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C06P29 – Seriously?

November 14, 2012

Kali does not have a very favorable view of the Itsuri leadership. If she lived in our culture, she’d probably imagine them as mustache-twirling, monolog-spouting, tie-girls-to-train-tracks kind of people. So when she envisioned the Scion, Tama was most definitely NOT what she was expecting.

Whether or not there is true evil in the world is something I think about a lot. Now, this may be a dangerous topic, but if there’s a place I can muse about this with relative safety, it would be with LeyLians. Recently I learned about some recordings of Hitler in which he’s just doing mundane, normal things. Apparently they were not broadly shared because it made him “too human”. From his perspective, I doubt he ever saw himself as the monster most of the modern world remembers him as. I’m sure he had grand plans and some good intentions — Germany certainly was in a terrible place when he took power, and they rose to be a nation that nearly conquered the world. Yet however many human qualities he possessed, he still orchestrated a machine that committed mass atrocities and genocide, beyond those of “normal” war (if there can be such a thing). How does that happen? Where does that switch get flipped? Was he evil? Or is the result evil? Can evil exist without the collective to propagate it? Because rarely are atrocities committed by a single person. It does happen — there are lone bombers and gunmen – but generally large-scale acts are committed by large groups of people. And at what point does a deed cross the line from “misguided” or “misunderstood” to “evil”? And can “evil” deeds be transformed later by forgiveness or remorse, or are they evil forever?

I have absolutely no firm answers on these questions, mind you. They are just things I wonder about. I know it’s a bit of a deep ‘n’ dark topic for a webcomic, but if you have any thoughts on the matter, I’d be curious to discuss them.

41 Comments

Man, bringing out the big guns here, huh? I know there is no right answer to this, because anything I say can be spun around to sound different, but here’s what I got.

I DO believe there is evil in the world. I don’t mean evil entities that possess people and drive them to atrocities. I just mean people who are driven, by whatever reason, to baneful acts.

We look at Hitler. Not many in the modern world like him, comparing him to a monster. Was he really?
His actions say yes, but like you said he was also a great leader. I’m not sure what drove him to do these things.

People are capable of anything really. And killing comes naturally to many. Most don’t think about it but when people say “man i want to kill every mosquito around” isn’t much different than what hitler did, in regards to life.
Many put more value on human life over insect life, but the action is still the same.


I think you make a fair point with the insect comparison. It reminds me of the “monkey sphere” theory. The idea that primates (including humans) have the mental capacity to hold only about 150 people as “real”. The rest are not completely real – they’re outside the monkey sphere. Many are defined by superficial characteristics or stereotypes.

As a result, people often don’t care about anyone unless they’re inside the sphere. They might care intellectually (it’s terrible that people somewhere are starving) but if push came to shove, they’d preserve themselves over saving a stranger.

That’s survival instinct, but is it wrong? I think it can definitely feed into bad acts. But also sometimes necessary ones. Does it come down to intentions? What examples are there for the monkey sphere effect being used for “good” or “evil?” are there some for both?


I forget where I read it- but I read that what truly makes Hitler a monster is that he was human and still killed 11 million people. Maybe I read it in “Invisible Ink?”

Aang said that everyone is capable of great good and great evil. :) We get episodes in both ATLA and Korra where villains are humanized- Sozin and Amon. I don’t know, does that human element make them seem more evil? I’ve never thought about it, but I don’t think it did.

I actually wrote something about Sozin and his intentions in starting the war here: http://avatarthelastairbenderonline.com/community-opinion-16-the-promise/ It’s the last one. But don’t read it if you haven’t read “The Promise” because it has spoilers. ;)

Leave it to me to take a discussion of good and evil to Avatar. Lol.


No worries on spoilers. Pre-ordered the books as soon as I heard about them. And after the high pitched squeeeeing. Mmmm ATLA. Korra’s okay, but ATLA remains at the top in my mind.

