Tropes I enjoy: thieves with a heart of gold; girls/women disguising themselves as boys/men; personifications of Death. I’m sure there’re lots of other tropes that make me perk up when I see them in the book description. These are just a couple I thought of off the top of my head.
Tropes I hate: humanity is evil. Sure, I’m sure there are other tropes I hate, but this is the one I recently encountered. In its more extreme and worst form: all the other species in the galaxy are Good. Only humans are Evil.
As you may gather, I just read a story where this was a feature. It was just a couple of lines in the story, but THIS IS SO STUPID.
Humans, you see, are uniquely icky in that they allow their species to overshoot the carrying capacity, drive animal species to extinction, etc. One gathers there are other things in the etc, but these are the specific Evil Human Things mentioned in the story.
Okay, let me just describe what conditions must be like for every other species in the galaxy:
Resources are unlimited. There is unlimited food for every species, there are unlimited nesting sites / living spaces; whatever you need, you have it. How do I know? Because otherwise, at some point in your species’ evolution, you would be faced with the following choice:
a) You let yourself and/or your kids starve.
b) You make sure you and your kids survive, even if this means other people’s kids starve.
Resources are always limited. Periods of plenty are temporary and local. In periods of environmental stress, if you choose not to use resources yourself because you’re so concerned about the common good, then you will probably not have very good fitness and poof! Your genes will not be well-represented in the next generations. If there is a local famine, you will notice that few people step up and volunteer to starve themselves and their children for the common good. Creatures that nice (or that ridiculously timid, or whatever) take themselves right out of the gene pool. It isn’t possible to get species to behave that way. Unless you construct them, sure, that would work, but it’s not possible for them to evolve.
You know what I think when I hear about a species that is SO nice and SO cooperative and SO unselfish that they do not overshoot the carrying capacity? I don’t think How nice you must be.
What I think is: Wow, you must have developed a vicious totalitarian system right from the start in order to prevent the tragedy of the commons and other types of overuse of resources.
If there is another option besides individuals work to survive and protect their kin and individuals ruthlessly and viciously control the group, destroying their rivals so as to protect their own kin, I don’t see it. And option B doesn’t look to me like it offers much moral high ground to stand on.
I hated this trope when I saw it in Star Trek and it has by no means improved with age. It’s worse than simplistic, it’s ridiculous and offensive. Time to retire the everyone-else-is-so-nice, humans-alone-are-selfish-and-wicked trope. If I never see it again ever, that’d be great.