07 August 2013

Who Watches the Watchers?

One of the biggest problems with an amoral (or immoral) culture is that any kind of attempt to define a moral absolute is generally reviled by critics. Why? Because evil can only operate when it goes unseen, and evil rarely calls itself, well, evil. So it operates in the dark, because in the light most people will be innately disgusted by it. I’ve spent some time lately laying all this out, and I feel that there is some more to be said here.

I uploaded a video called “Defining Evil”, which went through the reasons that evil can be defined as a belief that power is what morality is drawn upon. As such evil people believe that anyone with power controls morality, and any moral standard outside of this is for the weak. Ethical egoists often make this presumption with a false air of sophistication, as they childishly insist that morality as a religious lie. To believe this one would have to first assume that religion was thought up in a vacuum, with nothing to influence it. But in fact religion has always attempted to explain nature, making some profound claims along the way, and some claims that are nothing more than appeals to authority - namely that without god there is no morality.

This insinuation has become so deep-rooted that, as soon as science began to explain the natural world, nihilists came to the false assumption that if god doesn’t exist then neither does morality. Thus nihilists are committing a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (after this, therefore because of this). Like everything, our sense of right and wrong comes from nature. To truly live in harmony we must avoid the conflict that often occurs in parts of nature, and transcend to a world of positive sum trade, where all advanced life stems form. There will always be setbacks caused by those that prefer perpetual conflict, the nihilists that want a moral free-for-all, where mere whim is what sets the parameters for engagement. But this philosophy will always be the destruction of civilisation, forcing us to regress to the primitive state we evolved from.

The very existence of civilisation shows that humanity is more than a mere beast. Humanity is capable of rising above the tundra of the jungle, and shaping something unique. Equally, there will is an ever-present threat of predators in our midst, working towards bringing down order, so that chaos and disorder can ensue. In this setting there is no positive sum trade, just a zero sum game of winner takes all. There are no limits to what can be enacted – if you have the power, you have the authority. This is a cruel world where those with power believe they have the right to coerce people into sacrificing their lives and liberty, but as we saw under feudalism, there is little difference between this and living in a state of nature.

People regularly band together to protect themselves against the predators of humanity, but with this comes the inevitability of hierarchy. There is little point trying to change the emergence of these exceptional qualities; as long as there is diversity in nature there will be those of us gifted enough to rise higher and further than others. But it’s what you do with your power when you get there that makes all the difference.

You could spend your whole life, and many have, trying to solve the problem of corruption in authority. But in truth there is no solution that will stay in place forever. There are only temporary remedies, and they usually revolve around great people that have a deep sense of moral fibre, which they use to do good. In a second video of mine, which elaborated on the subject of good and evil, called “Will Good Always Triumph Over Evil?", I used the movie “Man of Steel” to lay out how Superman became such a morally upstanding individual, who could not only avoid the temptation to use his power for evil, but actually use it to fight evil.

There is one scene in the movie that I wanted to bring up in the video, but omitted it due to time constraints. In it the young Kal-El was reading Plato’s Republic. There are many philosophical side-plots that people seem to have missed within the script of this movie, and this is one of them. Plato was (in)famous for his depiction of the Philosopher Kings, benevolent dictators that would have no earthly belongings or loved ones to tempt them into becoming self-serving. From a young age they would be taken from their families and raised to be impartial and wise rulers. They would have nothing in their lives other than the robes they wore, and would be dedicated to the life of ruling over the masses. Think of these individuals as monks with absolute power. While these rulers would be dictators, the idea is that they are well schooled in the ways of the wise and fair, free of the temptations of power due to their own humble lives.

In reality this would be nigh on impossible to realise, for who watches the watchers? As the saying goes; power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. As ever, there will always be someone who cannot resist temptation when no one is looking, and while some might be able to resist, no one lives forever, and we do not know if the next supreme ruler could behave as nobly. What was so profound about the young Kal-El reading the Republic is that anyone who knew what this book set out would likely wonder whether he was tempted to become a dictator, possibly believing that he, unlike all those that came before him with absolute power, could avoid the temptations that came with this position.

I often tie myself in knots wondering what it would take to make a perfectly good system, and the truth is that it would take some sort of benevolent, completely altruistic force to exist, able to fight off all attempts to horde power. This scenario is often called the Deus Ex machina. This has been set out in the game series of a similar name; Deus Ex. So it comes as no surprise that the game series, as well as the plot device, is derived from the idea that some sort of force, whatever that might be, is introduced into a setting, with god-like potential. This force is then able to control all within its purview, for better or worse.

I have begun to realise that no utopia can exist unless a Deus Ex machina, or a Superman, can come about, absolutely committed to a set of ideals, never becoming corrupted by the power being wielded. There are no people in history that have even come close to this, and Superman is, of course, a fictional character. What this means for humanity is that the best we could ever ask for is that good continues defeating evil again and again and again, resetting the balance every time. This might sound horrendous to some. But there is no alternative. As soon as someone believes that a utopia of absolute power is possible then it will inevitably become corrupted, and with it, untold misery will follow.

Humans are most certainly fallible. They have desires, yearnings, insecurities, and many other weaknesses. In Star Wars this was outlined through two opposing sides of the force; the Jedi and the Sith. The Jedi were trained from a young age in much the same way as the Philosopher kings would have been. They were stripped of all worldly desire and belongings, and put to the service of liberty. The Sith however were driven entirely by their egos, much like nihilists. Given that all their values were derived from such hedonistic desires, they give in to the dark side, a path of hate, anger, and suffering, believing that these destructive emotions and actions make them strong. But as ever these dark sides of life destroy everyone they touch.

Absolute power is impossible without levels of stoicism that would be almost superhuman to achieve (like Superman?). When people truly learn that utopia is always out of reach they must then make a commitment to the service of good, so that evil can never reign supreme. But as soon as one believes that good can defeat evil once and for all bad things happen, for evil is always using arrogance to tempt the foolhardy.


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