactics you can learn, the better you’re prepared if someone tries them on you.
In addition to watching out for deliberate evil, some people are just naturally awful. If you haven’t already, you’ll probably encounter a master manipulator who can plant ideas in your mind without you really ever realizing it. They’ll find ways to twist a situation so it’s always your fault, convince you to do what they want by using pity, and never let the attention in the room shift away from them. Sometimes you’ll even know you’re being manipulated and but you’d rather give the person what they want rather than exerting the energy necessary to fight them. If you can recognize these tactics, you can try to shut them down or just get as far away as possible. People who don’t know they’re evil because the behavior comes naturally are best avoided at all costs—but you can only do that if you can identify how they act.
Not all evil comes from bad people. For example, we’ve all been guilty of lying at some point. While lying may not always be a bad thing, it can cause quite a bit of trouble and you’ve likely been hurt by lies in the past. Learning how lying works and how to recognize lies can bring them to the surface faster so you’re not living in the dark. Some useful lie-spotting methods include offering liars two choices to force out an honest answer, listening for the word “well”, redirecting their misdirection, and watching for overconfident statements—but there are plenty more.
It’s important to remember that everyone does something that seems really wrong from time to time, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. Evil will always exist in the world, and sometimes that’s a good thing, but when it causes harm to others its important to remember to forgive. Everyone makes mistakes, but one of the worst things you can do is to believe that you don’t.
Why It’s Sometimes Good to Be Bad
Whether we like to admit it or not, vigilante justice is part of popular culture these days. If you need evidence, take a look at movies like The Dark Knight and TV shows like Dexter. Anonymous performs illegal hacks not for personal gain, but as an exercise in civil disobedience. Even LulzSec sometimes has a political message. Software and media piracy isn’t something practiced only by fringe individuals, but is very common for normal people and is even sometimes encouraged. Why? Because we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore—or rather, we’re fed up with the way things are and we want them to change.
Dissatisfaction may not always be a justifiable reason to break the rules, but it’s the sentiment that drives a lot of action. You probably remember flight attendant Steven Slater’s dramatic departure from JetBlue, or this more recent disgruntled resignation letter to Whole Foods. Sometimes the rules screw us, and we want to fight back. How we choose to do it isn’t an easy question to answer, but sometimes the right thing can look a little bit more like the wrong one.
The above examples show what happens when the pot boils over, but there are some ways that aren’t just about venting frustration and simply doing a little evil to yield better results. For example, many students have more money available during college then after graduation (thanks to loans and increased living costs). Wouldn’t student discounts be more useful to you then? While the rules technically prohibit you from using your student discount once you’re no longer a student, there are plenty of ways around that. When the rules don’t necessarily make sense, it may make more sense to break them.
When you’re trying to get your point across and polite conversation just isn’t doing the trick, a little evil can be warranted. A chronically late friend or crappy roommate often needs a kick in the butt to get the point and start treating people with respect—or at least to understand their current behavior won’t be tolerated. The idea isn’t to get revenge for your own benefit, but rather to demonstrate why their behavior is bad. Sometimes intolerance and confrontation is the key, and other times you may need to simply mirror what your jerky acquaintance is doing so he understand what it feels like. These (sometimes passive aggressive) strategies are better left unused if possible, but when polite methods can’t get the job done they may be your best option.
Again, going full evil isn’t the first place you should turn when you want to resolve a conflict, but there are times when they are helpful and the right thing to do. Good intentions can go a long way when the action is a little bit on the dark side.