Watching episode 7 of the 3rd season of the series I heard a little speech by Rosalind Price---a US intelligence leader---talking about how scary it is to live in a world with "super people".
This is a really interesting conversation because Rosalind pretty much embodies the naive fear that people routinely express about any number of issues our society has trouble dealing with. I say "naive" because she is completely oblivious to the danger that she represents to the rest of the world. She suggests that Daisy (the younger woman---who has a super power) can "bring down the plane" and "kill Rosalind", without contemplating the fact that Rosalind can kill Daisy and bring down the plane too. After all, she is a trained killer who carries a gun. Moreover, she ignores the fact that she is the head of a secret police agency that routinely kicks in people's doors, drags them out at gun point, puts them into a coma and warehouses them indefinitely, and, has no compunction at all about shooting people who refuse to comply with their orders. (Heck, that dear plane that they are flying in can also shoot rockets and drop bombs, if you really want to get into it.)
As if it isn't loony enough that it appears that something like 20% of the world's Gross Domestic Product in the Marvel universe seems to be devoted to funding secret police agencies, there is plenty of evidence that plain old, garden-variety human nastiness is still around. The big enemy of SHIELD is a group of neo-NAZIs called "Hydra" (it has the cool slogan "cut off one head and another will grow to replace it"), led by some very nasty villains who were obviously based on folks like Josef Mengele. They like to dirty their hands in stuff like recruiting and brainwashing super-villains, but the concept works even without all this "alternative universe" stuff. It's obvious that there's no sense having to invent a new, hypothetical way of being evil when you can draw on the Niagara Falls of horror known as the Holocaust.
For heaven's sake, the world doesn't need "super heroes" and "super villains" to be an insanely dangerous place, science plus politics is more than enough to come up with nuclear war, genocide, climate change, etc. Can Marvel comics come up with a scenario as nightmare-inducing as Donald Trump in control of the nuclear football? I don't think that the writers of this tv show really have thought through how insanely vicious things like hydrogen bombs and nerve gas really are, or else they'd feel a little sheepish about the "devilish devices" dreamed up by the guys at Hydra. A disk that you throw that can turn you into rock? That's really nothing compared to nerve gas---a single drop of which on the skin is deadly.
The point I'm trying to work towards is that the world is an insanely dangerous place. It always has been. It has always been the case that politics can go bad very fast. The Mongols or Vikings or British Empire can show up, and you end up dead or a slave, and, your entire society being plucked and devoured like the Christmas turkey. You don't even need outsiders. Some bad political events can happen and you end up with a long-term catastrophe like the Wars of the Roses (the real-life inspiration for the Game of Thrones series.)
|Plucking the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens |
(1908) by Henry Arthur Payne
Yup, a bunch of toffs pick flowers and hordes of peasants die
Public Domain Image c/o Wiki-Commons
|The Hanging by Jacques Callot|
More public domain goodness from the Wiki Commons
This blog post isn't meant to an attack on "Agents of Shield". I actually really enjoy the show. But the role that Marvel plays in our society is that it allows people to work through the "big issues" that face us as human beings. It is the equivalent of the myths and legends that people used to tell around the hearth when it was too dark to work. As such, it creates a common language and more emotionally neutral way of discussing issues that are terribly important to all of us---but often so fundamentally terrible that people have a hard time talking about them.
And yeah, the basic fragility of life and human society is one of those things that people fool themselves into ignoring because they find the idea too scary to contemplate. We are all somewhat like Rosalind Price---up to our eyeballs in a vicious, dangerous, nasty world yet somehow deluded into thinking that in some way it is safe and stable. It is one of those key, important truths of Daoism that this is just a fantasy. The only thing that is constant is change. The Dao is totally indifferent to the suffering of humans, it treats us like "straw dogs".
This isn't to say that we need to become indifferent to suffering, just that any kindness or compassion that exists comes about because we choose to show it to others---not because it is intrinsic to the way things are. It also should teach us that we need to savour every moment (ie: hold onto the One), because it really may be our last chance to do so.
Yeah. More blue type. Just remember that "creatives" need to eat too. We're happy to share with folks that can't afford to toss something in the tip jar. But if you can, think about doing so. If not for this blog, maybe someone else's. If you think that you gained some insight or even wisdom from my words, how about tossing me a buck?