Anyway – back to the topic at hand…I always felt humanizing a villain made them both more tragic and more disturbing. Tragic, because we as the audience can see the potential for good or the hopelessness of their situation. Disturbing, because if we can relate to the monster, does that make us wicked? At the same time, if we can’t relate to the position of the monster, there is no way to find common ground, which means the only way to resolve the conflict is death of one side or the other.

It makes me wonder – Are there evil people, or just evil circumstances? And is there a line that can be crossed that makes any action evil regardless of the situation?


Very few people actively believe that they’re evil, or doing evil acts. “Necessary,” perhaps, but not “evil” in their eyes. Even the most violent, vicious people simply see their acts as making the world better in some way. They aren’t, of course, but still.

The only people I can think of as committing evil acts and actively admitting it are a)psychopaths who actually revel in the evilness their acts cause, and b)fanatics, who admit that what they do is evil and that they may be evil people, but it is in the service of a higher cause. An example of the first might be the Joker, while an example of the second might be the Operative, from Firefly/Serenity.


The element of self perception is a really interesting one. It does seem that villains that din’t realize they’re villains rarely do good in stories, but the example you use brings up something that I’ve always wondered about.

How many lives would Batman save if he’d go against his personal rule not to kill? If he stopped the Joker, permanently, instead of putting him into the revolving door at Archam, would that evil act be good? Would the surviving family members of those lost to yet another Joker’s latest murder spree view Batman’s refusal to kill the Joker as noble?


And that’s the question, isn’t it? How utilitarian are we willing to be? How much vigilantism is acceptable? Are our principles more important than people? If he killed, Batman would be a very different Batman than what he tries to represent. These are not easy questions to answer.


Been reading here for a while, and this question is the first one I’ve actively wanted to take my shot at (love the comic btw).

I think that yes there is evil out there, but more as a form of malevolent behavior than as true evil. A lot of the things that we might commonly think of as evil, may be acceptable in other cultures though. If we look at slavery which is still going on even today in some parts of the world we find it to be repugnant and evil. But a couple hundred years back it was accepted and considered part of life quite literally world wide and a portion of that acceptance was based on a mentality that the people of those times had where anyone that wasn’t from the same country/race was naturally inferior in some way. That viewpoint is being erased as equal rights are being spread more and more, the most recent form of this equality being the gay rights movement.

However, even then, there can be times when there is something that can be truly evil/malevolent regardless of what time frame you’re speaking in, the most readily available one for this day and age being bullying. While the bully and the bullied are neither good nor evil per se, the act itself is. If a jock shoves a nerd in a locker or something? That’s clearly a malevolent act, but it could be done by someone that other wise is a really nice guy and is only doing it because his peers are egging him on and will look at him funny if he doesn’t play along. If we look at it that way, the only real evil in this world would be actions taken, not the people performing the actions. That doesn’t clear you of any wrong doing when you do perform that action, but it also doesn’t make you evil, simply misguided (the obvious exceptions being those mentioned by Kris above). In that sense the only people that are truly evil are those who don’t really exist, and even they could be humanized if looked at properly. Hitler just wanted to be a painter when he was younger but was considered to have to little talent to be accepted into the art school that he applied to. If he had been accepted into that school rather than rejected WW2 and all of its associated atrocities could very easily have been avoided.


Hi Ben! Glad the topic could tempt you into posting! Welcome!

You bring up a great point about how society defines good and evil. I remember a conversation I had with someone from Hong King. She asked how so many students were doing poorly in our schools – didn’t parents get involved? I told her that some parents didn’t care, or didn’t have the time or resources to be able to get involved. “That’s awful!” she said, appalled. “If they weren’t prepared to raise a child, they should have gotten an abortion. How irresponsible!”. I told her that many people consider abortion morally wrong. She said that giving birth to a baby you wouldn’t care for was wrong, not getting rid of it before it was born.

Definitely not a common perspective in the USA!

What about our culture that is good might be seen as evil by another? Are there some things that are universally good or evil regardless of the culture?


My husband had a philosophy course on “The Nature of Evil”. I’m pretty sure it was inconclusive, but now our bookshelves have all these books I can’t decide to read – “Machete Season” (Rwanadan genocide child soldiers), “Into That Darkness” (study of Franz Stangl), and “Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer”.

