The Hebrew word for “neighbor” is a cognate of “evil.” That puzzling relationship is the quintessence of social order: communities are created for doing evil to outsiders and defending against the evil attempted by outsiders. Communal action is generally evil. Even defense of goodness is clothed in evil: the Russian army in WWII defeated a great evil, but Soviet propaganda during the war emphasized hatred of Germans rather than something good per se. On the communal level, an evil defense against evil is the most common goodness.

Goodness is a natural state of human beings. Goodness doesn’t normally require a communal action. In Hebrew, “evil” and “deviation” are cognates. Evil is the deviation from the state of goodness; moving a society’s moral pendulum requires an action. Evil is actionable, and communal actions tend to be evil.
All evil is the same: a sort of infringement on life or its components, such as dignity or property. Goodness manifests itself in many ways: helping, teaching, studying, working, etc. Almost every human occupation is an embodiment of goodness. Goodness is an absence of evil. Absent of evil, people lead normal lives, and normal is good or goodness is normal.

Evolution ingrained this postulate in human mentality: goodness is non-actionable. If you want to be good, go on with your normal life. The Torah defines goodness succinctly: “Do not follow the majority to evil.” Such an attitude, perfect 99 percent of the time, is devastating during crises. Very few Arabs or Ukrainians participated in pogroms; the silent majority of good people watched and did nothing. Evil people act while good people refrain from action, unless someone incites them to counter the evil with more evil and annihilate the original evil.

In most cases, no such leader arises in time, and evil prospers on the communal level.

the goodness of evil