THree of my favourite stories are Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star WArs.
In each of the three there is a personification of evil. Each story is about the quest to defeat the evil. Each story includes references to the seductive nature of power, and the evil that follows from falling prey to the seduction.
Frodo tempted to wear the ring, Harry tempted to use the Unforgivable Curses in his anguish and wrath, Luke tempted to use the "power of the Dark Side" to save Leia and the Rebellion. All walk along the tightrope that comes from being the hero in an epic. ANd it appears that all resist as much by luck as by will power. HArry himself recognizes early in the saga how he appears similar to Tom Riddle/VOldemort. Frodo in fact succumbs at the end, only Gollum saves the quest. ANd Luke, well Luke's temptation is in dream and in the treecave at Dagobah. Without that experience of seeing a possible future he may well have failed on the 2nd Death Star.
The suggestion is that evil often tempts us by doing things that seem right or understandable--isn;t that how Palpatine seduces Anakin?--and questioning when ends and means balance. ANd that is how I see evil (however you choose to name it) at work in the world. Few start out to commit evil but sometimes foreseeable effects are chosen to be ignored.
But what really struck me this weekend is that in all three of these stories there is a great hope for creation's inherent goodness. Sauron, Voldemort, Vader (and presumably PAlpatine although we never learn his story) are not evil from the beginning. THey are vulnerable perhaps. THey are seduced. But they are not created evil. (In TOlkien's world even Morgoth Bauglir, the ultimate Evil One, was not created evil) This is hopeful. That which is created is good, but we get to choose our way.
Along the same line, there is a thread of hope for all. Sauron is offered a chance of redemption at the fall of his MAster (at the end of the FIrst Age, see Silmarillion). Luke strives to, and does, redeem his father by reawakening the good (and possibly the idealist) within him. One gets the sense that for many years Dumbledore had hope that TOm RIddle, already a power hungry bully at 11, could be brought to a healthy path. THis too is hopeful.
It is easy to demonize. It is easy to pass the enemy off as always evil, evil to the core and irredeemable. But great stories with deep characters remind us that life is rarely that simple. One of the learnings of many epic heros is that we are all potentially villains. One of the learnings is that circumstances lead us to make choices good or bad.
NOw if only we in teh real world could learn and remember those lessons.