On a somewhat more lighthearted note: I won’t give to the ASPCA because they villainize the eating of horse meat, something quite common and normal in not only “othered” countries like Japan, but also in my homeland of Quebec!


The right and wrong of food can be a surprisingly divisive issue!! When I was a kid, I didn’t understand that people found some animals offensive to eat. Meat is meat. So at five I thought a neat life goal would be to eat every animal on earth. Except for endangered ones. I didn’t want to upset Captain Planet.


A very interesting question. I’m a relativist; history shows there is no absolute standard for human behavior. Even actions that repel most people instinctively (violence, incest) have been condoned and rationalized. I really think you’d be hard-pressed to find a “universal” taboo for human beings.

Consider infanticide, for one. Even when infant survival rates were horrendous (most of human history), there were times when a newborn would be seen as a drain on a group’s resources. Older children who could contribute labor (housekeeping, gathering, husbandry) were demonstrably more valuable. Such babies would be “exposed”, or drowned, or even sacrificed. The practice waned when agriculture allowed food surpluses that let even poor rural families see “extra” children as worthwhile investments.

Just because a moral standard is relative, doesn’t mean it isn’t useful, or even necessary. For instance, most people would call letting a child die when easily available medical care would save them, evil. Yet there are parents who have done just that, following their religious beliefs. Oregon recently passed a law making such actions (or failing to act) illegal, largely because of a particular Christian sect.


The example you give is really interesting because it almost boils moral systems down to the “waste not, want not” principal. When the chances of a baby dying were very high, pouring resources into the infant instead of the stronger, older kin was waste. However, when resources are plentiful, the loss of life is viewed as a waste instead.


Oh boy, your timing on this one is perfect. My husband is a history buff (okay, that’s an understatement if ever there was one), but also a patriot… Remember that if you decide to comment negatively, please. More so, I am first generation American due to the fact that my grandparents escaped the camps in WWII. Anyhow, as far as Hitler is concerned, his intentions were NOT evil by any means. He wanted to give Germany (and what was ay one time Germany) back to its original people. Commonly known as the Anglo-Saxon, but perhaps better understood as the Germanic people of old, the Vikings and their descendents. Granted, the Vikings didn’t originate in Germany per se, but I ask that you accept that term so I don’t have to go into that detail. As an intention this seems great, and it was. How he went about doing so is another story altogether. But that is why so much of Europe was on his list of conquest, and also how the “perfect” citizen came to be (i.e. blonde hair, blue eyes, etc etc). Additionally, it is why as an Austrian he did not consider himself an outsider, as he was part of the civilization he was trying to rebuild. Again, there was nothing wrong with his goal, only his methods. And quite frankly, if America as a nation (among others, of course) hadn’t beaten down Germany so badly after WWI his views and politics would likely never have taken such deep roots. I can honestly say from hearing my grandmother speak that as an Italian she did not consider Mussolini evil. Her exact words were “he was not such a bad boy, he only got in with the wrong group of people, just like at school, he only made poor friends” (please forgive the improper English, as I said, she is Italian) From the German perspective, he (Hitler) had given an entire nation of people hope again, and that is a powerful thing.


Thank you so much for sharing – particularly the Viking connection and your grandmother’s perspective! So interesting! My mother’s side of the family was from Austria. My great-uncle, one of the most compassionate men I’ve met, who in retirement became an inspirational painter, was a soldier in WWII for the Germans. My grandfather ran a factory that made scopes and binoculars for the Nazi forces. (He also did several things under their noses against them that probably would have gotten him killed, had they found out.) Both of these men are my favorite relatives. I certainly wouldn’t call them evil.

Your grandmother’s comment is fascinating. Almost like he was a teen that fell in with a street gang.


That’s exactly how she views him. When she stood up in front of my class I didn’t get it (yes, my teacher had her come in as a survivor and tell her story…and she said that! xD), couldn’t fathom it. And though I’m sure not everyone feels the same way, perhaps it is even just her nature. (she’ll forgive anyone for almost anything…clearly!) I understand her a little better now as an adult. Don’t agree, but I understand her.

