There are precious few at ease
With moral ambiguities
So we act as though they don't exist
If everyone would go for peace,
There'd be no need for war
But we can't ignore the Devil
He'll keep coming back for more
—Clint Black, "Iraq and Roll"
The villain goes to jail while the hero goes free.
I wish it were that simple for me.
— David Crosby, "Hero"
Among the Alps and Pyrenees, perhaps, there were no mixed characters. There, such as were not as spotless as an angel might have the dispositions of a fiend.
sides. One is light. One is dark.
I always find it's easier the see the world in black and white. Grey? I don't know what to do with grey.
— Garrus Vakarian
, Mass Effect 2
, after reconsidering killing a traitor.
, I can't recall the last time I was in a fight like that! No moral ambiguity, no hopeless battle against ancient and overwhelming forces. They
were the bad guys, as you say, and we
were the good guys. And they made a very satisfying thump
when they hit the floor.
, Babylon 5
, "A Late Delivery From Avalon"
Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Soon there will be war. Millions will burn. Millions will perish in sickness and misery. Why does one death matter against so many? Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this. But there are so many deserving of retribution ... and there is so little time.
Sometimes life seems so complicated, nothing is truly good or truly evil. Everything seems to be a shade of grey. And then you spend some time with a man like Dukat, and you realize that there is
such a thing as truly evil.
To the primitive mind, everything is either friendly or hostile; but experience has shown that friendliness and hostility are not the conceptions by which the world is to be understood.
Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.
— Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason
He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.
It is naive and dangerous to impose on the human mind any system of thought which lays claim to finality... Ultimately, not Christ, not Marx
, not Freud
, despite the pretensions of each, has the final word to say about the fact of being human. And those who take solemnly the words of other men as absolute are, in the deepest way, maiming their own sensibilities and controverting the evidence of their own senses in a fashion which may be comforting to a terrified man but is disastrous to an artist.
, "Norman Mailer: The Angels are White"
The principle of the movement is whoever is not included is excluded, whoever is not with me is against me, so the world loses all its nuances, and pluralistic aspects that have become too confusing for the masses.
—Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
We demonize the enemy
so that our opponent is no longer human. We view ourselves, our people, as the embodiment of absolute goodness. Our enemies invert our view of the world to justify their own cruelty. In most mythic wars this is the case. Each side reduces the other objects—eventually in the form of corpses.
—Chris Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
What we are looking at is good and evil, right and wrong.
For something so dreadfully asinine to be written about a man as well-traveled and well-read would be almost obscene if it were not true. But after 9/11, Hitchens stopped seeing the world in terms of geopolitics but rather saw it, like the Neocons in the Bush administration
, as a war between the good Christian West and the evil Muslim Middle East.
Black or white. Good or evil. Lefty or righty. If life has taught me anything, it's that people can be put into convenient boxes and have NO SHADING of any kind. Everyone knows this, except for the evil people because they are evil and only evil.
One October evening, in the midst of the 2013 government shutdown, I watched Bill O'Reilly
work himself into something of a state. He sat at his desk, his hands palms upward, fingers slightly curved, as if cupping something in them.
'I want Hagel.' he said, staring into the camera. 'I want Hagel. I want him.' A casual observer might interpret this moment as O’Reilly expressing his fierce but tender desire for Chuck Hagel
, the Secretary of Defense. More experienced O’Reilly viewers, however, will recognize it as a signal that the unfortunate Hagel had plummeted downward in O’Reilly’s estimation from pinhead to evildoer. (There are only three kinds of people in Bill O’Reilly’s world: good hardworking Americans, pinheads—people who are not actually malevolent but who are too stupid to understand the way the world really works—and evildoers.)
There is black and there is white, and there is wrong and there is right, and there is nothing, NOTHING in between.
I have no empty heroes. My goodies are good, and my baddies are bad. There are no schizophrenic goodies or sympathetic baddies. And children like it that way; it's not confusing. And they want the goodies to defeat the bads.
'But that's the point!'
