Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Pure Malice


My computer blew up on Saturday. It had been slowly failing for a while, and luckily I backed up all my important documents on Friday night--the next day the hard drive was dead. So, I switched hard drives and installed a whole new Windows XP system on it.

The problem came when I connected to the internet to download the security patches and updates for XP--within an hour, some enemy computer had targeted me for destruction. There is a Blaster Worm virus that causes the computer to reboot constantly whenever it is on the internet, which leads to a problem: how can one download the fix when one can't stay on the internet? I finally solved the problem (Install XP, then Firewall, then Viruscan, then (and only then) connect to the internet), but while cursing loudly I reflected a bit on evil.

Augustine stole pears when he was a young man. A small crime, it seems--just a few pears, stolen in the company of friends, and thrown to the hogs. But he examines this sin over and over, excessively so, it seems, to modern readers. But I think Augustine was right to do so. The theft of the pears was one of the gravest of sins. The reason lies in the fact that Augustine could find no motive for stealing the pears (he had better ones, and didn't even eat them) except the motive of breaking God's law. It was disobedience for the sake of disobedience, pure pride.

It's one thing to kill a man for vengeance, or to steal to enjoy what one has stolen. At least there is a motive, no matter how inappropriate the means to that goal are. But what good does creating a computer virus do for the creator? Does it gain him wealth? Fame? It is evil done for the sake of doing evil, for the cheap thrill of a sham display of power. Augustine says that such sins are like the ineffectual rebellion of a prisoner, by which the sinner flees from God's omnipotence by attempting to be godlike.

Don't get me wrong. Murder is bad. But murder is explicable, whereas writing viruses is demonic.

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