I, too, have known many WWII German Veterans. Some haven’t dealt with it, some are so worked up over guilt that they can’t function, and some do everything in their power to make the world a better place now, including donating millions of dollars to things like the red cross. Perhaps what they have done is evil (i know I personally have a hard time forgiving anyone who hurts my grandmother), but people change, if nothing else, and so I figure that regardless of whether evil exists, there is always hope.


(I was expecting her to say he couldn’t be the Scion because he’s such a derp, but still. Totally called it.)

I don’t believe in a concrete concept of evil, but there are certainly evil people. What I think is interesting about evil people–and about fictional villains–is the way they justify what they do. Hitler may not have been evil to his mom or his dog. He just honestly believed that anyone of Jewish descent–or Romani descent, or homosexuals–was human.


Demonizing and dehumanizing the “enemy” is the first step in war efforts throughout history. Crusades. Witch hunts. Propaganda machines. Really interesting to look at propaganda on both sides of a war. You’d never guess both sides were human.

I heard a convincing argument linking violence against women to the way women are used in advertisements. Ads often convert the female form into an object, or just pieces of a person. In a way, it is dehumanizing propaganda in a much subtler form.


You do know that evil comes in small daily amounts, also? It’s not just the Hitlers, and serial killers and all those. Evil is also in the small, petty things every human does every day. We are human and it’s our nature, the difference is the degree to which each person gives in to it.


I find that a very interesting perspective. Rather than treat an extreme case as evil, it is ever-present. That reminds me of the Taoist philosophies I studied for a few years. Bad is good, good is bad. They are the root of each other. You will never find pure evil or pure goodness. Only by finding a balance and harmonizing between both can peace be achieved, rather than the elimination of one or the other.


I think that a lot of people take first actions as a permanent truth. That is why many people are misconsidered or understood the wrong way, just because of the looks of it. I myself suffer about this at school, because I like playing jokes on people and then they think I really meant to do them bad. We haven’t studied WW1 or 2 at school yet, but we’re getting to it so I don’t really understand the reference to Hitler…
I find Loki a good example of being misunderstood. Although many people will laugh at me or think me silly or naive I like spending my time trying to figure a person’s character and decide whether I should think of that someone as someone who is mad or not, if his or her actions are done on purpose or their purpose was a totally different one.
I was asked once, by someone who I can’t really remember, if I was crazy or wicked. I said none, an that person laughed at me. Just because someone comes from a family that isn’t that respected in that society that doesn’t mean we have to think of them as bad or nasty just because other members of their family did some things the society doesn’t appreciate.
Sorry for the long comment, and for referring to me mostly
I love your comics!!! :))


Miss Elena, assuming you are speaking of the Norse god Loki, you are correct in his being misunderstood. I view him more as a class clown type than evil, up until the end when he kills Baldur. That being said, certain actions taken by others can drive a person to extreme actions based on what happens to the psyche. (you made me smile at the mention of Loki, thank you)


Being able to question and examine motives is key to making compelling characters. It’s also valuable for resolving conflicts and negotiations. I don’t think it’s silly. I think it’s wonderful!

Loki is a good example, both from recent Marvel films and the original Norse god version, as Cassandra pointed out!

I think what a lot of people get hung up on is whether being misunderstood by the protagonists justifies their actions or frees them from responsibility. Should they be forgiven? If their motives were understood, would that make their actions right?


Misunderstandings and rationalizations don’t make an immoral action moral. But the way I look at it is this: when you look at your child and say “you’ve misbehaved, go sit in the corner,” you are not telling that child that you disapprove of him, only his actions. You still love the child. The same is true for everyone, you can disapprove of someone’s actions, even hate what they have done, without hating them. If hate was all that was left for them there would be no one to help them recover or become a better person.


Evil is in the eye of the beholder. Neither people nor their actions are good or evil, they just are what they are. How good or evil they are would be up to others to decide for themselves, and to possibly agree upon in large numbers. And as long as people can change their minds, then evil can change over time.

