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Thread: Non-Evil Crime

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    Default Non-Evil Crime

    This is enough of a fluff question that it might as well just be a creative writing question. Lawbreaking and immorality are frequently conflated, even though they only have incidental overlap regarding some acts.

    With that in mind, in your opinion, what crimes do you think aren't evil? (In the context of fictional characters, this post/thread is not intended to endorse actual illegal activity.)

    Note: Rape, murder, and slavery are pre-emptively off the table. Those are intrinsically evil as per the moral leanings of the original poster.
    Last edited by ThinkMinty; 2015-09-07 at 11:05 PM. Reason: clarification

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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    This is probably generalizing too much, but I think a "crime" is basically breaking a written law, right? In this context, it's easy for crimes, especially in fantasy settings, to be far from evil - if the law itself is evil, or at the very least contrived, nonsensical, outdated, or existing to prevent an entirely different act than the one being committed.

    Aside from those, I'd say that non-evil crimes by default are those committed out of necessity, for fulfilling a basic need. Stealing food when you have none and no other way to procure it is hardly evil. Or trespassing to escape from danger. I'm sure there are others I can't think of off the top of my head.

    (And no, no matter how important it is to your life, wi-fi is not a "basic need". :P)
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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    Simply stated, a crime is any act that breaks a law. Laws can be written for many different purposes, many of which have nothing to do with morality and everything to do with power. Even if you're not writing in the fantasy genre, it can be helpful to research laws written in the middle ages, purely for idea mining. There were laws about who could carry weapons, what kinds, when, etc. There were laws about who could wear what kinds of clothes, of what materials, etc. There were laws of inheritance, marriage between people of different social status, settling disputes, and all sorts of other things. I'd be hard pressed to call these laws corrupt, contrived, or nonsensical so much as arbitrary outside of the context of maintaining power for a particular cultural group, or the social hierarchy they've created.

    It may also be helpful to think not just of laws but also of regulations, ordinances, decrees, and precedent. Going against precedent may have a lot of implications, but it may also be the most powerful way to enact change. Defying the decree of a king, no matter for what reasons or for how right the character thinks they are, may result in imprisonment, public execution, or quietly being put away just because the king can't afford to look weak no matter his personal feelings on the matter.

    Speaking of cultural groups, laws can be applied more strictly to some groups than others. Here I'm not even talking about real world political issues (which we should stay away from) but more about communities and who they think belongs and who doesn't. As an example, my dad once bought a firetruck and kept it in his driveway for a couple weeks. He was served a notice stating that it was against city ordinance that a commercial truck be parked in a residential area, even though another guy a few streets over (in the same subdivision) had been keeping a semi truck in his driveway for years and still does to this day.

    To bring this to a close, if you can think of an action, someone somewhere has probably tried to make a law to prevent it. Laws aren't written from a place of moral authority. Laws are written to exercise power and create and maintain a culture. Evil has very little to do with it.
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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    Quote Originally Posted by ThinkMinty View Post
    Note: Rape, murder, and slavery are pre-emptively off the table. Those are intrinsically evil as per the moral leanings of the original poster.
    I know you said slavery is off the table, and I agree that real-life slavery is evil, but fantasy slavery doesn't have to be.

    I have a Labrador puppy. And what really strikes me about her is that not only is she willing to do pretty much anything I ask to the best of her ability, but she actually craves being asked to do things for me. She wants me to tell her what to do.

    Humans have an intrinsic need to control our own lives, at least in some respects, and trying to make someone bend to your will and give up basic freedoms, no matter how 'gently' you do it, will hurt their spirit. But a dog seems to thrive if you command them with gentleness and rewards, and get uneasy if given too much freedom.

    For a fantasy race that is sentient but has a doglike temperament (eg house elves in Harry Potter), I don't think enslaving them is necessarily evil. If you abuse your house elf, that's evil. But if you treat them with kindness, I feel bossing them around and controlling their life isn't automatically evil (though it does make them very vulnerable to abuse - just like dogs are vulnerable).

    I guess my argument is evil = causes harm to an innocent. If slavery isn't causing harm (and it doesn't seem to harm house elves, at least not inherently), then it wouldn't be evil.
    Last edited by Ettina; 2015-09-11 at 12:33 PM.

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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    There are also several levels of slavery that may be worth exploring. Indentured servitude in payment for crime or debt can be interesting story material. As can something similar to Ministerialis, who were technically serfs but also lower rank nobility that often held government office or presided over castles in border regions.
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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    Also consider characters like Taita in Wilbur Smith's River God. He was born into slavery, but when his mistress tries to free, he begs her not to. In ancient Egyptian society, as a slave he could remain in her service (and have a fairly cushy life) but as a freed eunuch, social conventions of the time would not have allowed it. He would have to leave the palace and make a living as a hired laborer, and such folks had it rough in those days. In ancient days, you also had people who voluntarily became bound servants (what we would call a slave today).

