The Bookwatch (Midwest Book Review. Vol. 16, No 5, May 2021. Reviewer’s Choice
Everyday Evil: Why Our World Is the Way It Is will reach social issues and philosophy readers alike with a multifaceted blend of history and contemporary inspection. It seeks to identify and trace elements of evil, from ancient to modern times.
The account opens with a philosophy-based examination of the definition of good and evil, free will, and responsibility, and justice. It then moves to chapters that examine how social, legal, and physical barriers are erected between groups, societies, and people.
As Everyday Evil considers the evolving history of man’s injustice and attitudes towards others, from women and minority groups to other societies around the world, it provides a foundation for understanding the personification of evil and its identification and nature.
This is especially critical reading in modern times, where opposing groups accuse each other of inherent malicious, evil intent and portray themselves as being on the side of an identified ‘good’ that may actually be questionable in its definition and incarnation.
From Biblical quotes to the examination of precedent in other cultures and history, Monique Layton bases her discussion on solid information and interpretations which often offer intriguing reconsiderations of this background, as in her thoughts about witchcraft: “A French proverb from the thirteenth century, Qui veut noyer son chien l’accuse de la rage (Whoever who wants to kill his dog will say it has rabies), encapsulates much of the past attitudes towards women: unless they toed the line and did as they were told, any excuse would do to condemn them. The history of witchcraft is a case in point. Witchcraft was closely interwoven into the details of daily life over which people had little control.”
The studious, information-backed reflections and interpretations are well done, supported by research, and offer much food for thought about human interpretations of the physical world and their place in it: “Going beyond our individual interpretation of sensory perceptions, what can we say about the way we understand whole situations, either taken out of context or given a specific slant? We know how easily out attention can be distracted and how unreliable our accounts are.”
The result is highly recommended reading for students of history, sociology, philosophy, and psychology. Every Evil also promises to reach beyond these scholarly circles to general-interest readers with special concern about the interpretation and broad modern applications of evil’s presence in everyday life, offering much food for thought and discussion.
Why Our World Is the Way It Is. ( 2019)
“With remarkable detail and a wide breath of examples, Monique Layton has engineered an assault on our too-often thoughtless innocence. Her analysis ranges from Genesis, through the philosophy of classical and modern writers to the Sneetches of Dr. Seuss, from the work of historians and journalists to editorials and documentary films.” (Elvi Whittaker, PhD, LL.D (Hons) and author of The Mainland Haole, A Baltic Odyssey and Solitudes of the Workplace).
“Monique Layton challenges her readers to take the concept of everyday evil seriously. But she also provides windows of insight for change. Therein lies the hope for our era.” (Meg Hickling, CM, OBC, LLD (Hons) and author of Speaking of Sex and Boys, Girls and Body Science.
“Well written and a great read.” (Sarah Wethered, Vice-President, BC Teacher Librarians Association).
Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review (Vol. 20, No 4,
Everyday Evil: Why Our World is the Way It Is considers modern social issues and historical precedent, linking the two with discussions that delve into social values, moral considerations, and the events that have reinforced or changed both over the course of human history.
This discourse on human history and nature examines the evolution of human order and the barriers that have evolved over time to not only divide the sexes and different cultures, but create a special form of evil embedded in a blend of historical precedent and daily experience.
Monique Layton's anthropology degree enables her to probe these connections with a deeper attention to cultural inspection than other authors might have done. She connects questions about the nature of good and evil with insights into the origins of heroism, moral and ethical perceptions, and the roots of evil deeds.
All these come into play in a complex and satisfyingly well-detailed survey of how popular opinion is built and changed, the origins of shifts in values and perception that have historically moved civilizations either towards or away from good and evil motivations, and how human nature has evolved—or not: "Human nature seems to have changed little when dealing with such basic emotions as anger at (or fear of ) the behaviour of others, followed by the urge to ‘correct’ them so they may act more conventionally and re-establish proper social or moral order, even when the methods of correction can be worse or far more violent than the acts to which the reformers object."
As she surveys battles (both physical and mental) over human history, draws parallels between modern-day movements and their roots in past human affairs, and analyzes notions of right and wrong in cultural context, readers receive an involving series of interplays between past and present events that enlighten them about the origins of humanity's pull to do either good or evil.
Her research was not without its lasting impact on the author, which is starkly noted towards the end: "At that point in my research, I still wondered whether we might progress over time, either by miraculous grace or natural evolution, hoping to see some improvement through the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment and our modern humanism, despite mankind’s ever-present temptation (from Adam to Faust) to sell its soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power."
Anthropology, history, psychology, and social issues students alike, as well as many a general-interest reader who enjoys facets and intersections of all four disciplines, will find Everyday Evil: Why Our World is the Way It Is an outstanding consideration of how the world got to where it is today—and where it may be heading.