Monday, June 30, 2014

Saving the world

Throughout my life I have had the recurring fantasy of being sucked into a world in which I am the hero like the characters in the book The Fionavar Tapestry.  A world where the answers are simple and where all that is required for good to triumph over evil is for me to stand firm against the evildoers and refuse temptation.  In short, a world where black and white are the colours things are painted in instead of the shades of grey that the real world is composed of.  A Softer World has a great comic about this saying that this is a fine fantasy and all but the real world needs heroes too.

I think that the willingness to confront the ambiguities and slow progress of the real world is an extremely important part of making things better.  There are plenty of people out there who want fixing the world to be easy, quick, and simple and insist that we aim for revolution rather than incremental change on that basis.  It strikes me that this is similar to my desire to be a hero in a fantasy world.  The desire to battle evil straight on, the hope for rapid improvement, and the willingness to trust in heroes to never become corrupt are all the same.  For just as one should worry about whether or not the swashbuckling, spell slinging, nigh invulnerable hero will turn evil when the villain is finally slain we should worry that those who lead revolutions will become dictators in turn.  As a cursory study of history makes plain this turn from good to evil is the rule rather than the exception.

This is particularly on my mind right now because I am playing Skyrim and am having a wonderful time marauding about the world slaying dragons, massacring evil cultists, and murdering the assassins guild.  It is a wonderful change to live in a world where I can know if a person is good or evil and those that skulk in gloomy ruins raising zombies to do their bidding have no redeeming value.  They have no children at home, no one to grieve over them, and their viewpoints are undeniably revolting.  I can stab them with no remorse and no thought.

The real world isn't like that.  We can and must do better than we are but doing that involves marching in parades with rainbow flags held high, passing laws to prevent discrimination against those who are most vulnerable, and calling out awful behaviours when we see them.  It does not involve a bloody sword raised on high, as appealing as that solution can sometimes be.  The right thing is usually the thing that takes a long time, is really hard, and makes a very poor heroic epic.

No comments:

Post a Comment