Controlling Hearts and Minds: For the Greater Good or Just Plain Evil? (Kingdom Hearts)
"Our experiments bringing forth Heartless were attempts to control the mind, and make it renounce the ego. Even if one were to lose their heart in such a fashion, one will beget a heart in the vessel of their flesh, as many times as it takes." - Xemnas, Dream Drop Distance light novel
It would seem we finally have it in writing. The driving point behind the Radiant Garden experiments was to keep the population from acting on any evil impulses. Barring Xehanort's making it worse for his own ends, it's easy to see where they went wrong by even starting in the first place. Mind control conspiracies aside (tin foil hats wouldn't help anyone in this situation), stripping people of their free will is a huge no-no.
"Renouncing the ego," as Xemnas put it, means that people wouldn't be allowed to think for themselves. Ego, despite another definition meaning "selfish," is the decision-making part of the brain, taking in input from the id (responsible for our baser impulses) and the superego (the altruistic part). If they were really aiming to eradicate darkness from the world and its people, you'd think they'd be targeting the id, right? Perhaps they knew that that was impossible and it would be far easier to shut off its input rather than eliminate it outright. However, that too is short-sighted. The id's baser impulses cannot be ignored outright, as they stem from the pyramid of needs every person has. At the base (hence the term) are things such as food, clothing, and shelter. Without these impulses to be acted on at appropriate times, people would be unable to take care of themselves. One could argue that with everyone being in superego mode everyone's needs would be met by everyone else on principle, but that's almost a catch-22. Imagine two people standing in front of a door saying "after you" back and forth ad infinitum. Nothing would ever get resolved until someone accepts.
This wasn't brain surgery, though (thank goodness - lobotomies are scary). Instead, they focus on this dichotomy (and decisions based on it) as being of the heart instead of the mind or spirit. Not literal hearts, mind you, though both the metaphysical and physical organ are located in a person's chest. Granted that one certain scientist was making clones or replicas and no doubt knew all about physical organs, psychology was still the main focus of their studies (which he also knew all about - is there anything Even can't do?). Anyway, hearts can re-form inside Nobodies, a point of contention throughout the series. In Dream Drop Distance, it was revealed that Xemnas (and by extension Xigbar) knew this and kept it from everyone so he could fill the void with his consciousness. Out of the rest of them, however, he only succeeded in snagging Isa/Saix. Everyone else was either too weak, rebellious, or had grown their heart back already without realizing it since he kept them in denial. “But, that too was within our expectations. Knowing the foolishness of the heart, we were able to achieve other goals." All according to plan, my ass. At least Ansem wasn't about to cross the line that Xehanort did.
“The true goal behind Xemnas—and Xehanort—forming the Organisation was to take all the empty husks that had been made to throw away their hearts, and use Kingdom Hearts to plant the same heart and mind into them.” - Xigbar, Dream Drop Distance light novel
We still get no answer or explanation for Xigbar's reason for being Xehanort's accomplice. He dodges the question when asked by Sora, "How could you trick your friends—And you, you’d stop being yourself, do you want that?” He's already half-Xehanort, and that half has been taking hold of him more and more over the years. We didn't see him get implanted with part of Xehanort's heart in Birth By Sleep, but that's when it happened (we still don't know if Isa was implanted with it before or after becoming a Nobody). Until Dream Drop Distance, Xigbar/Braig did as instructed by Xemnas and/or his Xehanort half but still harbored some rebelliousness or at least doubt in Xehanort's plans. After waking up back in the secret lab, he is more confident in the scheme than ever before, whereas he'd shown uncertainty and fear while his and his friends' hearts were being removed. That being said, he still retains his personality and continues to mouth off without consequence. The light novel does not indicate any resurgence of guilt or remorse on his part, only that he was scared off by the power of Sora's resolve and the number of powerful hearts that are connected to him. If there was any hope left for Braig's character, it's rapidly waning, but we can't count him out just yet; he may surprise us.
In summary, Mickey was right to warn Ansem the Wise about the experiments being immoral. Whether he did so in scientific or psychological terms other than mind control just being "wrong" is still unknown, but the point got across to at least one person. Eliminating the choice to do evil doesn't make a person good; they have to choose it for themselves. Xehanort turning living people into horcruxes that are slowly being taken over by his personality doesn't make them irredeemably evil either, or so we can hope. I choose to believe that Braig's true half cares about his friends rather than just being amused by them, and Isa and Lea can repair their broken friendship. As many times as it takes, indeed.
“Just stop! Hearts aren’t tools for your experiments and schemes! The heart isn’t foolish. And, it’s not something for strangers to play with." - Sora, Dream Drop Distance light novel