    And as for what could or could not be considered an "immoral" crime- the faith (if any) of the person committing can be a factor. A person belonging to a religion whose god requires adherents to obey the laws of their rulers could be considered to be committing an immoral act for doing something as minor as jaywalking.
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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    Quote Originally Posted by Ettina View Post
    I know you said slavery is off the table, and I agree that real-life slavery is evil, but fantasy slavery doesn't have to be.
    See, I'm too...what this forum calls Chaotic Good to apply any nuance to slavery. It's pretty much the worst thing you can do to somebody from my point of view, and those who willingly enslave others deserve to be thrown into a dark, damp pit and left to rot if I'm being generous to the slaver.

    In short, I really didn't want to get into this argument, because **** slavery. Fantasy, reality, or otherwise, it's irredeemably wrong.

    I have a Labrador puppy. And what really strikes me about her is that not only is she willing to do pretty much anything I ask to the best of her ability, but she actually craves being asked to do things for me. She wants me to tell her what to do.

    Humans have an intrinsic need to control our own lives, at least in some respects, and trying to make someone bend to your will and give up basic freedoms, no matter how 'gently' you do it, will hurt their spirit. But a dog seems to thrive if you command them with gentleness and rewards, and get uneasy if given too much freedom.

    For a fantasy race that is sentient but has a doglike temperament (eg house elves in Harry Potter), I don't think enslaving them is necessarily evil. If you abuse your house elf, that's evil. But if you treat them with kindness, I feel bossing them around and controlling their life isn't automatically evil (though it does make them very vulnerable to abuse - just like dogs are vulnerable).
    Having a pet isn't like having a slave; you're friends with an animal. Take the puppy, for example. She's trying to impress you to endear herself to you, and looking for tasks that will aid her in achieving that goal. They're voluntarily performed by someone who loves you, and that is not what slavery is.

    I don't really care what their temperament is, I'm not better than them, and they're not better than me. All the sentients have an intrinsic freedom that no one's allowed to take away.

    ...the less I think about how Rowling wrote the House Elves, the happier I'll be as a person. That's all I have to say about that.

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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    Quote Originally Posted by Toastkart View Post
    Simply stated, a crime is any act that breaks a law. Laws can be written for many different purposes, many of which have nothing to do with morality and everything to do with power. Even if you're not writing in the fantasy genre, it can be helpful to research laws written in the middle ages, purely for idea mining. There were laws about who could carry weapons, what kinds, when, etc. There were laws about who could wear what kinds of clothes, of what materials, etc. There were laws of inheritance, marriage between people of different social status, settling disputes, and all sorts of other things. I'd be hard pressed to call these laws corrupt, contrived, or nonsensical so much as arbitrary outside of the context of maintaining power for a particular cultural group, or the social hierarchy they've created.

    It may also be helpful to think not just of laws but also of regulations, ordinances, decrees, and precedent. Going against precedent may have a lot of implications, but it may also be the most powerful way to enact change. Defying the decree of a king, no matter for what reasons or for how right the character thinks they are, may result in imprisonment, public execution, or quietly being put away just because the king can't afford to look weak no matter his personal feelings on the matter.

    Speaking of cultural groups, laws can be applied more strictly to some groups than others. Here I'm not even talking about real world political issues (which we should stay away from) but more about communities and who they think belongs and who doesn't. As an example, my dad once bought a firetruck and kept it in his driveway for a couple weeks. He was served a notice stating that it was against city ordinance that a commercial truck be parked in a residential area, even though another guy a few streets over (in the same subdivision) had been keeping a semi truck in his driveway for years and still does to this day.

    To bring this to a close, if you can think of an action, someone somewhere has probably tried to make a law to prevent it. Laws aren't written from a place of moral authority. Laws are written to exercise power and create and maintain a culture. Evil has very little to do with it.
    This is the kind of thing I was lookin' for as a response.

    Laws are there to impose order, or as someone like me would put it, quiet. Any time they happen to prohibit wicked behavior is most likely because they disrupt that quiet in a way that the powers-that-be couldn't find a good way to exploit.

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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    The idea of an evil yet effective law appeals to me, someone who really wants Chaotic Good people who're actually justified in their law-breaking actions.

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    Default Re: Non-Evil Crime

    Quote Originally Posted by goto124 View Post
    The idea of an evil yet effective law appeals to me, someone who really wants Chaotic Good people who're actually justified in their law-breaking actions.
    For example: Street art. There's a lot of gorgeous graffiti, and cracking down on that instead of the guys who swindle pensions makes The Man look like an evil square.
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