The majority of "evil" -- or just nastiness -- I think is less due to malice, hate, or cruelty.
I think the majority of bad things people do happen because they're (1) afraid, and (2) they take the expedient course.
Fear is a mess, of course. Scared people do all kinds of idiot moves.
(Which isn't to say that fear is irrational. Maybe the fear is justified. But scared people do stupid and crazy things.)
But fear... fear is probably okay, even. If you work through it. If you understand it. If you take time and work at it.
The nasty thing is when you're scared and you take the expedient path -- whatever the easy play is, whatever the first thing that springs to mind is. That's when people do quite a lot of damage -- when they're scared, and take the easiest, most expedient path towards feeling less afraid.
A corollary could then be GOOD = Long Term Strategy + Courage. (Not sure what the opposite of fear in that equation would really be.)
But yeah, from personal experience, it's not malice. It's taking the shortest route because someone was scared/unprepared. It's someone being unsure of himself, so he reverts to the most obvious, most established, or what he perceives to be the least risky action--regardless of the overall cost.
Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway. ~John Wayne
Obviously John plans to charge, not ride the hell outta town. It can take courage to do what is right or necessary. I think you are right that evil can occur simply through inaction or taking the most expedient route.
Very few people make decisions on pure principal. Even if they know something is right, or wrong, they say things like "well, I pick and choose my battles" or "I've got to do the sensible thing."
There's something to that, sure. But I rarely hear people say, "I'm scared and just back down from doing what I really feel I should do because of fear."
I never hear that, ever, but surely some people are stepping back out of fear. They comfort themselves by saying that they're reasonable people who pick and choose.
Maybe that's true. It's worth double-checking yourself when you start saying stuff like that though - could it possibly, maybe, just be fear?
I remember not hating my job (and my life), but not exactly enjoying it.
I remember reading Linchpin by Seth Godin.
I remember that morning in the gym, when I said, That’s it. I’m done. I quit.
These are my highlights (highlights, meaning I did NOT write these) from Linchpin.
This is how Seth Godin made me quit my job. Don’t read it if you don’t want to quit yours.