There’s this thing in storytelling called the problem of evil. Why is it a problem? It’s nearly impossible to have a good narrative without it. It is a convenient color in the spectrum of conflict.
It’s almost always someone A vs someone/thing B; and it’s easier for most of us to root against someone if that
someone/thing is evil.
My fascination with this brings me to Kamina City. The Anti-Spirals have just announced that the extinction of our species is at hand, and the heroes of old are blamed for this current turn. The great hero Simon is headed for his execution even after saving the city yet again. The citizens now await who first gets permission to board Commander Rossiu’s Arc-Gurren. The dark and apocalyptic mood seems an interesting destination for ghostlightning, anime blogger. I make friends easy enough, and let me tell you of this conversation I had with one of them.
I flick the night light switch on and Kinon stirs, looking younger without her glasses. She lights one of my cigarettes, coughing immediately. Actions out of character always pique my interest.
More interesting than Kinon, however, is the master she serves. It’s been whispered in the dark corners of Kamina City that Rossiu has been the pilot of Simon for some time now, who’s become a mediocrity as a leader, as obsolete as the ganmen he dug out of Jeeha Village’s dirt. The trial and upcoming execution of Simon is but a rubber stamp that finalizes the coup.
She turns to me and asks.”How did I get you here?”
The moon is falling. We’re living in interesting times. I say.
“Interesting isn’t a word my brother would use right now.”
You stand against him.
“Yes. He chose the lesser of the two goods.”
“He blames Rossiu of treachery, but my brother can’t appreciate the ethical fitness required to make a call on an authentic ethical dilemma.”
What do you mean?
“Do you have the time to listen?”
As much time there is before the moon falls and kills us all, sweetheart.
“Moral problems are easy. You know you’re facing one because it’s identifiable by the right vs. wrong tag. Let’s say deceit is wrong, that it’s bad to lie. In a vacuum, telling the truth vs. lying is an easy decision to make. It’s right vs. wrong.” She drags on my cigarette, getting more comfortable now. “An authentic ethical dilemma is a choice between two rights, but you cannot choose both.”
And Rossiu was in a quandary over what exactly?
“Kittan sees it simply it as Rossiu betraying Simon and the Dai Gurren Brigade. But it’s more than that. We both see it as a truth vs. loyalty dilemma. Rossiu, while loyal to his friends, cannot choose to save Simon without acknowledging he is the key to the satisfaction of the populace. He chose not to let loyalty get in the way of acknowledging the
truth that Simon must take responsibility in an age of laws, doing otherwise undermines everything all of us have worked for – including Simon.”
It seems a little more complicated than a mere privileging of truth over loyalty, lady. I don’t see Rossiu getting off the hook on that alone.
Kinon tips her cigarette on the edge of an ashtray. “Indeed, there’s more: in this matter Rossiu also had to decide between the needs of an individual vs. those of the community, as well as between those of the long term vs. those of the short term. Both are archetypal ethical dilemmas too.”
Okay, I can understand why Rossiu can see it as an individual (Simon) vs. community (the rest of us) dilemma. But I’d sure like to hear how he put this in the long term vs. short term dilemma’s parameters.
“We can look at not executing Simon as a short-term solution. He’ll feel good for a while. Us friends will be comforted by the perceived return of loyalty. We can hope for a few victories, maybe even stop the moon from falling. Maybe.”
“Stay with me here.” Kinon had noticed my brows furrowed in incredulity. She takes another drag and talks in a puff of smoke.
“Think far enough until the likes of Simon and Rossiu are gone, people who are obvious outliers in terms of talent and ability, within the range of possible human beings. Who’s going to save us then? Can we reasonably predict the periodic and guaranteed arrival of saviors?
What we can forecast is a sustainable population-cap solution, as we’ve succeeded with it for a long time.”
I can’t say I’m sold. It’s not my place to judge Rossiu on behalf of everyone, but he’s still an ass in my book.
Kinon put out her cigarette, wrapped herself in the covers, and put on her glasses. I thought, she must mean business now.
“So you’d have Rossiu serve the virtue of Mercy, over that of Justice?” Her eyes narrowing behind her spectacles.
Why does it have to be one over the other anyway?
“You fail to appreciate the fourth and final archetypal ethical dilemma. It may be good to bestow mercy to someone who saved us all. Simon obviously deserves it more than anyone. But is it just? Is it fair for humanity to bear his penance instead? “
Rossiu claimed that to the citizens, Simon is no different than Lord Genome, and that is why he won’t hold back on punishing him the way they punished Genome. Is that necessarily justice?
“I didn’t say the decision is obvious, but it takes a Rossiu, who has the courage make it.”
I’m less impressed with your version of Rossiu’s considerations than by the ferocity with which you issue it. So my dear, if you believe in him so much, why are you
here, right now?
Off comes the glasses, and I find myself under the covers.
“It’s not him I’m cheating on, you see.”
I don’t respond. The less I say at this point, the better.
“He wasn’t the first great man to pilot the Gurren you see…”
I allow myself a laugh. So all this talk about ethics and dillemmas…
“The moon is falling, darling. We’re living in interesting times…”