I’ve been reading L. A. Banks lately, and it’s made me think about Good vs. Evil. I typically don’t like it. I’ve spent a lot of time on Holly Lisle’s writing forums, and I’ve read a lot of her articles, and whenever she starts dividing characters up between good, bad, and weak, I get a little uncomfortable, because I don’t see people as being set that way. I see a lot of fluidity, in which good people do both evil and weak things (watching a kitten drown rather than saving the kitten), and vice versa. She usually argues that people who disagree with her just want to be excused for their bad actions.
That’s not true of me. I don’t find it uncomfortable for myself. I am hard on myself, and do not accept any excuses for my own bad behavior. If I do something that causes harm to someone else, even if it was an accident, I feel terrible and do everything I can to remedy it. But I find it hard to be that demanding or restrictive of others.
The thing is that I do believe in good and evil actions. I just don’t believe that people who do one evil thing are then always evil, or that once you do something great, you are good. I think most people do some good things, some evil things, and a whole lot of just not doing much of anything. So, I think people move in and out of these categories all the time, and there are some settings (Nazi Germany, for one, prisons, for another: see the Stanford Prison experiment) where it might take a lot more effort to be good and do the right thing than other settings. Did they do horrible things? Yeah. Are they destined to be “evil” for the rest of their lives? No, they can change.
We can all change.