My own definition of evil would be to hurt other unless it is done to prevent others from getting hurt. I consider my consumption of chicken drumsticks to be evil, since those chickens grow up in the meat industry and then get killed. But I don’t plan to stop eating them just because it’s evil. For all I know it might be a ‘necessary evil’, depending on what other alternatives I’d have for proteins.


I find the idea that evil can shift as the collective shifts really interesting! A little in line with the question of “how will history view X?”

We, the people of the present, may have a positive or negative way of viewing events now. However, as time goes on, our culture may change and people of the future may look back on our present and think the morality of our actions very different. If we do something that we think of as good, but generations from now it causes something bad, the people of the future may not view our actions so positively!


It’s really fascinating that you’ve brought this up now– my Philosophy class just started to discuss ethics and I have a paper on “the problem of evil” due Monday *that I’m not working on cough*.

But hey. This is actually a pretty good springboard into that paper, I guess. Personally, I don’t believe in evil. I don’t believe that there is a single person who can do something our modern American society would conceive of as evil who does not need help in some form or another.

I guess I’m really a sociologist at heart, because I tend to see actions through the lens of ‘survival of the culture’ and as irreparably influenced by said culture. Did Hitler do bad things? Sure. But, as Cassandra said, he was doing those things for “his” country and those things would never have come about without the cultural influences he faced. We actually just talked about the theory of cultural relativism in my philosophy class, and while the version of it that was presented was very basic and flawed, I find that I have a lot of sympathy with the basic principles of it when it comes to evil.

Cultural relativism basically states (as I learned it, anyway), that since each culture values different things, there’s no real way to quantify objective morality. Thus what is wrong or evil in one society is not evil in another. Wright1 mentions infanticide, and that’s one of the main examples my teacher used to explain cultural relativism to us. Things become evil when one society imposes their values on another. So, what Hitler did was evil in the view of a cultural relativist, because he imposed his societally-grown values onto the different societies of the Jews, Roma, and the countries he conquered.

The concept of redemption is another fascinating topic to me, and one I haven’t fully explored. As a Buddhist, of course, I believe that all actions circle around and you feel the effects of what you have done, but without believing in evil, I guess I can’t really say that people have evil to be redeemed from. People make mistakes and do bad things, yes, but there are also good things that they have done throughout their lives that can possibly help to counteract these mistakes/wrong decisions.

Of course, no one wants to see this side of their friends or enemies. Especially in this day and age, with our soundbites and shrinking attention spans, it’s much easier for things to be black and white. I often wonder if it would be possible to make war without the black-and-white morality of propaganda and the ruling classes’ influence.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I don’t believe that a utopia is possible either. I just think that evil is an overly simplistic blanket term for the mistakes that mankind makes.

I’m done writing you a novel now. ^^;


(As you can tell from many of the comments on this page, LeyLians kinda like novels. You’re in good company. :) )

I’m curious about the perspective you shared! It’s a very forgiving and compassionate view-point. Does needing help negate the morality of choices? For example, many people that commit shootings in schools or public places are later found to be mentally unwell – what would you consider the morality of their actions to be? What is the moral obligation of society to them, and vice versa? Are there any acts that can tip the scale so far that no amount of good things can make up for the bad things done?


Needing help doesn’t negate the morality of choices, but (obviously), if you need help, your mind is not in a good/the right place to begin with. Of course the acts that these people do are horrible, but I try not to judge them morally, because they’re not in the full mind to make such moral judgments for themselves– and the same goes toward their obligation to society. Society has an obligation to help those who need help (if only because it makes society as a whole run more smoothly), and if these people are lucid enough to recognize that they need help, they ought to get it. It’s easier said than done, of course, but these examples aren’t exactly as messy as real life is. A moral code cannot account for every twist of the path, or it would be too complex to ever follow.

