The Telegraph reports Telegraph | News | Idi Amin: “Idi Amin, the former dictator of Uganda and self-styled ‘Conqueror of the British Empire’ who died on Friday aged around 78, was one of the most reviled individuals in recent history.
Six foot four and, at his peak, 20 stone, the former heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda appeared to relish his monstrous reputation. Subject to ‘visitations from God’, and reputedly boasting a collection of human heads extensive enough to require its own deep-freeze, Amin was popularly considered to be deranged.
This impression was reinforced by claims from one of his surviving physicians that he had at various times administered treatment for hypomania, schizophrenia, tertiary syphilis and general paralysis of the insane.
Amin, however, survived too long, exhibiting too shrewd an instinct for manipulation and too ruthless a capacity for cruelty to be dismissed as a mere madman.”
The obitary continues without a positive word. But as the murderer of millions it is no doubt a reasonable thing to not swing to politeness towards him at his death.
But it does make you think about the issue of mental illness and evil. Sometimes we seem keen to excuse acts of appauling cruelty on the grounds of insanity. And yet it seems a derranged mind is not enough to explain a man like Idi Amin. No, he must be ‘EVIL’.
In fact there is some considerable debate to be had within the psychiatric community as to how much illness completely absolves the individual. In some very severe cases of illness I have seen the sufferer is tormented by urges to harm others that are very extreme. Yet in some, there is great moral self-restraint in resisting these urges. Perhaps for others, raised on today’s ‘I can do what I want’ doctrine it is easier to give in to even minor impulses.
Evil and moral choice remain alive and well in the world. Whilst we must deal sympathetically with all who committ crime inspired by mental illness, we must not assume that in every case this absolves totally the individual from responsibility nor that every evil doer is in fact by nature mentally ill!