Perhaps some will remember Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea fantasy series? I had reread all 6 books last summer (the classic “binge” reading episode). LeGuin is a master in exploring both the very dark and the very light, the depths of cruelty, the heights of our capacity to love. LeGuin reveals the characters of Ged and Tenar (and later, Tehanu) as she tells parts of their stories. Something that struck me this time around was how these are not classic good and evil tales. As we travel with these characters we discover that at their best they have mixed and sometimes selfish motives and that even their “finest” deeds have mixed results. On the “dark” side it can be equally mixed although LeGuin is particularly sensitive to how exploitive behavior rarely has a good outcome. It is often destructive to both the victim and the perpetrator.
The temptation for those in power to use those without is a ubiquitous problem. For instance, human trafficking is going on in every major city in our country and while it is often connected with legitimate needs for migrant or occasional workers, from farms to convention centers, that does not excuse the harm. Then there is the exploitation of our planet, from throwing a plastic cup overboard when we’re out for a cruise to flushing anti-biotics down the toilet, to running the AC all day even when it is not that hot. The “good” and the “evil” might be intertwined but that does not preclude changing our minds and responding in new ways, sometimes even curtailing some of the “good” so as to mitigate the really destructive. Dave