[ASH] Derek Radner's Private Journal #2 - Evil

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Wed Feb 20 07:36:16 PST 2008

[Private Journal of Derek Radner - October 31, 2017]

     So.  Evil.  What better topic to ponder on Halloween?
     You could fill a datacube, one of the big ones, with just the text files
of books written on the nature of evil, and I think that alone is the biggest
clue that evil is not some objective entity or law of nature.  If evil were a
palpable force like gravity, you'd think we could at least agree that it
exists, right?

     (Doodle in margin of a jack-o-lantern with horns and the label, "Evil?")

     Oh, sure, there's gods of evil out there, a few of them even had
publicists in the 1990s.  But I don't think many, or even any, of them chose
that role.  More like it was put on them as punishment for losing a power
     Take Loki, for example.  He did a lot of work in 97 and 98 to try to
rehabilitate his public image.  Admits to being a trickster, as well as god
of fire (which can be destructive).  But that's not really evil, just
dangerous and annoying (and he's kinda an asshole to start with, which didn't
make his PR firm's job any easier).  The big thing that gets hung on him as
evil is his participation in Ragnarok, which as he pointed out, has clearly
not happened yet since we're all still drawing breath.  Well, "all" was a
larger number back then than it is now, but as bad as 1998 was, it wasn't
     That, of course, gets into the whole determinism thing, which the Aesir
are really big on.  Pagan Calvinists, the lot of 'em.  On the other hand, if
your role is preordained, can there really be evil?  Eh.  Not going there.
Determinism is a philosophical dead end, not worth wasting pages on.  If fate
is preordained, it doesn't matter what I do, which is a pretty metaphysically
sterile view.  As the moldy oldie puts it, "I will choose free will".  

     (Note in margin) See if Kevin has those Rush albums copied yet.

     Anyway, evil gods, demons, cosmic horrors hidden behind elder signs.
They exist, but I don't think they prove that evil is an objective thing.
Just that even incredibly powerful beings can fall prey to the same ethical
pigeonholing that mere mortals do.
     But if evil isn't a "thing", what is it?  I think most people get by on
getting told by others what is and isn't evil, and that's good enough for
them.  An unexamined life may not be worth living, but that doesn't stop
worthless people from staying alive anyway.  I expect they'd call me evil for
thinking such a thing, of course, but as time goes on I find I care less and
less what idiots think about me.  They're idiots, why should anyone trust
their judgement?

(underlined)Evil as "harming society"

     I suppose one useful definition of evil would be that it is an action
that hurts others more than it helps them.  If evil's going to be what other
people say it is, there might as well be a solid foundation for that.  And an
evil person is one whose actions are more harmful than helpful to others.
     But that breaks down in a lot of ways.  First, who defines society?  I
mean, there's the whole relativism thing here.  If I save my country by
blowing up another country with a really big bomb, was it a good action
(because it helped my side) or an evil one (because it killed so many
people)?  If I save all of humanity from terrible decline by murdering a few
hundred key people who I know will be bad for us, does that make me evil for
my actions or good for what I prevented?
     I guess I'm wandering into the second point now, and that is the matter
of helping vs. harming.  A doctor has to cut into a patient to perform
surgery, which does a small harm for a great help.  But where does the
balance shift between good and evil?  How many people would I have to murder
in humanity's name before it starts being evil?  Is it even possible to do
good by murdering?  Okay, this is pretty over the top, but if even the
whacked out examples aren't clear, how can the mundane ones ever be
     Thirdly, while help/harm may be a functional definition, it doesn't
cover a lot of things that are considered good or evil.  If I proclaim that
there is no God/Yahweh/Allah, some could call that an evil act.  But who do I
harm?  If God exists, surely He can't be harmed by anything I do.  If He
doesn't exist, there's nothing to harm.  And while you might argue that
undermining the structure of society's faith is harmful, it's a really
tenuous connection, I think.  And people's reactions are certainly
disporportionately strong.  Of course, all the various sexual things fall
under this category too, arguments of undermining replacing any sort of
rational analysis of harm.  Who am I hurting if I have sex out of wedlock, so
long as she consents and we use protection?

     Sometimes, I think that evil is just a label for things that someone
can't personally justify.  And it's a lot easier to justify your own actions
than someone else's.  Or just a way to put someone down when they're having
more fun than you are.

     (Note in margin) Evil = You're A Doodyhead

     Actually, that sounds about right.  It's all just childish egocentrism
given an impressive label and the weight of society approbrium.
     An evil act is one that hurts ME, or that runs counter to the way that
_I_ think the world should work.  An evil person is one who has impacted ME
with an evil act, and not done enough to make up for it.  If I think that
virginity before marriage is The Way Things Should Be, then anyone screwing
around out of wedlock is doing evil, even if it doesn't hurt me.  Intent
doesn't matter.  Predestination doesn't matter.  Only whether the act has
hurt or offended the observer.
     The whole world is a damned playground full of selfish children crying
to teacher (or God) that Billy's being evil to them.

