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Quotes: Black and Gray Morality

Fiction

"It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse -
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
— Poet and World War II Propagandist C. Day Lewis, "Where are the War Poets?"

"Shadow and shade mix together at dawn
But by the time you catch them simplicity's gone."
David Crosby, "Hero"

"In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action - what is often called ruthless - what may in many circumstances be only clarity, seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it, directly, quickly, awake, looking at it."
Willard, Apocalypse Now

"Being a spy, you have to get comfortable with the idea of people doing bad things for good reasons; doing good things for bad reasons. You do the best you can."
Burn Notice, "Broken Rules"

"On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven't been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints; just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!"
Cap. Benjamin Sisko, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ("The Maquis Pt. 2")

"If the only thing they are doing is torching Drexler's heroin, we shouldn't be trying to kill them, we should be sending them a fruit basket!"

"Vladimir was one of those old-time bad guys with honor and morals, which made him almost one of the good guys. None of us was a saint."
Max Payne, Max Payne

There is no such thing as innocence — only degrees of guilt.

"Ah, finally, the ultimate showdown between vaguely-evil and somewhat-ambiguous!"

Cigarette Smoking Man: Look at me. No wife, no family. Some "power." Iím in the game because I believe what Iím doing is right.
Mulder: Right? Who are you to decide whatís right?
Cigarette Smoking Man: Who are you?
The X-Files, "One Breath"

Michael Sullivan: He murdered Annie and Peter!
John Rooney: There are only murderers in this room! Michael! Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee - none of us will see heaven.
Michael Sullivan: Michael could.
John Rooney: Then do everything that you can to see that that happens.

Phyllis: We're both rotten.
Walter Neff: Only you're a little more rotten.

I think her bad guys are badder than my bad guys.
Echo, Dollhouse

"What you lookin' at? You all a bunch of fuckin' assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, "That's the bad guy." So... what that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don't have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There's a bad guy comin' through! Better get outta his way!"
Tony Montana, Scarface (1983)

Ex-President "The Beast": My job is to keep the majority of the people in this country alive. Thatís it. If fifty-one percent eat a meal tomorrow and forty-nine percent donít, Iíve done my job.
President Garry "The Smiler" Callahan: I wanted to be the President so I could fuck with people!

"When will you fools learn that there are no battles fought by heroes?"
Talpa, Ronin Warriors

That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die... But then again, so does she. So I guess we'll just have to see, won't we?
Budd, Kill Bill

Legend: So where do you stand, then? Where do you see yourself in terms of the sliding scale of good and evil, heroes and villains?
Skitter: All of the above? None of the above? Does it matter? Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because itís a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a Ďheroí often means so very little. But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear.

Real Life

Vice is punished, but virtue is not rewarded.

"Life — the way it really is — is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse."
Joseph Brodsky

"Goodness has only once found a perfect incarnation in a human body and never will again, but evil can always find a home there. Human nature is not black and white but black and grey."
Graham Greene

"I doubt that DS9 would be allowed to be quite so forthright if it were playing now... It's very clear here that 'sabotage' and 'terrorism' are methods, not ideologies, and we see saboteurs and terrorists on both sides of the conflict. DS9 is honest enough to treat its characters as real people, not cardboard 'good guys' or 'bad guys.' For instance, Kira is a terrorist, not a 'freedom fighter,' regardless of the fact that we like her, sympathize with her, and are rooting for her to succeed... although it's not always clear that she's in the right. Similarly, even though the Dominion's middlemen, the Vorta, are currently enemies of the Federation, they're given quite a complex presentation, often being shown as quite reasonable people who happen to have different objectives than the Federation; these are not 'bad guys' whom we can blindly hate. Taking this approach means that DS9 treats the issues in a meaningful and thoughtful way, rightfully rejecting the idea that there are easy, clear-cut answers to complex real-world conflicts. You know that Star Trek has come a long way when DS9 can (even subtly) raise the question of whether Dominion occupation is really so much worse than Federation assimilation."
Holly E. Ordway on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine