Evil’s Perspective

The Tolkien era of Fantasy had brought us villains who were evil for the sake of evil.  Their motives were pretty much they wanted to destroy the world because they were evil and nothing more was really known about these antagonists.  That was the point, they represented the force of evil more than being individual characters with motives.  In a few stories this works, but now there is a call for more depth to the villains of the stories.  Generally, now there are antagonists with motives and backstories, and just like reality these people tend to not see themselves as evil but as saviors.

History is rife with horrible rulers of both nations and organizations.  Some of these people were like Sauron who simply wanted to dominate others without sympathy or empathy for anyone else.  Others though were more like Darth Vader, horrible people who saw themselves as protectors or necessary such as Valad The Impaler.

How often do we do things that are wrong and justify it in our minds?  Taking that line of thought further, how often do we glorify our ideological positions while demonizing the “other” side?  Sure we may not be killing anyone or desiring to, but isn’t that a similar train of thought that these evil people in history and fiction acted on?  I’m not saying everyone who dug in their heels and stood up for their convictions is akin to a villain, but just that it is easy to continue down the rabbit trail and become so blinded by ideology empathy no longer remains.  This is especially common in political spheres from 2015 to present in America.

Certainly, there are things we all disagree with.  That is okay, in fact it is necessary for anyone who has a spec of critical thinking and morality.  With the advent of the internet it is becoming easier to live in an echo chamber and grow angrier at those who are outside of your thought circle.  Hope is only found in those who agree with you and me, while despair and the end of the world comes in the form of those that dare think differently.  To me, it looks like there is less nuance in our culture than there was even ten years ago.  People are ready to sever ties with friends and even family because of differing viewpoints because their beliefs are “dangerous.”  With this mentality, called Tribalism, which I addressed in previous blogs, it is only opening the door for a real evil to rise to power.  As freedoms erode the people will cheer that person on because “their” person was in power, not the “other” side.  Of course, the opposite group will do everything they can to oppose the person in power, but perhaps it won’t be enough.  This is hypothetical, and not a subtle dig at the current president or any before him.  I know that some already view him in this light, but that isn’t what I am referencing.  In an environment where people are looking to be offended or read into their own bias, I feel that is necessary to state.

Fiction is meant to teach us.  To help us ponder our own actions as well as the happenings within our own culture.  Let us actually implement the lessons from history and fiction, lest we create a monstrous world we cannot undo.

Tribalism Pt. 2

“If you aren’t with me, you’re against me.”  Hopefully most people would find that to be an absurd line of reasoning.  Yet, we see it put into practice by so many people.  Particularly lately when tensions are high between political ideologies.  At this moment everything is affected, and it quite possibly will only get worse.

I’ve said many times before on this blog that it isn’t the writer’s job to pander.  An author is a conduit which the characters use to tell their story.  In my previous blog, I focused on how media is often seen through the lens of politics.  I did address that sometimes authors use their medium in order to push an ideological agenda, but for the most part I feel a lot of times people are simply reading into stories and getting offended over nothing.

It is time to address the fact that there is legitimate political pandering in not just books but television, music, and movies.  This contributes to the paranoia that everything is pushing an agenda, whether that is the intent or not.  When this happens, there isn’t just a bias, but too often the message is, “If you don’t believe or think like me you are evil.”

To avoid the misconception that I am adhering to political conspiracy theories, I will simply say that often only one side of the spectrum is what’s represented most.  When this viewpoint is represented, it also more likely takes the more extreme point of view of this ideology which is “if you don’t believe like me you are a terrible person.”  Yes, I know there are people who think like that in EVERY belief system.  This is merely a general observation I’ve witnessed.  This isn’t productive, nor what fiction is about.  Obviously, the beliefs of the creator come through into the product, but it shouldn’t be overbearing or pandering.  Subtlety is almost always the best approach in fiction when trying to get a point across, that is what all of us writers must remember.

Tribalism and the effects on fiction

It’s no secret there are deep divisions in American culture, especially politically.  Maybe it’s just my perception but it appears that everything is suddenly seen through the lens of politics.  While that isn’t to be completely unexpected, after all people read things through a worldview.  However, right now there appears to be less nuance and more, “believe like me or you’re evil.”  This is seeping into fiction.  Television, movies, and books are labeled with assumptions based on who ever is consuming the media and many times they are wrong.