     (Note in margin) Is dad right that I'm too young to be so cynical?  Or
am I too old to still be as trusting as I am?  I'm a legal adult, but still
young enough to remember what it was like to believe in Santa Claus.

     (underlined)Can someone consider himself evil?

     If evil is just subjective, though, can anyone really consider
themselves evil?  I guess they can.  Thinking back to my entry on villainy
last week, there's certainly the insane.  Lunatics are often disassociated
from themselves, and would have no problem seeing themselves from the outside
as evil.  But madmen aren't, in my eyes, truly evil any more than they can be
truly villainous.
     A lot of self-labeled evil people are just pathetic victims of their
upbringing, though.  They've been brainwashed into a particular rigid view of
how the world's supposed to be, and then beat themselves up when they fail to
live up to some asshole's proclamations of God's will.  Mainly regarding sex,
I bet.  So many of my classmates have been bludgeoned (sometimes literally)
into accepting a hard core fundamentalist Christian world view, including the
usual "sex is dirty and evil" crap.  So they hit puberty, have all these
urges they've been told are evil, and decide they're evil.
     But that's just goddamned (literally) pathetic.  It's binary thinking,
in addition to overly rigid adherence to a nonsensical code.  I remember an
old joke my grandpa told me once when he didn't think mom was listening.
     "What do you get when you add a teaspoon of wine to a barrel of shit?
You get shit.  What do you get when you add a teaspoon of shit to a barrel of
wine?  Shit!  That, my boy, is entropy."

     (Note in margin) Send Grandpa a bottle of wine for Christmas.

     These idiots think that morality works the same way.  Take a basically
good person, add a wet dream about your cousin, and suddenly that person is
convinced they're utterly evil and rotten.
     Sure, evil is hard to quantify, and there has to be SOME tipping point
between a basically good person and a thoroughly evil one, but it's not shit
in a barrel of wine.  If it were, everyone would be evil.  Well, everyone
past puberty, anyway.  

(underlined)Can you think yourself evil and not be a tool?

     Insanity and unreasonable feelings of guilt clearly can lead to self-
identifying as evil.  You can also give up and accept a label that others
have laid on you.  But...is there a sort of True Evil to go along with True
Villainy?  Can a sane person rationally look at a definition of evil and
willingly embrace it?
     I'm not sure they can.  Not inside, anyway.  I mean, a True Villain
might publically proclaim that they are evil, but in their heart they'll know
they're the real hero of the piece, the one who will make the world a better
place despite the blindness of the fools around them (it seems the sad fate
of a True Villain to be surrounded by morons, and I'm starting to sympathize
     I guess it depends on the rational definition of evil you accept.  I've
heard arguments that evil is just another word for "me first, devil take the
hindmost" attitude.  And you can certainly be a self-centered jerk without
being insane or wracked with guilt.  In fact, being one kinda precludes the
whole guilt thing.  I just don't accept that simple egocentrism is enough to
qualify as evil.  An egomaniac need not hurt anyone else or violate anyone
else's principles...so long as they don't get in his way, of course.  And
being "me first" doesn't mean you think of yourself as evil, either, just
that you've decided that the highest good is the good that's self-serving.
But yeah, I can see an ego case deciding that he's evil and reveling in it.
     Not my style, though.  And as much as I've been contemplating evil and
villainy, I'd rather leave the world a better place than I found it.  It's a
bit of a fixer-upper right now anyway.
     Then again, the termites probably call the exterminator evil, even if
he's keeping the house from collapsing....

            This has been a Conclave of Super-Villains Special:
   ( )                Derek Radner's Private Journal                 ( )
    I           An Academy of Super-Heroes Universe Comic             I
    I               copyright 2008 by Dave Van Domelen                I
                               #2 - Evil

Author's Notes:

     Inspired by a recent thread on Rec.arts.comics.creative.
     As with #1, keep in mind that these are the views of an 18 year old
villain-to-be, and while they certainly contain aspects of my personal
philosophy, don't assume I agree with Derek on all counts and argue with me
as if I do.  :)
     A quite process note: I deliberately did not proofread this except for
"out of character" formatting like "(Note in margin)", since this is supposed
to be something written by hand.  In fact, there's a temptation to go back
and deliberately add errors, but I figure Derek has a disciplined-enough mind
that his error rate is as low in handwriting as mine is in first draft typing
(and I hit backspace a LOT while typing "live", so you don't see many of my
errors).  :)
     Oh, and the wine joke I originally read as saying "sewage", but I
strongly suspect it had been cleaned up for publication and was originally
phrased a bit more saltily, so I uncleaned it up.  And in case you're
wondering, Derek's not old enough to legally buy his grandpa a bottle of
wine, but at this point he's only a few months away from starting his career
as a costumed supervillain, so I doubt he's too worried about the niceties of
liquor laws.  Another of those "it's only evil because you're a stuck up
prude who can't hold his liquor" things.  ;)


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