Against Righteousness: A Villain Post
There's a difference between feeling righteous and being right.
Welcome to another villainous post. This one will be on the subject of righteousness, and the same rules as last time apply.
This is not intended to be a balanced or nuanced post. This is not intended to carefully consider all sides of an issue. It is not intended to extend empathy or understanding to the people involved. It is not intended to be fair. It is not even intended to be correct.
It is intended to be a villainous rant on the subject of righteousness.
Shall we begin?
RIGHTEOUSNESS, n. A sturdy virtue that was once found among the Pantidoodles inhabiting the lower part of the peninsula of Oque. Some feeble attempts were made by returned missionaries to introduce it into several European countries, but it appears to have been imperfectly expounded. An example of this faulty exposition is found in the only extant sermon of the pious Bishop Rowley, a characteristic passage from which is here given:
"Now righteousness consisteth not merely in a holy state of mind, nor yet in performance of religious rites and obedience to the letter of the law. It is not enough that one be pious and just: one must see to it that others also are in the same state; and to this end compulsion is a proper means. Forasmuch as my injustice may work ill to another, so by his injustice may evil be wrought upon still another, the which it is as manifestly my duty to estop as to forestall mine own tort. Wherefore if I would be righteous I am bound to restrain my neighbor, by force if needful, in all those injurious enterprises from which, through a better disposition and by the help of Heaven, I do myself refrain."
- The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce
If there’s one thing I despise - one thing I truly hate above all others - it isn’t the do-gooders who constantly ruin my plans for world domination.
It isn’t the blinkered fools who hinder progress in the hopes the world can remain frozen in amber as it was in their youth.
It isn’t even those cruel monsters at work who stop the microwave with two seconds left on it, take their dish, and walk away without canceling the remaining time.
No, if there’s one thing I truly cannot stand, it is righteousness.
What is Righteousness?
Righteousness, according to the many heroes who would have you believe their propaganda, is the state of being morally right or justifiable.
What said heroes fail to expound on, however, is that such a state is always and necessarily subjective - morality is never an absolute; what is justifiable depends upon the act being justified and the reason for its justification.
Which is to say that a righteous act is always only righteous according to someone (if not the hero themselves, then doubtlessly a simpering sidekick or the obligatory comic relief character).
(Occasionally the hero will have some meager crisis of conscience at the acts they perform to seize their unearned victory from the hands of hardworking villains - but such self-recriminations never last, and never stop the hero from ruining more villainous work. They also never stop adoring fans from swooning whenever said hero so much as broods in their general direction. )
It follows - like a sidekick follows the hero around - that all righteousness is self-righteousness.
Either a person is not a hero, and doing whatever they want - in which case morality has no bearing on the issue - or they are acting the savior, and claiming the moral high ground, whether they sulk and brood about it or not.
The Hypocrisy Of The Righteous
When I think of all the perfectly innocent wrongs just going about their own business day after day, only to be violently righted out of nowhere by a so-called hero…
My black heart aches for them!
But worse than being forcefully righted by a crusading hero is the sheer hypocrisy of the upright do-gooder.
We humans experience righteousness as a feeling. It is a subjective state of mind.
I’ve even experienced it from time to time, when using weather machines to rain on a parade or whenever I stop bunnies and deer from frolicking in sunny meadows. (Alas, a villain’s work is never done.)
The problem is that most heroes don’t seem to understand this. They think that feeling righteous is the same as being in the right. That believing their actions are justified is no different than being morally correct.
This is a hypocrisy a humble villain like myself can only aspire to.
From the moral low ground I have made my evil lair, I have watched countless crusaders come and go, and so very few of them have ever questioned the blind zeal their moral judgement imbues them with.
Because there is a secret none of them want to acknowledge:
All crusaders feel righteous in their crusade. Even - especially - the ones who commit heinous deeds in the name of their cause.
When the Nazis unleashed their final solution, they did so feeling justified.
When the proud communists of the Soviet Union overthrew their predecessors and enforced their ideology, millions starved to death.
This leads to a very simple conclusion, when one examines the historical record:
There is no correlation between feeling righteous and actually being in the right.
Justice Justifies Anything
[M]any who have hunted the wicked partook of wickedness in the hunt.
- Good King Edward Fairfax, A Practical Guide To Evil
We’ve established the hypocrisy of righteousness - yet there is another reason why I laugh at the confidence upright do-gooders have in their own infallibility.
Since they believe themselves to be in the right, their tactics - their means - are surely justified, aren’t they?
When one is on the side of right and good, surely then it’s acceptable to use every available weapon, no matter how forbidden or evil it looks?
I have lost count of the number of heroes who have been corrupted by attempting to wield the weapons of a villain. In grand fantastical tales, these heroes are brought low by cursed rings and possessed tomes.
In our less dramatic reality, said heroes wield the lesser powers of shame and cancellation and suppression of free speech to great effect, never once realizing the company they’ve joined. It has been of great hilarity to me, I assure you, to watch the farce play out, as heroes fall to villainy while in competition to be the most heroic!
As a villain, I can say thus: the road to villainy is paved with cries for justice.
Even heinous acts can be justified by the righteous, if the scale they seek to balance is lopsided enough. And the righteous can convince themselves the scale is quite lopsided indeed.
So where does that leave the many heroes who seek to foil my evil plans?
Is their righteousness truly the hypocritical, self-serving justification my villainous monologue has portrayed it as?
Or perhaps my own condemnation is no less self-serving than the behavior I seek to condemn?
It is easy to sit in judgement of others, and more difficult by far to stand in judgement of oneself. I leave you heroes with this thought:
Is it better to feel righteous -
- or actually do what’s right?
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