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Going Rogue: Faces of Morality
#1: Meet the Rogue

Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of wealth and taste.

Well, actually I'm a man of other people's wealth. And I admit, my taste can be quite bad.

But hey, I maintain that no matter how vulgar other people consider it to be, there's still a primordial appeal to precious metals and jewels. The universal bling, yeah? Or just the allure of shiny things. Ooh. Shiny.

I like having money. Please, don't give me that look. You do too. Everyone does. See, I've been poor. I've been rich. Rich is better. Trust me. Take it from me. Would I lie to you? I'm an honest and trustworthy man, you know. For a given value of 'honest' and 'trustworthy', anyway. But that's not the point.

What I'm saying is...people don't work because they like it. Well, I suppose some people do. But it's not the main reason, for most. The vast majority of labourers out there toil and struggle for income because they need it to survive. Without a paycheck, most poor souls would end up dead pretty quick. Oh, if you're lucky enough, you might live somewhere with a government that takes care of you. Unemployment benefits, the dole, whatever you want to call it. Welfare is a wonderful thing. But it isn't enough. It may let you live, but it won't let you live comfortably. Not so comfortably that you'll never want for more.

Everyone wants more.

Greed is not a sin. It's just part of the human condition, right? It's something none of us can deny. Too much greed, yeah, that's a no-no. All appetites are bad, when they get out of control. But the basic drive to acquire more is perfectly natural. If you try to deny it, you'll end up a monk or something, condemned to an eternal life of boring food, bad haircuts and no fashion sense. Our entire society is based on greed. The very meaning of capitalism and private property is that something belongs to you. You. Not anyone else. It's yours and yours alone. You can buy things. And you can sell them, of course...so you can buy more things.

That's capitalism. That's what it means. It's not evil. Yes, yes, many call it evil. Mostly religious types. The argument being, of course, what really matters is not the here-and-now but the world that lies beyond, and you can't take all these temporal riches with you. Something like that, anyway. I always slept through chapel in school. But that's based on an assumption, of course - that there's a great beyond, that there's heaven, reincarnation, whatever. If you believe that, well, fine. I've got nothing to say to you.

Well, actually...no. I do have something to say to you. Because even if there's life after death, you've still got life. That's what, seventy-odd years for most people? Most people in developed countries, anyway. If you're in Africa dying of AIDS or whatever, it'll probably be shorter. And quality of life matters. You probably don't want to be in Africa dying of AIDS. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Africa. Some of my best friends are African. Well. Okay. One friend. And he owes me money. Though he doesn't have AIDS.

Point is, you want a better life for yourself. Everyone does. There's no use denying it. Unless you really really want to become a martyr or saint - but trust me, that doesn't happen anytime soon. The Vatican takes decades to approve that sorta thing. I guess Heaven's paperwork is totally backlogged. God knows, they have terrible customer service. Strangely, God doesn't seem to do anything about it.

So. You want to be rich. I want to be rich. Everyone wants to be rich. Cool. We all have something in common. We should start a club or something, get together with like-minded people. Oh, right. There is such a club. It's called modern capitalist society. Neat. Where do I sign up?

Now, here's the thing, though. Once you've figured, hey, this money stuff is good and I gotta get my dirty paws on some...the next step is figure out how you get that cash. It's not just going to fall into your lap. It's not just going to grow on trees. Okay, maybe it might, if there's some flying supervillain that just robbed a bank but sprung a leak in his loot sacks. Or if some plant control type went really really crazy in their latest counterfeiting scheme, growing specially engineered money-shrubs. That's possible. It's a crazy world we live in.

But in practical terms, you have to actually make some effort to gain money. There are a few ways to do this, but broadly they can be divided into two camps:

Legal and illegal.

The legal way is the safe route. You're familiar with that, I'm sure. Nine to five work...though more like eight to six, these days, probably more. And it sucks. You know that too. See? You're smart. You're a genius. You don't need me to tell you these things.

Me? I'm a thief. Also a conman. I steal things. I cheat at cards. I lie. I swindle. I even stole candy from a baby once. Okay, actually, no, I'm making that last one up. There's no real profit margin in grand theft confectionery. It's not like there's a huge retail market for second-hand saliva-coated gummy bears with the serial numbers melted off. But there's plenty of stuff that is profitable. Very profitable. Extremely profitable. And I do all that stuff. Yes, I realise I'm being terribly vague here, but a man's got to have some mystery. He can't just show everything on the first date. What kind of hussy do you think I am?

