Friday, August 24, 2012

The Rot: Part IV

You’re spelunking with some friends. You’ve been underground for some time and are having a lot of fun. You’ve seen some really beautiful rock formations; you’ve had to squeeze through some pretty tight passageways, followed an underground stream, and walked through giant calcified ballrooms. You all decide that it’s about time to head back up to the surface when you feel the ground shake around you and the cave ceiling collapses behind you, cutting off your only known path back up. What do you do?
So this is where we stand:
1. Humans all carry a rot within them that will always result in an oppressing class and an oppressed people.
2. Humans are finite and ignorant which makes mistakes in judgment, theory, and execution unavoidable and inevitable.
3. Evil perpetuates itself. This means that the negative and destructive effects of our mistakes are magnified to overtake all society.
4. Humans are addicted to the idea of more, meaning that the negative consequences of oppression and mistakes will grow more and more lethal as our own power and population grows.
5. If these factors are left unchecked, then the only possible endgame is our own destruction.
So, what do we do about this? I see only two solutions. First is the strategy of Ras Al Ghul in Batman, and of the robots in I Robot. The idea is that our human nature and our technical progress come together to assure our destruction. We can’t change human nature, so we try to stop our progress. This might be somewhat akin to clipping the wings of a bird to keep it from flying.
There are two problems with this tactic. First is that it is insanely unethical. It’s using evil to hobble evil. Since evil is self-perpetuative, injecting more evil into the equation only brings society closer to dystopia. In Batman Begins, Al Ghul claimed that his league had brought about the destruction of Rome. If their idea, however, was to limit evil, then they failed miserably. How many atrocities were committed by the strong against the weak during the Middle Ages in the absence of the political authority of Rome. Yes, the evil of Rome was severely limited, but the peace of Rome, the Pax Romana, was also broken. Using evil to hobble evil only creates more evil.
Second, this tactic simply doesn’t work in the long haul. Throughout human history there have been events from time to time that would wipe out large segments of society, crippling us for decades or even centuries. These kinds of events are represented by wars, such as the fall of Rome; diseases, such as the Black Plague; natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami of 2004; and atrocities, such as the Holocaust or slavery in the South. Through all of these events, however, humanity has continued to garner power and progress technologically. Some of these events can actually be credited with helping human civilization to advance. The Black Plague is often credited with helping to create a Middle Class in Europe, which was necessary for the various Revolutions of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Without the Plague, the Middle Ages may have lasted even longer than they did. We simply don’t have any ethically acceptable or strategically successful way of stopping our progress.
The second option is to concentrate on the other half of that equation. If our nature and our progress combine to form this problem; and we can’t stop our progress; then what about changing our nature? But our problems are ignorance and finitude. How can the ignorant and limited grant limitlessness and omniscience? The blind cannot lead the blind, and the finite cannot solve finitude. If our nature is to be changed, it must be changed by something omniscient and infinite.
There is only one other option. We do not have the answer; we must look beyond and outside of ourselves. If there is no infinite personae in the universe, then our civilization and species are doomed; if, however, there is something that transcends us, that has the power and wisdom to re-program us, then there may be hope.
This argument is not a proof of God, but it is a reality check. The assumption of God and the assumption of atheism are, as far as I can tell, equally logically valid; however, each assumption carries certain necessary implications with it. If there is no God, then we are on our own, and we will not be able to overcome our ignorance, finitude, and societal entropy. If there is a God, then there may be hope for Utopia.
You and your friends look around. To one side, the cave entrance is completely collapsed; strewn with boulders as big as cars. To the other, the tiny underground stream you were following trails off down the cave shaft. Your radios are dead, there is no way to alert anyone to your situation, and no one top side knows that you’re down here. One of your buddies says that he thinks he remembers this cave having another entrance but he can’t be sure. Another guy starts frantically trying to pry the boulders out from the cave entrance. Another just sits down and starts crying. You realize that your group must choose. To stay where you are would mean certain death. To try to clear the passageway would not only be an exercise in futility, but may actually cause further collapse. To follow the stream and see where it goes is a gamble at best; but . . . If two options offer only death and hopelessness, and the third offers uncertain hope? Choose hope.
In Batman, toward the end of the movie, I began to realize that Batman was fighting a futile battle because neither he nor the police would be capable of transforming Gotham the way that would fully heal the city. Even if he wins this battle, there will be others, the evil of Gotham will always resurface until the people of Gotham can be transformed, both as individuals and as a society. Batman can’t do that. Only the One who made us is capable of re-making us.
Some hear the word God and understand only authority, oppression, and requirements. What God truly represents is hope. God extends to us the hope that we might, through His grace, be able to rise above our own shortcomings to become the person, and people, we were created to be. He offers hope that we might rise beyond our finitude and ignorance in the grace of His infinity. He offers hope, however uncertain, that utopia can exist. I choose hope.

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