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(Stitch Trilogy #2)
by Samantha Durante
June 15, 2013
It’s only been three days, and already everything is different.
The Nature of Evil
by Samantha Durante, author of the Stitch Trilogy
But in real life, no one believes themselves to be a monster. Even the people who commit the most heinous crimes – rape, murder, genocide, slavery, abuse of children or animals – in the vast majority of cases do not inflict suffering without any qualms or misgivings. Even those who perpetrate evil have a sense of right and wrong, or at least a sense of what society at large considers right and wrong. So they find some way to justify their horrible acts, whether it’s reasoning that it’s somehow for the victim’s own good, or that it’s somehow deserved, or that the victim is somehow lesser – not a “real” person, not someone anyone will miss, not human.
The fact of the matter is that the battle between good and evil rages within all of us every day. There’s no person on earth who can argue that they’ve never committed an act that can somehow be interpreted as “evil,” depending on who’s laying out the judgment. Ever neglected to alert the cashier about an item he forgot to ring up? Thou shalt not steal (but it’s not “stealing” if you didn’t mean to take it, right?). Ever let your eyes linger a *little* too long on an attractive coworker’s behind? Thou shalt not covet (but it’s only biology, and I’d never actually cheat – doesn’t hurt anyone to look, right?).
For me, the biggest ethical battle is over my diet: I’m a self-hating omnivore. I love animals, always have, always will. I tend to believe that animals are really no different from people, that they feel the same emotions, possess the same capacity for love and fear, and have the same right to live a comfortable and happy life. (Much to the dismay of my less-extreme friends, I’ve even gone so far as to say that people who abuse animals should be subject to the same justice as those who abuse children, and that the punishment meted out to those who hurt both children and animals is far too lenient as it is!) And the fact that I eat animals – animals who were killed simply to satisfy my appetite, many of whom suffered throughout the duration of their short lives in the industrial food system – makes me truly sick. I am deeply, deeply conflicted over my decision to eat meat.
But at the same time, who doesn’t love a juicy bacon cheeseburger? Who can turn down a cheesy slice of pepperoni pizza? I LOVE animal products! And I love to eat. For me, life would be barren without the occasional taste of animal-derived deliciousness. I know a lot of people (who I admire greatly for their conviction) who have adopted vegetarian and vegan lifestyles for these very reasons – and perhaps, one day, I will too. But for the moment, I’ve settled for rationalizing my behavior: I only spend my dollars on humanely and naturally raised meat products (at least, whenever possible), no matter how much they cost or how much more difficult they are to obtain; I do not eat meat with every meal, or even most meals, and when I do, I try to eat less of it; I donate to animal welfare organizations and support small local farms who treat animals well; and I remind myself that animals routinely eat each other in nature, and I am an animal too, regardless of how highly “evolved” I’m supposed to be. Does this make me feel justifiedin my decision to eat meat? Not really. But it’s enough, for now. After all, how much more can I really do without making myself crazy?
So that was a bit of a digression, but I included it to illustrate a point: I think this is the same thought process that rapists and murderers go through before they commit a horrendous crime. A part of them might feel horrible about what they’re doing, but the mental and moral gymnastics our brains will perform to allow us to take what we want (in my case, meat; in theirs, ownership of another person’s body or life) are really quite remarkable. It’s amazing what we can talk ourselves into doing even when we know with every fiber of our hearts that it’s wrong.
And this is exactly what I tried to illustrate with the bad guys (the Engineers) in the Stitch Trilogy. Yes, they’ve done some terrible, terrible things. But are the Engineers themselves objectively *evil*?
A part of me wants to scream, “YES! They’ve done evil things! They have little-to-no remorse! And they’re not even particularly likable as people!” But at the same time, I know it’s not that cut-and-dry.
As readers will learn in Shudder, the Engineers’ motivations for the atrocities they committed were in many ways – believe it or not – altruistic. They are intelligent, thoughtful, passionate people. Besides one (who’s a straight-up misogynist), they are generally fair, reasonable, idealistic, good-natured men. Yes, they are not particularly charismatic and have trouble connecting with other people. Yes, they have deep underlying insecurities and sometimes damagingly painful pasts. Yes, they are a little close-minded when it comes to understanding viewpoints that are different from their own. But they’re human. Don’t we allsuffer from these afflictions, on some level?
In the end, I’m like anyone else – I want good to triumph over evil, and I want the bad guys to pay for what they’ve done. I think readers will be satisfied with the fates of the Engineers in the conclusion of the Stitch Trilogy. But before we reach that point, before the good guys have a chance to swoop in and save the day, I want us all to stop and consider: how does evil really happen? And what can any of us really do to stop it?
Samantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. The Stitch Trilogy is her debut series. Learn more about Samantha at www.samanthadurante.com.
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