londo_mollari: (Londo)
[personal profile] londo_mollari
My dear friends, the answer to both is the same, and it is not a what, it is a who: the historian. I dare say that a great many scoundrels achieve immortality this way, and many a valiant deed is forgotten, simply because they knew, or did not know, how to cultivate posterity, or, more to the point, the media of the day. And of course one race's villain is another race's hero, yes? If the Xorn had won the war for our planet, we Centauri would either be not remembered at all or would have been painted in the blackest of colours, and our first Emperor would not be thought of as a hero, to be sure.

(No, this does not mean I regard the Xorn as heroes who have been wronged by our historians. Heroes or villains, by all accounts, they were abysmally dull and montonously inclined towards warfare, with no idea how to party. I shall refrain from making obvious contemporary comparisons.)

Now of course one might argue there are certain qualities that are, no matter how one regards the person in question, heroic or villainous. (One might, but this is just the type of naiveté that ensures you will never be taken seriously in politics at the best, or gets you killed at the worst.) One of the bravest deeds I ever saw was regarded by the man who accomplished it as something that made him less than what he was, which tells you something about just how annoying he is. Yes, I am referring to G'Kar. He would have preferred to die, a martyr to Narn freedom, rather than to give the late Emperor Cartagia the satisfaction to hear him scream, and being G'Kar, he could have accomplished this. It was one of the most difficult feats of my life to persuade him that a scream would serve his people better in the long term; screaming in pain was much harder to G'Kar than dying for the cause would have been, and it went against everything he had believed to be brave. Yet rarely have I seen him more courageous.

Then there is the heroism of saving another's life at risk of one's own. Young Lennier, without hesitation, once saved mine this way. I shall never forget this, and I was quite aware that most of our mutual aquaintances would have regarded the exchange as a poor bargain. Indeed, I told Lennier so myself when he was sleeping a medicated sleep in our abysmally decorated med lab. A further visit was delayed by some human terrorist or the other, whose actions left me trapped in a lift with G'Kar who at the most breathtakingly inconvenient moment took it into his head that we should die to musical accompagniment. By the time we were freed from the lift and brought to medlab ourselves, Lennier had awoken. I heard him talk to Delenn and some others, and he did express regret at his actions. A wise young man, Lennier; he was aware that by saving my life, he might have contributed to shortening the lives of others. He did not regard his earlier action as heroic, no.

As for villainy. Surely, you say, surely there are deeds unquestionably villainous, no matter who writes the story? Ah, but look at the Minbari, and the humans. If the Minbari had not surrendered at the very last minute of the Earth-Minbari war, they would have wiped out the entire human race, save for whichever humans were not defending Earth at that time but were sprinkled across the stars. We Centauri are often called ruthless warmongers, but with the exception of the Xorn in our dark ages, we never did this to any of our enemies. The Minbari, of course, did not start this war without provocation. I happen to know something of the background of that war, and let me assure you, the provocation in question was the result of a series of breathtakingly stupid decisions, but deliberate malice had not been involved. Who would you cast as villains then, in this war? The humans? The Minbari? But those two races are now allied, and some of the humans who fought side by side then, defending their people, are now fighting against each other, in their civil war. (While the Minbari had a civil war of their own.)

One of the human writers did use a phrase to the effect that no action as such is good or evil, but the intent makes it so. I, on the other hand, stand by my claim that even the intent does not matter. (Has Delenn, who served in the Grey Council during the Earth-Minbari war and now leads at Sheridan's side, more or less noble intentions now than she had then, hm?) Heros and villains are created by whoever looks at them, and tells their story.
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July 2010

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