I’ve never found something that could tip the scale for me. I mean, yeah, genocide sucks. But between the monkey sphere theory and the fact that everyone involved is a human being, I can’t bring myself to say that anything is truly unforgivable. I think the worst act someone could do, in my opinion, is swaying the opinions of the society in which they live against another. Understandable, yes. Are there reasons, yes. Every time. But the ripple effect of society and culture means that one man’s words may echo through time and multiply to have a far worse effect than could have been imagined. Anyone who is willing to consciously manipulate that has to be very careful. I am very wary of politicians. :P


Thank you both for replying :)). I appreciate when other people agree with me. This made my day. And I know that my definitions and examples are sometimes really really wrong but I try my best :3. Miss Cassandra, it’s my pleasure… I smile every time I think of Loki.
My love is for the world to get <3


Redemption is one’s true way of making everyone sure that evil persists no more in him or herself. I guess it’s a way of saying I’m sorry but for bigger and more severe things than usual. I may sounds strange because I’m not that much a philosopher at 13 but I try my best. Observation has taught me that thee is more than an outer mask to someone but usually people don’t bother looking underneath because they think that evil or serenity or innocence is the same both outside and inside. Because of this constant rush they barely have time to look at all the people isolated and alone, people who are constantly bullied and laughed at, people who might do things and by that I can refer to anything just to get the attention they desperately need. Not all people innocent on the outside are the same on the inside! And a mask full of evil can hide a broken heart, a destroyed life, living as a shadow, being always second best… The painful truth is that not many appreciate qualities more unusual or rare nowadays and get to nagging really outstanding people that actually have their own ideas and personality and strengths. Just because one isn’t the jock or the captain or the strongest of them al doesn’t make them a coward or an outcast or anything else. All their individual qualities make them who they are, it’s not the money or the popularity or the amount of Facebook friends one has or anything else. It’s about what is inside. It’s about how mentally strong one is, how much they can bare and prove to others their superiority in matter of originality, being someone not just a copycat =^.^=


“Redemption is one’s true way of making everyone sure that evil persists no more in him or herself.” That is an absolutely beautiful way of expressing that thought! I am writing that one down to revisit again!!

I noticed the mask a few years after you have, and I’ve been obsessed with seeing under them ever since. I think that’s why so much of my work has featured masks so prominently. What people show on the outside and what they feel on the inside can be a very complex dynamic!


2/3 of European Jewry were destroyed after all was done, industrial scale genocide. Remember that Hitler began as a crazy homeless person ranting about Elders of Zion, and other paranoid conspiracies circulating around Europe at the time, in the parks and homeless shelters of Vienna. That he was so embraced is the story, that your next-door neighbor and local night watchman and grocers’ wife were so willing to put you and your baby in an incinerator is the most terrifying, not Hitler. That regular, non-crazy ordinary neighborhood people carried out the genocide, took ancient synagogues apart by hand, brick-by-brick, across Europe, shot kids, and so readily, is the most disturbing lesson here. Group psychology can lead to super scary stuff, super quick.

In America, a dominant theme in our culture has always been “go against the herd,” “don’t tread on me, herd,” “herd, get off my lawn,” etc. And though it’s also really problematic in different ways, I’m glad we have it.


I’m very glad for it too. And after this discussion I’m definitely leaning towards the idea that evil is not a phenomena observed in isolation. Evil requires a group to exist. Alone, it is madness, and while that can translate into terrible acts, I do not know that I could call it evil. However, once that madness extends to consume others, and is picked up by others as a guiding principle, then evil is born.

It would be an interesting idea to explore in a future story.


I used to believe that there was no real evil in the world – until I came face-to-face with it, quite literally.

True evil is someone who’s indifferent to – or even takes pleasure in – someone else’s suffering. Sociopaths are truly evil. I met one, and believe me, looking into his eyes was terrifying. There is no mercy in a sociopath’s eyes. No doubt whatsoever.

As for everything else… It’s a hell of a lot more complicated. I think it’s important to remember that humans are capable of comitting atrocities “for the greater good.” The truth is, sometimes good people do bad things – with good intentions. Hitler thought he was bringing about the future. It’s true what they say – “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

We need to keep that in mind so that we don’t become monsters ourselves.


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