Justifications

The bits of news I haven’t been able to avoid have shown a lovely lesson in how to write antagonists for those of us who remember back more than a day or so. It’s not even a subtle lesson, in fact, it’s so in your face that it’s likely to be missed because it’s so blatant and sensible people will look and think there’s no way that could possibly be real.

Except it’s so consistent it has to be – these are not people who are capable of faking their views that well for so long.

One side in the open sewer that is US politics (also the reason I actively avoid news feeds. If I can’t maintain a degree of amusement at the antics it’s very bad for my health because I berserk and I’ve trained myself to crash the berserk rage into depression because it’s safer for everyone else) clearly holds the belief that the ends justify the means. They, by their words and actions – and, not incidentally their outrage when someone outdoes them at their own tactics – have made it clear that they believe their cause is Good, and thus anything they do in service of said cause is by definition also Good.

The other major side is also somewhat utilitarian, but as far as I can see there are some depths to which they refuse to sink.

For an antagonist, the notion that they can do anything in service of their goal is one that works a lot better than a proclaimed Evil, because someone who believes they are doing the right thing isn’t going to worry about little things like guilt. They can happily claim those who oppose them are evil (because they’re good and they’re aiming for a good thing) and once that line is crossed, well…

It’s a human thing to believe that any unpleasant events that befall a bad – or evil – person are a kind of divine or karmic punishment for their evil. It’s equally human to forget the normal levels of restraint when dealing with someone who is bad. Or evil. They’re the outcast, the unwanted, and once they’ve been removed from society at large, most people don’t really care what happens.

Except, of course, that it’s entirely possible for a smart demagogue to label a group as evil and make that label stick. It happened 75 years ago in Germany, 100 years ago in Russia, it’s happened repeatedly in numerous African nations in the last 50 years, in the Middle East in the last 70 years, and there are attempts to make it happen here in the USA.

It’s worth studying the process for writing purposes, but be warned – this isn’t something you can unsee. Once you understand how people can be convinced that something about their neighbors makes the neighbors evil, you recognize that it’s a short step to believing that the outcast group of choice is less than human.

And it starts with the group that gets outraged when someone uses their tactics against them, because they are good and anything they do must therefore be good, where anyone who disagrees with them is evil so anything those people do must be evil.

Yes, humans are weird. It goes with what Pratchett described as rising ape meeting falling angel. But it’s interesting to observe.

21 comments

  1. Hey!

    I’m not weird! It’s the rest of you that’s weird! [Crazy Grin]

    Seriously, I can’t disagree with Kate.

    Of course, like Kate I have to avoid the news especially “political” news.

    1. I have to follow it, because that’s part of my job. It’s not a lot of fun, and I avoid as much of the commentary as possible, because I don’t need to see how high, how fast, my blood pressure can get.

      And don’t forget propaganda like the PBS geology show last night, which turned into AGW and humans are uniquely bad and let’s skip the cooling phases because Reasons. Feed young people enough of that, and anyone who disagrees with them is a de-facto murderer for not trying to “save the planet.”

      1. The PBS show about the history of humans and horses got all kinds of comments about how it was evil not to acknowledge that humans were evil to domesticate animals. Even though the show was about how much horses enjoy a lot of the stuff we ask them to do, and how we have both adapted to each other. (Same for the PBS history of dogs and humans show.)

        1. The final time that the family went to Sea World (barring a massive policy change) was just after they’d decided to let California require that they not play with the Orcas.

          The killer whales were as obviously upset as a long time loved dog that was randomly dropped into a kennel and utterly abandoned.

          It was seriously heart-breaking– you watch the trainers doing a show, and the orcas going around like “Hey, wait, where’s my part?” and being ignored.

          Those blanking blankers are cool with abusing animals as long as it suits their views.
          Even right in front of their noses, as obvious as a dog whimpering to please, please, please be scritched by master, just one more time.

          And they insist: no.

        2. Oh, heck – and dogs love-love-love doing what they have been bred and trained to do since time immemorial. The herding dogs live to go herding things – my mother knew some people in Valley Center who had a sheep herd, and served as sort of a Planet Fitness for local people with shepherd dogs. They’d come out and do a couple of hours, bossing the sheep around, and were happy and relaxed for days after their workout. We had neighbors who had an elderly pedigreed rat terrier … and rats in their garage. They turned their terrier loose on the rats (and terrier had probably never hunted a rat in her life, neither had any of her ancestors in this or the last century) and she went to work on cornering and killing rats like some kind of canine Terminator. She was just shaking with eagerness to GET-AT-RATS-KILLKILLKILL-Faster-Puppydog-KILLKILLKILL!! … and she did. With quite astonishing efficiency. A few years ago I read of a woman walking her Newfoundland dog, in a riverside park in the Pacific NW – he tore the leash out of her hand and plunged into the river, to rescue a boy who had fallen out of a raft. Newfies were originally bred to be life-saving dogs – and that was in that dog’s blood and DNA.
          Those dogs bred to be companion dogs live to be plastered to their Chosen Person, of course. I had a Shih Tzu who lived her life pretty much glued to me, or at least, sleeping at my feet in whatever room I was in.

