As I write my current work in progress, I think of the idea of using something that is evil for a good purpose. In my novel, my main characters have exactly that dilemma. Should they tap into an evil power in order to defeat a wicked and depraved enemy?
This is another way of looking at the old saying “the ends don’t justify the means.” But many would turn it around and say that the ends do justify the means.
In this election year, I see countless examples of this. (Even more if you believe all the accusations the candidates are hurling at each other.)
Candidate X wants to get elected. To win a certain voting block, he needs the support of Another Elected Official, a person Candidate X personally despises and believes to be corrupt. Without the support of Another Elected Official, Candidate X’s opponent will surely win. This, in Candidate X’s mind, will lead to the destruction of the country and widespread misery. So Candidate X makes his deal with Another Elected Official to ensure a worse outcome doesn’t happen.
But now what?
Candidate X now owes Another Elected Official. How will Candidate X keep from getting sucked into Another Elected Official’s corruption?
Things become even more muddled when you consider things from Another Elected Official’s point of view. Surely he doesn’t view himself as evil. He may believe that he’s just working the system to get things done, and if he personally benefits from all his hard work, so much the better. After all, everyone does it.
And it’s possible Another Elected Official started out wanted to serve the public honestly, just like Candidate X. But years of fighting a corrupt system wore him down, little by little, like wax drips from a candle, with only a stub of his original morals left intact.
My protagonists in Stinging Power grapple with this issue, desperately seeking to find a way to put a stop to the Endless War that has plagued their country for centuries. Both of them realize that a new, powerful weapon with overwhelming force could be just the tool they need.
But the weapon they’ve found is reputed to be evil and destructive. They’ve been told that using it could destroy their minds and make them pawns of the evil power that fuels it.
One of my main characters believes that they should forgo the weapon, to find some other way to find victory.
The other argues that prolonging the destruction and slaughter is more evil than using the weapon. Once the war is over, there will be no more need to use the weapon, and it can be hidden or destroyed. That men of strong minds, like them, can resist the corrosive influence the evil weapon exerts over those who use it.
He is so persuasive the other agrees that as a last resort, the weapon could be used.
Which leaves him wondering if his compromise has set his feet firmly on the trail that leads to more evil, and that they will find themselves in a worse situation than before.
How much can good people toy with evil before becoming tainted by it? It’s a question we all face, living in this world with few we could confidently label as pure evil or pure good.