November 21, 2017, 07:01:40 PM

Author Topic: I'm facing a bit of an ethical dilemma in my story  (Read 120 times)

Online Eli_Freysson

I'm facing a bit of an ethical dilemma in my story
« on: November 14, 2017, 10:04:39 PM »
To make a long story short-ish, my protagonist is a princess of a huge space monarchy which is facing a tense standoff with two powerful neighbours. One is democratic, where whichever politician can get the most under-the-table funding for airtime can generally sway public opinion and push their agenda through.

As it stands, senators bought by weapon manufacturers are pushing for war, which every sensible person realises would lead to apocalyptic loss of life. So my princess is having a private chat with a reasonable, level-headed senator during a diplomatic summit, and in the mutual interest of preventing mass death, she offers to arrange for the monarchy to back his anti-war rhetoric.

It was when I revisited this scene that I realised that for him to accept funds from a foreign government is ethically dodgy as hell. And she is very much a Lawful Good shining knight type, and he is very much a straight shooter and scrupulously honest. He has a line about how he can't get his voice heard much precisely because he hasn't sold his soul.

Sooo... any advice here? I've been trying to think of some way for her to help him urge peace that would be both legal and discreet.

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Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: I'm facing a bit of an ethical dilemma in my story
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2017, 10:28:20 PM »
You could turn the opposing side into a 'Fascist Party' style enemy. Some of Hitler's generals tried to sell him out during WWII (Once after Norway fell, and again towards the end, I think) and  noone would think that immoral or unethical. You could also turn your politician into a 'citizen of the world' type character, allowing him to argue that his loyalty to the state comes after his loyalty to his people and to humanity. (I believe Benjamin Franklin used a similar tactic to explain his treasonous acts against the British Empire.) It would require his being willing to ignore the feelings of those who elected him, however. 
Couldn't she help in some less direct way, though? If she found an arms buyer, wouldn't that cut off the problem at the root?

Online Alex Hormann

Re: I'm facing a bit of an ethical dilemma in my story
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2017, 10:51:34 PM »
To me, the obvious answer is to leave it be unethical, but then deal with the fallout from it. i.e. Do the other party find out and use it against him? Or do they have to struggle with the guilt of using the end to justify the means.

One idea that springs to mind is having the princess buy stakes/shares or outright ownership of a major company in the democracy. If that company then funded the senator, it looks better at a surface level, even if it's still dodgy at the core.


Offline Bradley Darewood

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Re: I'm facing a bit of an ethical dilemma in my story
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2017, 11:48:38 PM »

Is she demonized by his people or does she have some sort of celebrity power? Could there be some sort of joint public/PR endeavor that could increase his standing? Is there some sort of joint economic venture that could benefit his constituency but not him directly and demonstrate the power of cooperation?  Could there be a public donation to some sort of relief, or local issue?

That said, I like leaving it shady too, like Alex said, you could get some drama out of his internal conflict and being pushed to the point where he feels he needs to take desperate measures.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: I'm facing a bit of an ethical dilemma in my story
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2017, 03:34:38 AM »
Two things behind the forces that drive the character dynamics you describe.

First, you need to make politicians (Noble, royal, or otherwise) plausible. Plausible politicians have power (authority to do or prevent/block), influence (ability to get other politicians to follow their lead), and sway (ability to get non-politicians like the public or groups / corporations to do or to block). Your characters, to be plausible, must have actual power, influence, and sway in some combination. If they do not have actual power in these usable forms they are figureheads at best. Prince Charles is such a one, no offense to any fans of his.

Second, to be plausible, your characters have to use the power they have in clever ways. Politics is rarely about direct confrontation - it's about misdirection, surprise, exchanges of support, etc. A senator's power in my country does not arise solely or even mostly from his authority to vote or propose - it comes from his position on committees, his influence and sway, etc., etc. So a politician only shows you his cards when a) it's too late to do anything about it or b) when you discover it's not poker, but chess you're playing.

Finally, in regards to ethics, ethics does not mean simplistic or 'nice' - a leader, even an ethical and good one, is always, to one extent or another, ruthless in a blood-chilling way. They spend lives. Good ones do it to save more than are lost, but they still do it coldly, often with deception that is unnervingly effective. I say this because, compared to spending lives in an ethical context - who gives a shit about ethics when the lives of nations are on the table? Not effective leaders, imo. They bend or break what must be to ensure survival. And that inherently unethical element is what makes politics hard - both the wolves and the sheepdogs kill sheep, it's about reasons and limits.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2017, 03:36:21 AM by The Gem Cutter »
The Gem Cutter
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