Envy: it’s a necessary component of villainy and villains in general. Without it, there would be no antagonist, and ultimately no story. Think about it: in a basic good versus evil tale, why does the antagonist cross proverbial swords with the protagonist? Envy wouldn’t necessarily be an in-your-face factor, but what does the protagonist possess that the antagonist does not?
Yes, the protagonist or hero of the story is also capable of envy. In this day and age, the line can be so blurred between hero and villain that often the reader can’t tell the difference, or the roles aren’t as black and white as he would assume at the beginning. This means that when the observer is trying to figure out which side to root for, he must consider elements such as, “Well, which one has the higher body count?” Or, “That guy had good intentions, but he achieved them in the worst way possible.” Or, “She used unconventional means to defeat that other person, but the ends didn’t truly justify the means,” and so on and so on. Did the hero act on his envy in a way that worsened the situation and justified the villain’s actions, or vice versa?
Envy is also woven into the fabric of certain issues that seek dominance in fiscal policy, and yet its proponents deny its existence. “We want to help the poor by raising the minimum wage,” they say. Or they insist, “We want to raise awareness of how certain demographics are lacking by emphasizing what other demographics have,” with the implication that these certain demographics shouldn’t have to work to earn what the other demographics have already acquired through their own sweat and tears.
In other words, envy is now seen as a virtue instead of as a sin and a trait that should otherwise be relegated to the darker corners of the soul. It’s true that every human being is capable of appreciating their own differences, as well as the differences in their fellows. When what they lack – whether it’s material possession, charisma, meaningful bonds with others – is constantly brought to the forefront in rhetoric and consequently in public policy, this leads to predictable repercussions: a depreciation of earnings and property, the sundering of relationships, and sometimes even violence and death because of the resulting mob.
Rather than becoming the villains we so fear in others, we should strive to follow a higher standard, and if we cannot be wholly selfless (I believe few individuals can exhibit such a trait), at least to act altruistically. It’s entirely possible to appreciate what others have that we do not. It’s also entirely possible to attain what those others have, too, through our own means, and I must emphatically insist that this excludes theft. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility to squelch the accumulation of envy before it becomes something deadly and chaotic. For our own interests, and sanity, this would be best achieved now.