I’m going to say up front that I do not adhere to the philosophies of either Republicans or Democrats.  I find them both deeply flawed for different reasons.  I feel this needs to be stated just in case someone attempts to accuse me of taking sides, since reading into things is a common practice on the internet.  Now that that’s out of the way, both parties have built of tribalism around them, while painting the other side as evil.  Yes, evil.  Not misinformed, not simply disagreeing on important issues, no evil.  The chasm between Liberalism and Conservatism has grown so much that neither side can even agree on the basics.  Around politicians that craft these ideas there is the rest of the country who mostly either adheres to one side or the other.

This tribalism doesn’t end at the polls or while determining which candidate to vote for.  It often overflows into media.  Readers start to have a visceral reaction to books because there are perceived ideas from “the other side” while authors cave to pressure to pander to their audience and fall into the trap of becoming too political with their works.  Tensions have been rising, especially after the 2016 election, and continue to escalate, almost as if people are looking to fight with those who believe differently.

In my next post I will continue this topic.  For now, I think all of us need to consider the implications of tribalism and vilifying those who believe differently.

Does Anyone Care?

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In case you live in a hole in the ground, you know there was an election.  It was not just an election year, it was a very emotionally charged election year.  I know, every time there is an election there are emotions, but this time things seem much more volatile.  Anyone on social media has seen passionate posts, or maybe you are the one writing them.  We have seen moderates berate both sides, we have seen Trump supporters demonize Hillary, and Hillary supporters insist Trump is the next Hitler.  This post isn’t about my political views, but instead I would like to pose a question.  Does anyone really care about yours or my political views?  Especially when we expound them on social media or in our works as writers?  

Political views stem out of worldviews, and worldviews are how we see everything. The person on the other side of the spectrum sees things very differently (obviously) and most likely will get angry, annoyed, or ignore the post entirely.  Therefore, is there really any point to posting it to begin with?  Yes and no, somethings are worth taking a stand, and there is nothing wrong with sharing one’s thoughts, but things have gotten overboard. There is point in which social media becomes not a place for sharing views but beating down and bullying all who dare think differently.  All sides do this, and now it is saturating our entertainment too.  As a storyteller, I must pull back and analyze just how much sprinkling of my worldview do I need to include in a tale? 

I doubt anyone changed their beliefs based on a Facebook or Twitter post.  This is coming from someone who has done this before as well.  I feel passionate about something, and five years ago I was much more idealistic and even sought out “discussions” with those who believe differently.  You know what that accomplished?  Nothing.  My mind wasn’t changed; the other person’s mind didn’t change.  Ultimately all it did was cause tension, anger, and for both sides to end up grossly misrepresenting our sides due to elevated emotions.  That is the natural conclusion for such things.  Now, I’m not saying politics or religion should never be discussed.  They should be, but I’m specifically addressing the plastering these views all over social media obsessively, or going out of your way to argue with strangers on the internet.

The only ones that care about these posts are the ones who already agree with you.  If you then are speaking to only those who agree with you anyway, why do it?  If you are doing it to convince others that their beliefs are wrong and evil then it may seem noble, but again that isn’t how people come to different conclusions.  The only way to influence another person’s perspective is to empathize with them and their views, and to care about them as people.

It is human nature to get passionate about something and share it with the world, and somethings are worth fighting for and taking a stand.  That is where discernment comes in, something which has been sorely lacking these past couple years.

As a writer, I find this fascinating.  I see people’s true beliefs and worldviews coming through since the election.  It is excellent fuel for characters.  So many people take to the internet to state their views over and over and the only ones who listen are those who already agree.   Personally, I don’t put much faith in any one politician, especially right now.  It is interesting seeing those who are so emotionally invested in ideology that they alienate and even create divides within their own families.  Reality is the greatest inspiration for fiction.  Immense loyalty to ideologies, for good or bad, makes for compelling characterization.  Although, the all-too-common “think like me or you are evil,” thinking that is emerging isn’t helpful for real world relationships.  Even if the person really is right.  Throughout this I can say one thing, at least it is dripping with inspiration.