Machiavellian Evil and YOU
Would you kill a stranger for $1million?
Probably not. Neither would I. We still have to look at ourselves in the mirror. Would you put a bomb on a plane that killed a terrorist determined to murder hundreds of thousands of people, even if his wife and daughter were on that plane? Probably, yes. And you’d tell your reflection, “It had to be done.”. There are as many definitions for evil as there are for coffee.
Today I wish to share with you my favorite: Machiavellian evil. Devious, wicked, calculated acts performed by someone who thinks they are acting for the greater good. Anyone can kill for revenge, or just because they love causing death and destruction. Evil for power and wealth is the oldest story in the book. As bad as all this is, it pales in comparison to Machiavellian evil. Why? Because as good people (I hope) we can adjust our halos and say, “I would never do that.” But when a character in a book does Machiavellian evil, we the reader cannot honestly say we wouldn’t do the same, and that is terrifying.
It doesn’t have to be simple numbers (the few hundred on that plane vs. the hundreds of thousands dying to a nuclear bomb or an engineered virus.) That actually lets us off the hook. But what if the act of Machiavellian evil were in support of a cause such as Democracy or religion? Would you kill a man who has absolute, irrefutable proof that Jesus was never crucified? Think of the chaos that would cause around the world. Now we get back into the “I would never do that!…Would I?” area.
Let’s take an example from American History
Between 1830 and 1850, the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee people were forced from their homes to walk west of the Mississippi, even after the US Supreme Court sided in favor of their right to remain on their land. Thousands of them died in the journey. This is a f*cking evil act, folks. A wizard puts you in President Andrew Jackson’s shoes at that time. You know why this has happened. Some asshole white settler found gold on “Indian” land, and all the sudden, these people were a threat that had to be removed. You don’t hate Native Americans and you believe in the rule of law. So, what do you do? Easy. You enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling, say the native people can stay, and pose for your picture on the $20 bill.
Until someone tells you that if the native people stay, the white settlers will kill them, and I am talking slaughter. Women and children, in their beds, waking to a white man with an ax and a sheet over his head. Whites will not live peacefully alongside “Indians,” not when there’s gold and good farmland to gain. When the blood starts to soak the ground, when each act of violence provokes retaliation, you—as president—will have a choice. Send in the army and kill Americans and probably start a revolution that spirals out of control, or push the problem further west. It’s evil, but it has to be done. The ends justify the means. Machiavellian Evil.
When you write your evil character, strive for this level of complexity. Force your reader to look themselves in the mirror and ask if they would do any different. Anyone can kill and destroy for the fun of it. Killing for a just cause is far more devastating.
If you want to see how I translate this into my work, Download my free short story here!