Dafydd Neal Dyar (dafydd@dyarstraights.com)
Fri, 30 Mar 2001 12:17:40 -0800


Much philosophizing of late on weapons in particular and evil in general.

If you define a weapon as an "implement of destruction" -- that is, a tool whose
sole purpose is to inflict debilitating pain, bodily injury or death -- then a
weapon is by definition evil, because it implies malicious intent on the part of
both the creator and the user. The weapon maker intends for it to do harm to
another and designs it to be as effective to that task as possible, so weapons
are created with bad intent. The user may not have bad intent in bearing
arms -- deterring others from carrying out their own bad intent, for example --
but using them unnecessarily or out of proportion to the danger or against
unarmed opponents or in anger almost always crosses the line of intent at some
point.

The problem with weapons is that anyone who has one is almost always tempted to
use it with bad intent at some point. Weapons are thus inherently evil both by
design and because of their potential to impel evil actions on the part of their
possessors.

As you may gather from this, my own view is that intent is at the heart of all
evil.

We all have bad intent at one time or another. We all act on it at one time or
another. We all derive some satisfaction from it at one time or another. We
are thus all tainted with evil to some degree.

But a good person regrets the evil that they harbor, tries to mitigate and atone
for it, refrains from acting on their impulses whenever they can and owns up to
it and tries to do something about it when they can't.

An evil person draws strength and self-esteem from the power and freedom than
comes from abandoning the restraints imposed by concern for others. They revel
in their ability to do harm and arm themselves with weapons of all types:
physical, emotional, mental, verbal and psychological. They don't think of
themselves as evil and have justifications for everything they do. They don't
perceive their own bad intents and often see themselves as the victim of someone
else's wrongdoing.

So there's more than just good and bad intent at work here. There's also the
question of motivation, which can be mapped to a bell curve between two extremes
of selfishness and selflessness.

Consider the traditional Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Envy (Jealousy), Wrath
(Anger), Avarice (Greed), Sloth (Laziness), Gluttony (Waste) and Lust.

Compare the traditional Seven Heavenly Virtues: Humility, Love, Kindness, Zeal,
Generosity, Temperance (Faith) and Self-mastery.

All of the sins are selfish and all of the virtues are selfless. A saint is one
who has few if any selfish impulses and is almost inhumanly selfless. A fiend
is one who has few if any selfless impulses and positively revels in
selfishness. Most people qualify as repentant sinners, aware of the selfishness
and trying to achieve more selflessness.

In Gundam, Amuro and Char both start from a point of consuming selfishness.

Amuro is an orphan in everything but name, abandoned by his mother to the care
of a father who doesn't care. Tem Rey is, by this way of thinking, an evil
man -- he is so wrapped up in his work and the glory is brings to him that he
neglects the one who needs him most, Amuro, although supremely selfish
himself -- look at his role model! -- cannot be considered evil because he's
still a child and children are necessarily dependent and needy, unable to look
beyond themselves and their own needs. But as Amuro matures, he does so in
spirit as well as in body, becoming less selfish and more selfless as time goes
on. He is a bad boy, but he grows up to be a good young man.

Char is an orphan who's sworn vengeance against those who orphaned him. He is
selfish in his desires to get back what he sees as his rightful place, without
considering if he actually deserves it or is competent to handle it. In his
quest for "justice" and retribution, he abandons his younger sister and, when
they meet again, ruthlessly uses her selfless devotion to him to further his own
selfish ambitions. He is evil not so much because of what he does, but why he
does it. Even when he acts rightly, he does so with bad intent. Unlike Amuro,
he never grows up.

Remember that no one is a villain in their own minds -- at least, not until
they've had some epiphany that opens their eyes to the evil they do. Ebenezer
Scrooge was evil, but redeemable -- all he had to do was move away from
selfishness toward selflessness and reclaim the spirit that dwelled within him,
so long denied.

Good people can go bad and evil people can become good again -- we all do it
every day, in small degrees, moving along that continuum of intent. There are
truly good people in the world, who can only be pushed away from the selfless
end of the scale a short distance before they pop back up again -- anyone can be
driven to malice, but the good ones don't stay there. There are also truly
wicked people, who can only be pulled away from the selfish end of the scale a
short way before the sink back down into it again.

Most of us drift back and forth somewhere in between.

The test of good and evil is not so much in what you do as why. Weapons kill,
but that might be a good thing if the cause is just and the intent is not to
harm but to stop further harm. Weapons are inherently evil but can be used for
good, just as tools that are inherently good may be used as weapons.

Justice must be tempered with mercy and weapons must only be used insofar as
they're needed and then set aside. They are best kept locked up and made
harmless most of the time. Having them ready to hand tempts us to use them
inappropriately and with the worst possible intent.

-Z-

-
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