Besides, I've got to protect my intellectual property rights. They're about the only rights I care about, since I'm clearly in the business of disrespecting the regular sort of property rights. If just told everyone how I managed to make thirty million with two hours of work and a rubber band, I wouldn't have any trade secrets left. I'm not a charity, you know. Do I look like I wear green tights and dance around the forest with other men, shooting long pointy objects at hard wooden trees? No, if I wanted to be camp, I'd be in Vegas, not St. Martial. They have better floor shows.

I steal things. I'm a thief. I'm not ashamed of my lifestyle choices. Yes, I screw over other people. Yes, I prey on the innocent. Yes, I take other people's hard-earned money and make it my own. I do all of these things. So on the ultimate scale of morality, I rank just above a cockroach but only slightly below lawyers and politicians. Not a bad place to be, really.

Sorry, sorry. Lawyer and politician jokes are way too easy. I'm better than that. Give me a moment. I'm sure I can come up with something else. Right. Okay. Try this for size:

I'm a thief. But that's okay, because I'm cool. That's okay, because I'm awesome. It makes it all better.

Really. Think about it for a sec. Why are there so many caper movies? What's Hollywood telling us, that it's okay to be a bank robber, a gambler, a cat burglar, a jewel thief...if you look sexy while doing it? Well, yeah. That's exactly what Hollywood's telling us. And they're right. If you're sexy enough, it's all good. And people wonder why so much of my proceeds go to hair care and facial products. This look doesn't take care of itself, you know.

But I'm not selfish. I share the wealth. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I'm telling you all this, right? I hope you've been taking notes. There'll be a test later.

My name's Triple Seven. And you too can be a dashing rogue.

Like me.


-- Acyl
Going Rogue: Faces of Morality
#2: The Vigilante's Manifesto


Realpolitik is a German word. It means realism in politics. It's associated with a lot of things, like an emphasis on military force. This is similar to diplomacy, except it involves men with a different kind of suit and briefcases that tend to explode.

Realpolitik is a fancy word. However, the basic idea isn't hard to understand. It means being realistic about things, instead of trying to delude yourself. That's all it means. You don't need a degree in political science to grasp the concept. See? I've just saved you a great deal on college tuition.

The trouble is this: idealism is seductive. It's easy to put your faith in human nature. Something inside us wants to believe. We want to believe that people are essentially good inside. We want to believe there's justice. We want to believe there's equality.

With all that idealism, it's hard to be realistic. It gets in the way.

Here's the truth: nobody's perfect. Yes, nobility and selflessness exist. But at the same time, everyone has the impulse to lie, cheat and steal. Everyone has greed. Everyone has ambition. Everyone wants to get ahead in life, usually at the expense of someone else. There's no ladder to greatness, there's just bodies with stab wounds in the back. Pile up enough of them, and you can climb to great heights.

If you dig deep enough into every philosophy and religion on the planet, that's what you'll find. Everything starts from the basic assumption that people...are flawed. All that differs is where we go from there. Some people can rise above these base impulses and be decent individuals. Others will betray you the first chance they get. Or the second chance they get. Or the third chance. But it'll happen eventually.

You can't assume that everyone will be good. Statistically speaking, that's not going to happen. Yes, you can think the best of everyone, but that's dangerous thinking. It's the sort of optimism that'll get you killed. Or robbed. Or raped. Pick one. Take your time, there's no need to hurry. Your ultimate fate is an important decision.

Society can't function only on trust. There needs to be something more. That's why we have laws.  Laws tell people that if they misbehave, there will be punishment. Laws assume that people will commit atrocities if left to their own devices. Laws assume that people need the threat of force to keep them in place. Between the carrot and the stick, the stick is always more effective. Especially if it's been sharpened.

That's what it comes down to. The only way to ensure peace and security is the threat of force.

However, this is an inherently flawed system. To wield force, you need power. But power is a zero-sum game. If I have power, it means you don't have it. For me to have power over you, I must be stronger. We cannot be equal. My power comes at the expense of yours. There's no such thing as true balance of power. It's more like a see-saw. In general, it helps if you think of the world as a children's playground - complete with the bully who's stealing your lunch money.

This goes against liberal notions most people have about egalitarian distribution. But let's go back to realism. Let's be realistic. People aren't equal. People never are. There's always going to be someone who's richer, someone who's stronger. It's fine to claim that in principle you're equal, but in practical terms...no, you're not.

Crying about it isn't going to change that fact.

The only way to approach something akin to equality is to put all power in the hands of the state, and place it over everyone. That means all the people are equal to each other, and only the government has coercive power. Only the government can wield threats of force. But this isn't real equality. You're just shifting the power dynamics. Now it's the government who has all the power, and you, the individual, have none.

