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Rise and Fall of Empires

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Ž.J., Feb 5, 2020.

  1. Pemry Janes

    Pemry Janes Sage

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    To the ancient Greeks, the Persian empire was pretty evil. If the empire is looking to add you and yours to their dominion, it's reason enough to declare them evil. I think this term should be seen as subjective. The empire itself isn't going to think it is evil, it will instead point out all the benefits or being part of the empire or claim instead that they were the ones threatened.

    A lot of Roman wars were 'defensive', for example.
     
  2. Gray-Hand

    Gray-Hand Minstrel

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    I don’t think anyone is saying that Empires are inherently evil. There is a decent case to be made though that territorial conquest is evil. So an Empire that is still in its expansion phase is likely to be committing evil by way of territorial conquest.

    Empires can expand in other ways of course - the Emperor could marry the Queen of another country or could inherit a country upon the death of a relative. A weaker country could glom onto an Empire in order to seek protection from other external threats.

    I suppose territorial conquest could escape being tagged as evil if the infliction of violence was limited to only the ruling elite and possibly its army? If the only noticeable change to the daily lives of the civilian population is having a different guy’s face on the coinage, then that’s just the tough and tumble of the sport of kings.

    As to whether an empire could be fairly tagged as an ‘evil empire’, that probably comes down to how it is been behaving lately and how it plans to behave in the future. Just because an empire did something bad once, doesn’t mean it is evil now - especially if it isn’t even the same people running the place.

    If it did something that could be described as evil back so long ago that it can’t really be shown to be negatively affecting the wellbeing of anyone today in any way that is reasonably rectifiable, then it’s probably best thought of as water under the bridge. If a bad acts were committed (say, an unjustifiable invasion) but action was taken to make amends later (helped to defend from a different enemy), then that could clean the slate. An acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an apology often helps.

    As to whether the ‘evil’ tag applies to every citizen - well, no probably not. The extent to which any individual is stained by the deeds of their empire is dependent on how much influence and support they gave to those deeds.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that countries can’t be evil.
     
  3. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    But that case can only be made from our current point of view. We in the present day have defined this as evil. But that is just our definition. If you believe that you are bringing civilization to a region or that you have some god give right to rule over a region then in your eyes you're doing the right thing.

    Even the whole idea of belonging to a nation seems to be a fairly recent thing. For most people it mattered little who the face on the coin was.

    Territorial conquest is simply one of the most common ways a country comes into existence. I'm not sure it really counts as evil or not, it's more just a fact of life for a country. But somehow, we always paint the losers of the fight as evil and the winners as the good guys. WW1 feels like that to me. Lot's of people fighting all over the place, and a lot of different causes, but somehow the germans are always painted as the bad guys there.
     
  4. Gray-Hand

    Gray-Hand Minstrel

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    Yeah, but if we are writing about an empire, we are writing for a modern audience, so will have to come up with reasons to justify the territorial conquest that aren’t evil by today’s standards.
     
  5. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    I disagree that this is a must. It can be important to the story. But there are plenty of examples of protagonists that do horrible things which in the real world we jail people for and in stories we root for the protagonists.

    It's very obvious in movies and series. There's plenty on thiefs (like Oceans 11), murderers (dexter), basic human rights violations (torture is pretty common in Hawai 5-O) and con-men (catch me if you can). Same with history, a lot of people like the roman empire, ancient greece, there's a reason why a lot of boys are named Alexander. In all of these the viewers root for the protagonist, and they all do some horrible things when you stop to think about it.

    But people never do. People root for the protagonist of a story. They want him to succeed, especially if he's a likeable character. What he actually does is less important.
     
    TheKillerBs likes this.
  6. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Here's a thought. How many people were in the Death Star when Luke blew it up? How manny of them of them were actually bad?. How many of the Storm Troopers on it were doing what they thought was the right thing in supporting law and order in the galaxy? How about the non-soldiers? How many were doctors, technicians, engineers, etc.? Do their deaths not fall on Luke? Does anyone even care?
     
  7. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    No, nobody cares because Star Wars is a fun space adventures inspired by World War 2/propaganda movies.
     
  8. Gray-Hand

    Gray-Hand Minstrel

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    They were actively operating or providing direct support for the operation of a weapon of mass destruction that had been used to kill billions of people a week or two earlier and was literally seconds away from doing the exact same thing again. Luke Skywalker wasn’t operating in a morally grey area there.

    Also - what Yora said.
     
  9. Gray-Hand

    Gray-Hand Minstrel

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    Those examples you give all support the notion that we have to write a story that justifies the deeds of the protagonist.

    The Oceans 11 crew steal from bad people who are so rich that they don’t miss what is stolen from them.

    Dexter targets murderers who have evaded the law and the few times he harms innocents, it is either by accident or mistake and acknowledged as a bad act requiring rectification. At times the writers bent over backwards with some pretty contrived attempts to keep Dexter’s hands clean when it came to innocents being harmed.

    I have never seen Hawaii 5-O, but I’m willing to bet that the show justifies the protagonists human rights violations by having them committed against bad people, or in pursuit of and within proportion of an righteous endeavour.

    The audience is able to get on board with these protagonists in part because their goals are worthy.

    So if you want your protagonists yo be engaging in territorial conquest and you want to appeal to a wide audience, that conquest has to be justified.
     
  10. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    Or they were simply had a family to feed, were recruited into the army, given no say over where they were stationed and had little idea about what was really going on.

    Yeah, it's usually something to do with time pressure and terrorists trying to blow up whatever and the only way to get the information is to beat it out of a criminal / terrorist.

    There's always some justification. But that just shows the truth behind the saying that everyone is the hero in their own story.
     
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