A Glimpse on Evil

One of the remarkable observations John Brunner laid down in his novel The Shockwave Rider (1975) is an explanation of evil. I don’t remember the exact phrase but it runs somewhat like the following: It is evil to treat a human being like a thing, like an object.

This becomes the more urgent when one rephrases it as a moral rule: We are not allowed to treat a human being like a thing, like an object. Seen this way, the true depth of the abyss becomes clearer: If we are not allowed to treat a human being like a thing, then we are not allowed to treat ourselves like a thing, like an object. We are, in short, not allowed to treat ourselves according to the criteria of efficiency, functionality, or fitting into a technical environment.

Brunner didn’t say this explicitly, but the whole Shockwave Rider is an elaboration of this warning and it’s a theme we may encounter in other novels from authors following in his footsteps (like Ernest Callenbach, Ursula Le Guin) or preceding him (like H.G. Wells, George Orwell, T.H. White, John Wyndham) as well. Don’t treat yourself like a thing. Just trying this shows the vastness of what is laid down in this little sentence I paraphrased above. Every human being is a soul. Every human being is a soul.

In a sense one shouldn’t even treat things like things.


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