If you don't see the issue with this, then I can't help you.

The other problem is: this doesn't work. It never works. Because no system is perfect. It relies on people. Corrupt people. In an authoritarian state, the government may have all the power. But the government is an abstract entity. In practice, you have people - party officials, police, military rulers, dictators, who actually wield that power. So you're back to the problem of some people having more power than others. And using it on others.

Ask the Russians about it sometime. I'm sure they'll have interesting answers.

In a democracy, there isn't complete surrendering of power. People retain their own power. Money. Weapons. All that isn't given up. In fact, the possession of private property and individual rights are protected by the state. So that just legitimises inequality and uneven distributions of power. It doesn't solve the problem.

Again, let's be realistic. No matter what system we try to impose, it's never going to be equal. That's why idealism is such a dangerous delusion. Of course, people like being deluded. Maybe we're just a masochistic species...because someday, the bubble always pops.

In the end, even a government and police can't protect you from harm. They can provide some measure of assurance, yes, but they cannot guarantee that you won't be robbed or murdered. They can't do that. In principle, no criminal should be able to wield force, because only the police do. In practice, of course criminals have power. Because criminals refuse to surrender that power to the government. That's why they're criminals. That's sort of the point.

If criminals were nice and polite, we wouldn't be having this conversation. And I'd be running a corner grocery store and selling ice-cream to kids rather than shooting people in the head.

So. You have two choices. Either you can put faith in some higher authority, which may or may not exist...or you can wield power of your own. That's what it comes down to.

But if you choose to play the power game, you need to play it all the way. Power means you do what's necessary. Power means you do what needs to be done. It's not enough that you have power. You must be willing to use it. Otherwise it's useless.

Now, this is a dangerous argument too. It's why the authorities condemn people like me, after all. Ordinary citizens aren't supposed to take the law into their own hands. However, if you had a choice between taking action...or just standing by...which would you choose? Too many choose to be sheep. Because society condemns taking power for yourself.

Yet...there's no shame in this. There shouldn't be. The fact that these realities make most people uncomfortable just shows how much we lie to ourselves.

The interesting thing here is - superheroes don't necessarily change the paradigm. Yes, superheroes are individuals with power. But most superheroes support the status quo. Most superheroes support the authorities. They work with the police. They are part of the system. Consider the most prominent hero of them all. He calls himself Statesman. He's named himself after a politician. What does that mean? What does that suggest to you?

He calls himself Statesman. He is a hero.

My name is Realpolitik. I am a vigilante.

I hope you understand why.


-- Acyl
This is very interesting because so far, I can definitely see my alts that fall under these allignments agreeing with the depicted opinions. Although Sword's reasoning is a bit less socially conscious than Realpolitik.
"Oh, silver blade, forged in the depths of the beyond. Heed my summons and purge those who stand in my way. Lay
Going Rogue: Faces of Morality
#3: Victim or Villain

