Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Mediatic Perversion of Heroism part 2

Since I grew up on science-fiction, I like to compare science-fiction series in moral and political terms. Star Trek and Star Wars, the two heavyweights, are little more than a panegyric for collectivism, anti-intellectualism and altruism through and through (Next Generation, Voyager and the end of A New Hope were particularly cringe-worthy- as well as the fact that every second Star Trek movie seems to be about saving the world). In Star Trek, Roddenberry's vision of an ideal world is that of a communist, or at least socialist, military regime where trade has ostensibly been replaced by goodness of heart. In Star Wars, the Old Republic is a heavily bureaucratic democracy which supports governments of all types, and the separatists (including many corporate entities) are portrayed as puppets of the evil Sith Lords. In Firefly, government is portrayed as an oppressive force and anarchy, while not ideal, is a place where freedom and an individualist way of life can still exist.

Who do we look up to as a society? Soldiers, athletes and actors, the two former being good examples of brute force, and the latter a good example of effete anti-intellectuals. While they do provide tremendous entertainment, and I am not saying that they don't contribute anything in those terms, their lasting contribution to society is negligible. Heavens forbid we admire people who actually do something! The perfect example of a "hero" is Mother Theresa, the weakling par excellence, whose main claims to fame are hobnobbing with fascist dictators and refusing to administer painkillers to her emaciated suffering victims.

True heroes usually face tremendous opposition- which is why they are heroes in the first place. A hero stands up against the problems of the world in his own way, pursuing his values even if it requires him to take risks or fight authority. Heroes are principled people, who are not afraid to speak or act against evil.

Have you ever heard of Ingo Potrykus? I'm pretty sure you haven't. And yet he is a real hero- a German bioengineer whose team developed Golden Rice, a genetically engineered food that could help millions of people, despite the opposition of governments and environmentalist organizations. There are plenty of heroes in this world. I count, for example, people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, James Randi, the late lamented Harry Browne, and perhaps even an economist like David Friedman. I'm sure you have your own as well.

The root of the perversion of heroism lies in two related areas: first, the collectivist propaganda needed to maintain the legitimacy of the state, and its strong incentive to smear individualism and freedom lovers, and second, the fact that most people who manufacture our culture work in brutally competitive fields unless they benefit from state subsidies, and thus have a natural hatred for capitalism and a natural love for the state. It is, therefore, a natural extension of the hero worship inspired by religious myths.

On a more moral level, the anti-intellectualist mentality, hostile to principles and virtue, is the emotional food of the mob, which revels in hating those who seek intellectual or materialistic pursuits. The scientist, the businessman, the skeptic, the civil rights advocate, and those who use or promote technology are virtually always the enemies. Even when the right people are faulted, they are faulted not for being wrong, but for being too principled.

And I'm afraid that people lack understanding of morality or politics partially because they have been fed this emotionalist, violent, ignorant pap. Where will the counter-revolution come from?

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