Good And Evil: Points Of View?
Posted by bonesiii , Sep 20 2007 · 239 views
Okay, this is partly just an excuse to have a blog entry. But also I wanted to put my answer to the above question here in full. Gravitan asked me about this in my profile comments but the answer looks way too convoluted split up into 400 char segments.
But in all seriousness, this is a topic many have brought up, and it is VERY relevant to Bionicle -- the answer is one of the core lessons that Bionicle teaches. On a Bionicle fansite, it's pretty important that we recognize that.
So here we go:
Are "Good" and "Evil" just points of view?
Can it truly be said that good and evil are not points of view?
A (very long ) post of yours caused me to wonder about this.
A (very long ) post of yours caused me to wonder about this.
Gravitan -- it is possible to "redefine" good and evil so that those words are subjective. It's true that some people and cultures have used the words to just mean "my side" and "my enemy's side".
However: the words themselves also mean some real things that have clear differences, and those differences are NOT just points of view.
"Good" people are more self-LESS than selfish, wanting the good of others above themselves. Nobody's perfect at this of course, but that's the idea. Good guys don't backstab each other (or rather, when they do, they aren't being good).
Evil is self-ISH. Evil beings want everything for themselves above others. They use minions and allies when they need them, but as soon as they don't, they will backstab the heck out of 'em. Again, most of us have aspects of this in us, which is why humans aren't truly one or the other. But it's, again, the basic idea of evil.
The above differences simply are not arguable. What's arguable is whether the uses of the word "evil" and "good" are always used accurately. Often they aren't. But that doesn't change the fact that good and evil mean real things.
So to say "good and evil are just points of view" is simply false, because it blindly rules out the correct uses of the words.
In technical logical terms, t's an Equivocation Fallacy -- it's based on noticing that sometimes good and evil ARE used as points of view, but then equivocating those meanings of "good and evil" for the absolute ones, and trying to say "this proves ALL meanings of good and evil are points of view." It is logically invalid, so it is impossible for it to be true.
What about in Bionicle?
Bionicle has shown this time and time again, with it being a major theme of 2004, 2005, and 2006 (especially 2006). It's also been strongly implied from the beginning, from the moment the legends told us of a "brother" of the Great Spirit, Makuta, who betrayed Mata Nui and cast him into a slumber (one that we now know is killing Mata Nui) and tried to conquer for his own selfish gain.
Bionicle fans really should recognize this basic truth -- evil is selfish. Good is not.
However, it is muddled in real life, and thus it makes sense that not ALL "good" and "evil" are really good and evil. The Bohrok were marketed as the "bad guys" and the Toa fought them. But the Toa found out that the Bohrok weren't actually evil. Just not designed to handle people living where they are commanded to Clean It All with capital letters.
There's an important lesson there too -- the Bohrok weren't doing that for selfish reasons, but as part of what's needed to wake up Mata Nui, thus for the good of all. So it's important to try not to use the words "good" and "evil" just to mean "my side and theirs". Using those words as points of view is wrong.
So pointing it out when it happens is certainly a good thing, and it would be just as wrong to sit here and tell you that "good" is always truly good. Not true.
In different ways, all of Bionicle since has been reliving those two themes in different ways.
The Piraka were the pinnacle of a clear example of how evil stabs itself in the back. The Piraka stand for betrayal with a grin.
The Toa Nuva facing off against the Matoran Resistance in the books was another example like the Bohrok, as was the Piraka's pretending to be Toa. The Matoran were fooled into confusing truly evil beings, Piraka, for good guys (called "naivete"), and once they realized this, they were fooled into the opposite, confusing good guys for evil beings (called "cynicism").
This year, what we're exploring is a different form of evil. One that is (for now) united in purpose, and not backstabbing left and right. It could be mistaken that the Barraki are not as evil as the Piraka. But the Barraki are willing to kill on a whim for their own selfish desires -- they are only on each others' side because it is necessary at the moment, and they're a heck of a lot smarter than the Piraka. They know they have to work together to achieve their selfish goals. They know from experience -- it was how they were originally designed to work back when they were good guys (unlike the Piraka).
But watch how they act towards each other. Do they seem like best friends? Carapar hates Takadox, Pridak threatens to rip arms off to get his way, Ehlek zaps whoever annoys him... Etc. Total betrayal isn't all that makes you evil. It's the little things too -- you know the old saying "if you can't be trusted with the little things, you can't be trusted with the big things either."
Compare it to how the Toa act towards each other. They tease jokingly, they encourage each other -- but sometimes they also mess up, insulting each other, and in Vakama's case betraying each other. But what did that make Vakama? A bad guy. It's clear that the Toa do what they do self-LESS-ly, even to the point of risking their very lives (or losing them) to protect the Matoran and each other (Case in point, Lhikan, though he was a Turaga, heh).
Bionicle clearly shows that good and evil are NOT merely points of view.
Not only that, but it shows that good is a much better way of life. When neither side has really won, it's muddled and unclear: Which is better? Evil often uses the mistakes of good guys to say "See? See? They're just as bad -- try life our way!"
But when you see one side or the other winning, you see the truth.
When the Piraka take over Voya Nui, Matoran die left and right because the Piraka really don't care. There is pain and horror and anything but peace.
When the Toa Mata defeated Makuta, the Bahrag, when they defeated the Rahkshi, when there were, for the moment, no selfish enemies of power making life miserable, the Matoran had peace. They enjoyed their jobs because they did them willingly for the benefit of others, they were in practically no danger of death or pain, they could see right before their eyes the fact that selflessness produces better results, ironically, for the "self". For each "self."
Back to the Basics
Think about it: If two beings work together to ensure they each have the best life possible, they are both happy and well off. By itself, makes a lousy story, but a great life.
If one being insults, steals from, attacks, wars against, works against the other being, both beings are filled with negatives. The one with anger and hatred, which inhrerently torment the very person who uses them, and the other with pain and suffering, even if he cowers and obeys order. If he fights back in hatred, both simply have equal amounts of hatred and pain, and both are miserable.
Even if one kills the other and has no conscience left at all, heshe has nobody to help them out with chores, enjoy sports with, etc. If the other fights back, not in hatred, but from good motives, he won't suffer the torment of hatred, and won't suffer as much pain if he stops the evil one from attacking, but will always be scarred at least a little because he too has no companion to enjoy life with.
In a nutshell, that is all stories. Just the existence of "conflict stories" should be enough to prove to us that good and evil mean different things -- without conflict there is no story, but without the possibility of good and peace, there also is no story.
The answer is yes and no. Sometimes good and evil are points of view, but there are absolute definitions of both words, based on selflessness and selfishness. Good is self-LESS, looking out for others above the self. Evil is self-ISH, looking out for the self above others. To confuse the former definitions of these words with the latter is an equivocation fallacy, which is invalid and logically impossible.
True good and evil mean very real things that are opposite and mutually exclusive: evil is deceptive, seeming to bring benefit for the self but ruining the self in the process, while good truly brings benefit not just for others, but also for the self as a bonus.