They call me a supervillain.
Well, actually, I call me a supervillain. I'm not exactly a misunderstood innocent forced to adopt the label. Of course, I've claimed innocence in the past, when it suited my purposes. People are always sympathetic towards a poor little girl, especially if she's cute and can be redeemed. Especially if she's wearing a skimpy costume.
But you see...there are advantages to adopting the villain label. To understand that, you need to look at all the people who don't.
There are plenty of people in the superhuman underworld who don't like being called villains. A lot of these types also reject codenames and costumes. Because they're rejecting the status and everything that comes with it. But if you do use a fancy codename, if you do wear a fancy costume...well, that sends a message. It tells potential allies and enemies that you mean business. It tells everyone that you're fully part of the game, and you're going to play it. 
Mind you, this isn't enough. It's a good first step, but it's only that - a first step. If I were teaching a college course, that would be the first week in Villain 101. Believe me, though, there's a whole semester to go through. 
The trouble is...'villain' is a very broad category. Too broad. It covers everything from hard-headed thugs with antisocial impulses...to cerebral masterminds who never get their hands dirty. 'Villains' include idealists fighting for a cause. And also psychopaths just out for thrills.
The only thing we all have in common is this: we're all on the wrong side of the law.
But not everyone who's an outcast ends up there by choice, Take Malaise. For years he was a villain, one of the most notorious in Europe. He was insane. He was sick. He wasn't well. When Sister Psyche cured him, he joined the proverbial angels. And no, before you ask, I'm pretty sure Sister Psyche didn't brainwash or nudge the poor boy in any way. He really was sick. And she really made him better. Pity she couldn't do anything about his fashion sense, but I guess all that time spent gaga did permanent damage to his brain.
If someone breaks the law and commits crimes because they aren't in their right mind, are they really villains? Society calls them that anyway, but is it right? After all, while they might have done terrible things..it isn't their fault.
Many so-called villains are just...victims. Nothing more. The Clockwork King was just a petty crook. Yes, he stole. Yes, his creations caused havoc by looting metal and machinery from around Paragon City. But he didn't deserve to be beaten to death. He didn't deserve to be pummeled so hard that his spine shattered, his ribs pierced his lungs, his heart stopped, his body died. and yes, he did die. Its just that his psychic powers were enough to preserve his mind until his brain could be reanimated in a new metal body. So now he's a villain. And now he's completely insane. 
But he's a victim, let's not forget. He didn't choose to be this way. It's not his fault. Not entirely.
Ghost Widow was just an ordinary girl, once. Yes, she died as an Arachnos Widow, but there's nothing evil in joining Recluse's army. How many opportunities do you think there are, when you're a Rogue Islander from the slums? From all accounts she died alongside a man who was family to her - and she protects him still. Today she's an undead spectre, bound to serve Arachnos. She deserves pity, not hatred. Actually I envy her slightly, but mostly because of her hair. But eternal servitude seems a rather high price to pay for perfect gothic fashion.
Do you think Dr. Hamidon Pasalima wanted to become a shapeless world-devouring monster? He was an ecological extremist, yes. He created the bacteria that destroyed his body. But that's not what he intended it for. Once he was just a reckless young man. And so was Imad Malak. Just a man. Just an idealist and dreamer. All he wanted was to take up the mantle of his homeland's greatest hero, to be the successor to a legacy. He never asked to be cursed. Because of his curse, everything he does turns to darkness. Now he's Scirocco. But he wanted to be loved, not feared.
I can go on, and on, and on. I think you get the idea, yes?
The word 'villain' gets used too lightly. So many people don't deserve that name. Even the Rikti aren't villains. Yes, they've killed millions of us, they've burnt our homes, our cities. But they're not villains. They were manipulated into attacking us. They were deceived. The Rikti aren't villains. They're heroes. Heroes to their people. Back on the Rikti homeworld, I'm sure little Rikti boys, girls and monkeys have plush dropship toys, while drunk Rikti urinate on pictures of Statesman.
So where does that leave us? What is a villain, then? Who would be a villain truly deserving of the title?
I think it comes down to choice. 
Choice and free will.
If you don't have the intelligence, sanity, or even information to make a choice, then you're not really a villain. If it's just circumstance that leads you to fall, if it's just tragedy, if your intentions are pure...you're not a villain. Not really. You're just misunderstood. But if you understand fully what it is you're doing, if you grasp the consequences and ramifications of your actions...and you do it anyway...
That's different. That's entirely different.
A true villain is not a victim. A true villain is someone who consciously acts against society. A true villain is someone who seizes her own destiny, not someone who has it trust upon her. A true villain understands morality, virtue, and all the principles that guide society. A true villain knows what laws she is breaking. And she chooses to break them all the same, because she has decided that she will not be bound by ordinary conventions. She has chosen to step outside. She has chosen to stand apart.
So the first question is this: what will you do to achieve your goals? 
The truth of the matter is...most people stop short. Because most people, almost everyone, really...are held back. There's an awful number of so-called superheroes who aren't particularly righteous, or even particularly nice. They're just 'heroes' because that's the socially acceptable way to use power. And most people are weak. Not strong. Even the most physically powerful individual can be weak where it really counts: in terms of exercising her freedom and making a choice.
The chains that bind us are insidious, really. There are many who have taken the first step beyond the constraints of society...but remain tied by conventions that they barely even realise, hardly ever think about. The average person has a pretty clear conception of good and evil. Now, of course that varies between individuals. Some people are noble, others are more debased. But intrinsic morality is pretty common. We internalise social conventions without really thinking about them.
We have discussed the first question. Now for the second:
How far will you go?
It's not enough to simply do extraordinary things. Your motives also matter.
I know this. Because I was born Rika Hanagawa. If you move in the same rarified circles as I do, then I'm sure you recognise the name. The Hanagawa ninja clan has something of a reputation, after all. Quite a well deserved one, at that. 
Not all the stories are true, of course. If they were, we'd have more venereal diseases than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined.
But they're true enough. Even as a little girl, I was trained to lie, to cheat, to steal and spy. I was trained to seduce men. And even women. Because honestly, if you're in the business of espionage and power games, prejudice is simply impractical. So is rigid sexuality. 
Now, you might imagine that a group like the Hanagawa would be an example of people unconstrained by conventional morality. Because a Hanagawa will seduce absolutely anything if it serves the cause, yes, yes, we all know that. And in a sense you would be right. But you would also be wrong.
Yes, the Hanagawa move through the shadows of society. Yes, the Hanagawa will do anything for power and influence, tugging on the strings of civilisation like unholy puppeteers. Yet...why do you think the Hanagawa do this? There must be a reason. Why gather power and influence? To rule the world? To usher in a new order? 
Sadly, I doubt a Hanagawa world order would go down very well. The Catholic Church might have a number of objections.
No. World domination is not the point. Power is not the point. For the Hanagawa, it's just a means to an end. And that end is quite simple, really. 
Preservation and protection of the family. That's all.
Everything the Hanagawa clan does...is to keep the family safe. Simple as that. To keep it safe, and to keep it prosperous. That's all. That's perfectly understandable. It's perfectly normal. It's something everyone wants. And that's why it's inherently limiting.
Even a powerful ninja clan like the Hanagawa isn't immune to the conventions of human society. Yes, yes, they break things like laws, ethics, so on, but at the very core, they still conform to a deeper level of social conditioning, They've made a choice, yes, but they still aren't free. Because the Hanagawa are trying to protect the family above all, they live in the shadows. They operate through subtle means, they move unseen. In the end, they are afraid. 
They don't think of themselves as villains, much less supervillains. Politicians, courtesans, lawyers, businessmen, those are the guises that the Hanagawa wear. To put on a tight costume with a symbol on the front, flying across rooftops in broad daylight...no, no. That's unthinkable.
So that's exactly what I do.
I wear a costume. I have superpowers, and I use them freely. The world doesn't know me as Riko Hanagawa, but by a much simpler name, a colourful nom de guerre that describes my abilities for all and sundry.
I am a supervillain.
The mask is useful, you see. With it comes contacts, a social network of spiders and their webs...or even the friendship of a golden king in a shining city. With this, I shall never want for work. The kind of work I prefer, for it helps achieve my goals more than perfume and lipstick ever would.
But it also creates a certain image. My family, bless their hearts...they think I'm a fool, a silly, silly girl. They love me, of course. They just don't think much of me. And that's fine.
The heroes of the world have much the same opinion, if for entirely different reasons. They see a cheerful, flamboyant young woman with a fanciful tongue-in-cheek name, one who clearly enjoys herself...and yet doesn't often hurt people. They think I'm just a thrillseeker, or perhaps just a greedy thief...but they don't think I'm that bad. Just wayward, misguided.
When they find out about my family, when they find out it was this...or a life spent between shadows and sheets...they even pity me.
But remember what I said: I am no victim.
I've made my choice. And all this serves my purposes. For now I play the game. I don't care what they think. I am patient. I can wait. 
My name is Battery Acid. 
I am a villain.