Is the single defense I get when I alienate myself at dinner parties by my negativity. It's supposed
to be mindless, I'm told. And then those professional types who are safe in loving Star Wars
where they might be attacked for reading the latest Robert Silverberg
or Thomas M Disch
sf novel, explain to me as carefully as one would a retarded child, that Star Wars
is a return to the worship of the Eternal Verifies: honor, truth, fighting Evil. All black and white. Try black and white in a world of credit cards, punk rock, mastectomies, Watergate
, the rise of homegrown Nazism, Anita Bryant, and the terrifying fact that more than half of all serious crimes in the United States are committed by people between the ages of ten and seventeen—-and that includes rape, murder, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary.
, "Luke Skywalker is a Nerd and Darth Vader Sucks Runny Eggs"
In bygone times, rulers were considered to be anointed by God, and criticism of them was illegal or unthinkable, and so political discontent tended to settle on their counselors. The king is of course noble and good, but he has been getting bad advice
from those slippery men who have wormed their way into his entourage! This trope often appears in Mark Trail
, too: Senator Baldy wasn’t really in favor of drilling for oil in a national park, it’s just that his corrupt staffer was blackmailing him!
That nice lady CEO met an adorable raccoon and put a stop to all the environmentally harmful business plans laid out by her sinister ex-boyfriend! ...Anyhoo, I was going to say something about how this proves that modern society imbues our current corporate 1% with the same semi-divine aura that once was given to kings of old
, but then I realized that Mark Trail
's relationship to 'modern society' is tenuous at best.
The helicopter lands, leading a nearby oldster, one Hugh Palmer, to exclaim, 'Oh, thank God!' This remark proves that Hugh isn’t a film critic
, for out of the 'copter emerges Steve Seagal.
However, it does indicate that the old-timer is a Good Guy. For in the wonderful simplicity of the world of Steven Seagal, the lyrics of the old Hercules cartoon series
theme song ring true: '…People are safe when near him /only the evil fear him.'
I don’t really care to get into the philosophy of Objectivism as I still consider debates with Rand followers as enjoyable as my kidney stone. But I guess if I had to mention anything as to why I don’t buy into it is how everything is so black and white. There is no gray area in Rand’s philosophy. There can’t be any exceptions to the rule or qualified statements such as “The government can be a force for good, but…“ No, it is either black or white, good or evil, hero or parasite. You need to be wary of any philosophy that is so simplistic or tries to so easily lump others in the ‘us‘ or ‘them‘ camp.
conflict has a right side.
A machine that drains the evil out of people.
Now Phil, I hear you saying in the comments, that's a great idea. No. A machine that turns aggressive, violent people into docile, compliant people is a great idea for an interesting, gripping 1984
-inflected thriller. A machine that works on the principle that there is a tangible quality of evil that some people inherently have, on the other hand, is just genocidally bullshit.
And make no mistake, this script is firmly
in favor of the Keller Machine. The only problems the Doctor ever raises about it are the short-term cruelty to its subjects and the fact that the machine is actually a dangerous alien... And this isn't, to my mind, just a dissonant note.
This seems to me emblematic of everything that has been so frustrating in the Pertwee
era to begin with. Bad people are inherently bad. Good people are justified in what it takes to stop bad people
. And it's that simple. The world divides into good people, who are either smart (i.e. agree with the Doctor
) or foolish (i.e. don't agree with the Doctor
), and bad people, who all work for the Master.
And that's just how people are. Bad people want to hurt us. And we have to stop them.
Mulder confronts the Cigarette-Smoking Man watching television alone in an empty apartment...It’s a nice touch that the Cigarette-Smoking Man is watching a black-and-white Second World War
movie. One of the primary themes of The X-Files
is that the legacy of the Second World War is much more controversial than traditional historical narratives allow. Of course the Cigarette-Smoking Man likes to remember it as black-and-white.
There is no middle ground, it goes from one angelic extreme to a demonic other. Somewhere between these two sets is where you’ll find the DS9
crew with lots of shades of light and dark (some call it ambiguity) and as such the are far more interesting than the Voyager
crew that have no flaws and thus are loaded with them.
: Really though, how much of an asshole do you have to be to go “Oh, he has some of Lex’s DNA
, that will surely make him evil. Fortunately he also has mine, which will definitely make him good.” David
: Genetic morality, baby! Nature, not nurture! People are either inherently good or evil, it’s not even their fault. Is Clark Calvinist or something? Chris
: I think he’s just a jerk.