Good Morning December 15, 2016

Good morning on this the fifth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I ran into an interesting video talking about how in the star wars universe the Dark Side doesn’t make sense:

To some degree it’s meant for humor, but it’s also got serious analysis, and it points to a common problem, especially in modern fiction, of unrealistic evil organizations. To some degree this is a similar sort of issue pointed out by the top 100 things I’d do if I was an evil overlord. It includes things like:

45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say “And here is the price for failure,” then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.

48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.

68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they’d better save my life again.

187. I will not hold lavish banquets in the middle of a famine. The good PR among the guests doesn’t make up for the bad PR among the masses.

188. I will funnel some of my ill-gotten gains into urban renewal projects. Although slums add a quaint and picturesque quality to any city, they too often contain unexpected allies for heroes.

Basically, the problem is that evil organizations are often designed in completely unstable ways that could never work. This instability is exploited by the hero, making the writer’s life much easier but the story far less satisfying. Truly evil organizations are generally the decaying corpses of better organizations which are currently run by a parasite, but it is a short-lived phenomenon because it can only last while there is host left to be consumed. The most obvious counter-examples are marxist dictatorships, but as evil as these were, they rarely managed to be completely evil. Like the Roman empire killing Christians in the arenas, the extreme evil tended to be in spurts, and concentrated in particular places. North Korea might be the best counter-example to this, but I believe it largely continues to exist as it does because it is the client-state of China, and as such it still represents decay, though a somewhat special case because it’s one small decaying piece of a much larger host. Much of what keeps North Korea intact is, I believe, aid from China. (I’m not very familiar with this and I might be wrong; it might be a better counter-example than I think it is.)

This was always a problem with the Klingons, incidentally. Modern armies have a tooth-to-tail ratio of about 1:10; the high technology of Star Trek would probably leave that about the same through increasing maintenance requirements but also increasing automation. So how did a warrior culture as thoroughly warrior-focused as the klingons manage to have scientists and engineers and accountants? These are all things necessary to get a functioning space ship flying around in outer space, and yet all anyone in the Klingon empire wanted to do was hit each other with pain sticks and boast while they ate live animals which were trying to eat them first.

Probably the worst example of this in fiction would be the reavers in Firefly. They were a completely chaotic society of mindless killing maniacs who somehow also managed to operate and maintain space ships. One can at least imagine Klingon engineers who did all the warrior stuff in their spare time; the reavers couldn’t even talk to each other—at least they only appeared capable of jibbering—and were so consumed with killing and destruction it’s really hard to imagine them refueling their space ships, let alone performing maintenance on them.

It’s a theme I’ll come back to, but it’s tied into the basic truth that evil does not have a positive existence, only a negative existence, like a shadow. Evil organizations can, therefore, only ever be in decay. Minimally functional societies require far too many virtues to ever be completely evil.

God bless you.

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