  2. It’s worth studying the process for writing purposes, but be warned – this isn’t something you can unsee. Once you understand how people can be convinced that something about their neighbors makes the neighbors evil, you recognize that it’s a short step to believing that the outcast group of choice is less than human.

    I think it’s one worth doing– because the idea that Outside Group IS fully human is a rather rare, historically, notion.

    And it’s freaking brain-breaking to even sort of get, but it makes thinks make so much more sense.

    Also provides a very healthy dislike of “othering,” frequently.

    1. You know what’s troubling? Age. I’m too old for the “othering” bullshit to work on me now.

      I see people “othering” all the time, and usually they’re doing it to me. There’s a group, and people find reasons to keep me out of it. Or make reasons. It isn’t subtle, usually. Obvious as a road sign.

      But the older I get, the less reason I see to go along with the gag. Right now everybody has their sharp eye out looking for Chinese people coughing. Given the UTTERLY USELESS response by or Canadian government to the Kung Flu, I must say that is not unreasonable. There are a couple of places in Canada where you could legitimately find yourself standing next to some random Chinese person who got off a plane from Wuhan yesterday. That’s how we got a transmission from an infected person to a Canadian in Mississauga, the cab driver caught it driving somebody home from the airport. (Not 100% solid on that as factual, but this is what I hear.)

      But not in Hooterville, where I live. The likeliness of a guy getting off a plane from Wuhan and coming direct to here? Virtually zero. Never going to happen.

      So “othering” Chinese people here in Hooterville is solid horseshit, and I won’t do it. (Besides, there’s maybe two actual Chinese people in the whole town, so the issue doesn’t usually arise.)

      There’s something snarky to be said about stereotypes and the Left here, but I can’t be bothered to parse it out. But age makes me take people one at a time, because the stereotypes are always wrong at the detail level.

  3. I dunno. A lot of ancient stuff indicates that they thought that outsiders and strangers were fully human — but they just didn’t care about their wellbeing unless they had a relationship with them (like being guest-friends, or correspondents).

    There’s a certain point in fairly early prehistory, where there weren’t any large nation-states but there were some pretty darned large trade networks. And then bad times came, and all over the world, the trade networks cut off for hundreds of years. (Probably something to do with climate.)

    There’s also some weird worldwide correlations, where funerary sacrifices of large numbers of your nearest, dearest, and servants got really popular, but not for a very long time. (Presumably people got sick of that crap and overthrew those rulers, because it stops really suddenly after political turmoil.) In the Americas, though, you get that same stuff continuing to happen, whereas it mostly stopped in most of the world. (Although it stopped pretty suddenly in Cahokia after political turmoil, and then everybody moved away about 100 years later.) Very creepy.

    I would like to know if this is just some sort of power-hungry occult tendency that hits critical mass at certain tech levels, or if it’s a case where there were definite religious movements (in the Old World separate from in the New World).

    1. Yeah, sorry, that all got a little incoherent.

      But I think my points were:

      1. Trade makes you take other people seriously as independent people with likes, dislikes, and desires, even if they are screwy and annoying desires.

      2. It’s possible to be really callous about the independent existence of people who are your nearest and dearest, but it’s a lot harder to keep that going.

    2. “I would like to know if this is just some sort of power-hungry occult tendency that hits critical mass at certain tech levels, or if it’s a case where there were definite religious movements (in the Old World separate from in the New World).”

      Those two are not incompatible — ask HP Lovecraft…..

    3. Ah, did it keep going or did it start later?

      OTOH, there was the problem that the Old World did not have, about substituting other animals for blood sacrifices.

  4. Another grumpy old fart over here. I tired of the BS, political games, and the PC ‘ism’ that is taking over. I don’t put up with it, and call it like I see it.

  5. After about a year of Trump, I finally calmed down about politics. I just felt – for the first time in a long time – that “random” terrorist incidents would not continue to happen. Yes, there have been a few – but they feel staged. Staged by Leftists and those they consort with, to trigger a response.

    Kind of like that Las Vegas ‘incident’ that more and more looks like a Deep State triggering event. No, I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, but, if ever an event screamed out for a theory, that one does.

    I just hope to live long enough to see the truth come out about it.

    1. There is a reason – a very good reason – I keep reminding myself “When there’s a choice between conspiracy and idiocy, go with the stupid every time. Remember, sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.”

      It’s practically a mantra by now.

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