-- Acyl
I'm trying really..really hard not to Imagine Superball coming up as the Hero selection... lol.
I hate to disappoint (or reassure, depending), but no. It won't be Superball, for three reasons.

Firstly, there's already an excellent piece of first-person narrative fiction out there about a guilt-stricken crook who's taken on the identity of the hero he inadvertently killed. And that's Ajax. I can't do any better than that. Secondly, these are intended to both be personal explorations of the viewpoint character's morality, but also general philosophical musing. I do throw in jokes and sarcasm, so they're not all serious, but Superball is not really suited for this. Finally, I'm also using this to explore alts I'm fond of but who haven't really been fleshed out much thus far.

Someday I probably will get off my ass and finish the Superball fic I had going; one reason I haven't...is because it needs to be rewritten to fit new canon re: Frostfire and the Outcasts. When I started it back in the day, we didn't have much background info. I'm in fact glad I've let the fic sit so long...because of new Frosty developments in the GR morality stuff.
-- Acyl
Acyl! Get out of my head! Either that or stop watching me type on my computer. I'm going to have to sweep my room for cameras now! *looks around nervously*

Seriously, Excellent writing on that last piece and the items before it. The last one was spooky similar in themes to a bit of fiction I -was- in the process of spitting out for one particular character that I have on my roster. You know what they say about great minds. Smile

I'm still going to have to get that bit of fiction done though, it has been clawing at me for ages.

Well done on writing such thought provoking pieces.

I'm looking forward to your next bits too see if you can mirror an *more* of my internal muses.

After you have done the 'four flavors' of morality you going to tackle a VEAT or HEAT shifting sides? Or a Goldsider?