“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil
I don’t remember where I first heard it. I know though that it was just the first line I was aware of initially and at first just thought it was pretty cool. I didn’t quite grasp the meaning.
As time went on, and as I took up my role in society all those years ago, the significance of the quote became apparent.
If you are a fighter of monsters there is a very real risk that you shall become that which you despise. Know thine enemy, if you will.
I spend my days fighting against crime and disorder; against the bad men and bad women who will hurt society and hurt the innocent. I am just one of many who stand as a protector of people. I am just one of many who stand against those that wish to cause others harm. We stand against monsters. It’s not just something we do, it’s something we are.
The quote reminds me every day that I must be conscious of the fight and the extremes I am called upon to win that fight. It reminds me of the requirement to use violence to defeat violence, of the necessity to use force to achieve a legal aim. It causes me to remember why I do what I do.
It tells me to be mindful of the risks I face. The risk that in dealing with bad people you forget there is good out there. The risk that you can become so engrossed in the fight that you become that which you are fighting against.