Cruelty, according to Hallie (13), is a continuous cycle of humiliation that lasts for years in a given society. He argues that members of a given culture have the right to control how the evil characteristic manifests itself. Cruelty, according to the author, is a manifestation of society’s failure to maintain ordinary human decency and a massive predictor of rot and evil. It is a living testimony to humanity’s worst side and a portrayal of widespread degeneration. “Institutional cruelty degrades individuality,” he famously said. Cruelty and degradation are transformed into moral nobility through loyalty that transcends sentimentality, and commitment is the lifeblood of an organization, Hallie 15)” According to the author, the cruelty occurs as a result of a deficit in power. It is inspired by a lack of legitimate influence over a given party. The perpetrator assumes cruelty to compensate for their insignificant impact their victim’s lives. Ideally, societies exhibit a given sense of power balance. Each member has their place and can influence events around them to a given extent. They can never supersede their contribution to society or a section of it unless they upset the cultural balance. As such, many members of a given community appreciate the limited power they hold in changing the world around them. However, cruelty offers an avenue for one party to reestablish a new cultural median. It destabilizes the traditional power structure by introducing negative energies such as hate, humiliation, violence, and abuse towards a more disadvantaged demographic. It creates a new relational dynamic, one of perpetrators and victims. The perpetrators seek to assert themelves. They desire to prove their worth by demanding submission from their victims. Hallie (17) provides an insight into the concept of cruelty by exploring ethical differences in the given societies. He opines that goodness and hate are the two most dominant opposing forces that maintain social equilibrium in many societies.
Hallie (21) passionately discusses a type of aggression he refers to as institutional cruelty. This type of cruelty is characterized by the long-term enduring of humiliation and persecution by a member or a section of a community for the fear of attracting a greater punishment should the victim confront their oppressors. In some instances, the victims often have limited alternatives. The community around them may have a hold over them such as offering employment, education, and housing or may have a vast cultural and sentimental significance. The author explains that in this dynamic, the victim and the victimizer often make attempts to downplay the gravity of the harm being done.
Naturally, they sanitize any ugly incidences that occur as a result of their sensitive relationship by justifying the cruel actions instituted by the oppressor. The victims understand they stand to benefit from the association and hence, hesitate to upset the state of events. The author laments that in some serious cases, many victims have actually been led to believe they are inferior to their oppressors. Through intense desensitization and extreme incidences of brutality, these victims have learnt to accept their fate and appreciate their limited advantage. The victims understand that the imbalance of power is not in their favor and as such, are submit. They are lower in the hierarchy and are not sufficiently empowered to put a reasonable fight. Hallie (23) intimates that contrary to common belief, kindness cannot effectively solve the problem of institutional cruelty. He is convinced that it is a social challenge that cannot be eradicated by a mere change in superficial change in treatment. The oppressor will have to cede power to the victim and appreciate them as equals. As this is never likely to occur in many societies, Hallie (29) proposes freedom as the key solution to institutional cruelty.
Hallie (34) discusses another type of aggression he refers to as episodic cruelty. The type involves a relationship where both the victim and the oppressor are aware of the abuse. It is characterized by primary cruelty indicators such as abuse, rampant discrimination, violence, and even humiliation. However, the primary distinction between this form of cruelty and others is its periodic occurrence. It happens once in a while. The victim understands they are at a disadvantage but have note accepted this fate. Whenever the cruelty episodes occur, they seek redress and are ready to mend the relationship. In Sophie’s Choice, episodic cruelty is demonstrated by the many incidents of domestic abuse. Spouses commonly physically or verbally abuse the other causing massive harm and humiliation.
The author places focus America’s cultural receptivity. He makes note a tiny French village near the German border that saved nearly 6000 Jews from certain death. At the height of the Nazi’s military might, appearing to ally with the leadership’s enemies was a grave miscalculation. Their weaponry were significantly more advanced and a larger infantry. They represented strength and intimidation. As such, the residents of the remote village understood the immense risk they undertook. Nonetheless, they were ready to fend of the vicious Nazi forces, which represented real mortal danger. Hallie (17) strikes a similarity with America’s reaction to this crisis. The country’s leadership warded off a ship filled with refugee women and children back to the hostility they had very narrowly escaped. Germany presented little armed threat to America at that time hence, extending an arm to the Jewish refugees would not have had any significant adverse implications (Bennett 123). The author implores contemporary to exhibit goodness in its interaction with the rest of their world and their diverse cultures.
In the holocaust-themed blockbuster movie, Sophie’s Choice, the main character, Sophie, is subjected to immense suffering in the hands of her husband, Nathan. She is constantly reminded of the horrors she experienced in Auschwitz where she was shipped to at the height of mass Jewish extermination by the Nazi German establishment. It important to note that Sophie was not a Jew was in fact, a polish catholic. She was a native of the very region that supported the vicious murder of millions of defenseless men, women, and children. His arbitrary outbursts and cruelty do engrain the reality that she may not have escaped the fascism she tried so hard to get away from. Throughout the movie, the director presents the theme of cruelty through many of its characters and settings. The subject of institutional cruelty is depicted in the various acts of identity desensitization perpetrated by the government soldiers.
As the movie depicts, the Jews were systematically exposed to different levels cruelty before the infamous death camp massacre. They were socially disenfranchised. The anti-Jewish establishment began their campaign by poisoning the larger non-Jewish community against them. They would sponsor many propaganda campaigns in a bid to discredit the Jewish claim to the larger Nazi republic. Many Jews resigned to their fate. They understood they were vastly outnumbered. The progressive society they had come to integrate into was slowly turning against them. They were upstanding members of the community and as such, did not conceive any possible reason why sudden hate persisted. They projected that wave of xenophobia would soon blow over.
A good number of them were wealthy businessmen who had vast interest in the country and had significantly contributed towards the growth of its economy. While a few fled the country, a majority of the Jews remained. They were optimistic that things would change and that the society would embrace them all over again. They didn’t. The hatred continued and the Jews began to be targeted. Their establishments were raided, looted and destroyed. This event was later known as the night of the broken glass. Noting the seething fear that had engulfed most of the Jewish households, the government offered them safe settlement in the neighboring region. They were being led to their death. Sophie narrowly escapes the horror was this period. The events are a classic case of institutional cruelty. It is perpetrated as a result of a power deficit between victim and the oppressor.
Evil is the manifestation of socially unacceptable behavior. Examples of evil in today’s society include murder, racial discrimination, political corruption, police brutality, civil unrest, and cultural hatred. Society is the principal authority in checking against the proliferation of evil into the community. It presents the best front in addressing incidents of evil among humankind. It charged with the responsibility of identifying members who exhibit signs of social crookedness and assisting them accordingly. Therefore, society is can respond to evil by identify those instigate and perpetuate it early enough and correct them accordingly.
Bennett, Jonathan. “The conscience of huckleberry Finn.” Philosophy 49.188 (1974): 123-134.
Hallie, Philip Paul. The paradox of cruelty. Wesleyan Univ Pr, 1969.
Hallie, Philip. “From cruelty to goodness.” Hastings Center Report 11.3 (1981): 2-28.