Taking Pride in Evil

She was very much ashamed of being in jail—but of being a prostitute, not at all. On the contrary, she seemed rather pleased with herself and proud of her position. Yet, how could it be otherwise?

No man can play an active part in the world unless he believes that his activity is important and good. Therefore, whatever position a man may hold, he is certain to take that view of human life in general which will make his own activity seem important and good.

It is generally supposed that a thief, a murderer, a spy or a prostitute, knowing their occupation to be evil, must be ashamed of it. In point of fact, the case is precisely the reverse. Men who have been placed by fate and their own mistakes (or sins) in a certain position, however false, always adopt a view of life which makes their place in it good an appropriate.

To maintain this idea, men instinctively mix only with those who accept their view of life and of their place in it. This surprises us when thieves boast of their adroitness, prostitutes flaunt their shame, murderers gloat over their cruelty.

We are surprised, however, only because the circle, the sphere, of these men is limited, and principally because we are outside it; but does not the same state of things exist among the rich – who boast of their wealth, i.e., of robbery; the generals—who boast of their victories, i.e., of murder; the rulers—who boast of their power, i.e., of violence?

We do not recognize their ideas of life and of good and evil as perverted, only because the circle of men holding these perverted ideas is wider and because we belong to it ourselves.

Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection