“Five was better than five hundred, but that didn’t make it acceptable.”
– Julie Shackleford-Pitt, from Monster Hunter Guardian, by Larry Correia
The number referred to here is that of children taken by monsters. (so this may be my most heavy-handed post yet)
It’s part of what Julie is thinking as she, a mother and a defender of humanity, is conversing with a minion of monsters (who turns out to be a monster himself, in disguise). The man boasts that he has saved more children than any monster hunter like Julie has, because where there used to be five hundred children taken by the local monster population every year, now there are only five. In a purely quantitative light, that might be a significant step forward, but those five children who are still taken? They, and their entire lives, are written off as an acceptable loss. That is what Julie disagrees with.
It is one thing to sacrifice a few in order to save many more, but it is quite another to accept that choice, and to such a degree that one makes a lifestyle out of it. It is when such sacrifices are normalized, when we stop even trying to save those who are doomed, that we become monsters ourselves.
One does not gain victory by surrendering
And choosing not to even fight for those taken children, because of some “agreement,” in the name of some facade of “civilized, non-violent behavior,” is definitely a surrendering of humanity.
I recall reading in another book, something akin to, “When it becomes acceptable to kill another human, childhood dies. When it becomes acceptable to kill children, humanity dies.”
The same thing happens in the story, and in real life.
Now, in the book, that happens a bit more literally. The monster within the man soon reveals himself. Where the man would have happily given an inch and declared that he had gained a mile, the monster took that inch, and everything else. The man died trying to make a costly “peace” with the monsters that prey on humanity, and then his murderer wore his skin and used his resources not to diminish the number of children taken, but to keep them from being noticed. The number, which the man would have bragged about, is just a lie told by the monster within.
Some “peace,” huh?
Give an inch of humanity to the monster, and the monster takes it all. Try to make deals with them, and they eat you. Try to placate and appease them, and they take over your life. Dine at a monster’s table long enough, and you become either the monster or the menu.
Julie, on the other hand, refuses to give that inch, or anything at all. Not ever. Not when her child is at stake. Not when any child is at risk. She won’t look for some “civilized,” “rational,” solution, to save some children at the cost of others. No, she’ll just shoot the monster in the face until it’s dead. She fights to save all children, no matter the odds.
In short: she does not accept something so wrong. She fights against it, with everything she has. She tries, and never stops trying.
Mind you, sometimes we do need to endure what is wrong with the world, because it is a great rarity to be able to change the world overnight, but that is not the same as accepting it.
True, losses are inevitable. True, sometimes we must make impossible choices about who to save, the many or the few. True, we cannot save everyone. But that is no reason not to try.
To fight against what is wrong, and evil, and inhumane, and unacceptable, is merely the choice to retain one’s humanity.
How does the old saying go? You only really fail when you fail to try.
And who knows? Who really knows? It may just be that, in the end, no matter the odds, and through all the loss and pain and sacrifice, maybe, just maybe… we just might win.