Op-Ed: The Boston Bombers: Evil is Pointless
Prof. George JochnowitzThe writer is professor emeritus of linguistics whose specialty is Jewish languages, in particular the dialects of the Jews of Italy and southern France. He taught for many years at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, and was an exchange professor at Hebei University in Baoding, China. His varied interests include politics, music, the Bible, and humanity itself - and his wife, two daughters and grandson.
On April 15, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. They served no purpose whatsoever. Investigators are wondering about the Chechen ancestry of the Tsarnaev brothers, but the struggle for Chechen independence could in no way have been aided by bombing runners and spectators in the Boston Marathon.
There is some talk about the brothers’ trip to Russia, but again, Russia had nothing to gain from killing and wounding civilians in Boston.
As time goes on, we may possibly learn more about what the perpetrators were thinking, but even if we do, their actions could not have helped any cause on any side of any issue.
On the same day, bombs went off in Baghdad killing civilians.
Although they seem to have been provoked by forthcoming elections in Iraq, there is no way the bombs could have accomplished anything. They were purposeless. Similar purposeless, murderous bombs go off frequently in marketplaces and mosques not only in Iraq but in Pakistan, and elsewhere. They are typically suicide bombings. The perpetrators kill themselves in order to kill others, often others of different Islamic denominations.
By doing so, they are not aiding their own denominations in any imaginable way. They are killing themselves and others because they believe it is virtuous to die while killing one’s supposed enemies.
We typically think of evil as the result of jealously, greed, conflict of interest, struggles for independence, disputes over territory, and other such reasons. All of these factors have led to evil.
But the greatest of all evils are utterly pointless.
Hitler, perhaps the most evil human being who ever lived, decided it was his job to rid the world of Jewish genes. What did he think he was accomplishing? The Jews of Germany were assimilated, productive, loyal citizens.
Some of them were scientists. Even before Hitler knew that he would need such people to help him construct a nuclear weapon, he knew that scientists were useful to a nation and its military power. He didn’t care.
Hitler also knew that many of Germany’s musicians were Jews. He was a passionate music lover. In all likelihood, Hitler’s favorite composer would have been Mahler, since he loved Bruckner, Wagner, Richard Strauss and other composers whose styles resembled Mahler’s.
Hitler didn’t care. He was determined to kill Jews. Many of the scientists and musicians were able to flee. Among those who fled were Enrico Fermi, who was not Jewish but was married to a Jewish woman, which made him Jewish under the Nuremberg Laws. Edward Teller and Leo Szilard, atomic scientists who were Hungarian Jews, also managed to get out of Europe. Together with Albert Einstein, another German Jew, they created the atomic bomb.
Would Hitler have not tried to exterminate Jews had he known that he was forcing atomic scientists to work for his enemies? Of course not. He was utterly selfless.
Chairman Mao created the greatest famine in human history by asking peasants to melt their tools in backyard furnaces so that they could provide steel for weapons. The steel turned out to be totally useless.
This may have been simple stupidity rather than pointless evil. However, during the Cultural Revolution, Mao closed the high schools and colleges, and declared that intellectuals, including high=school teachers were the chou lao jiu (stinking ninth category). Members of this category were sent to live in the countryside so that they could learn from the peasants. Since there was no place for them to sleep, they lived with the pigs and other animals, whom they hugged in winter in order to keep warm at night. Many died.
China has since restored its schools and gone back to honoring learning, but Mao’s action set China back for many years. The Cultural Revolution was another act that could not possibly have served any purpose.
Pol Pot, the leader of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, emptied cities in his attempt to create a classless society. The number of deaths he caused is not known, but it was enormous.
He too was acting selflessly and causing incredible damage for no purpose whatsoever. Monarchs of the Kim Dynasty in North Korea never went quite so far, but they too enforced laws leading to repeated famines in their country—again, for no logical reason.
Hamas periodically aims rockets at Israeli towns. The rockets are not too effective, but they do kill some of the innocent civilians that they are aimed at. To defend itself, Israel has on occasion sent its soldiers into Gaza to stop the rockets. The invasions lead to casualties, of course.
If Hamas did not insist on launching rockets, there might have been an independent Palestinian state by now. Hamas doesn’t care. Its members are totally selfless. They too must pursue their evil policies even though there is nothing they could possibly gain.
If only these evil doers could be bribed!