Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Of Mice and Women

There's something I've been thinking about a lot recently. “Let it Go”, a song from Disney's animated motion picture, “Frozen”. But I'm not here to talk about that, nor do I intend to discuss how the viability of my OKCupid profile has increased by a full order of magnitude since memorizing its lyrics. The thing I've been thinking about recently is ethics, and not just because I'm currently taking a class on the subject. Also because I recently watched an anime called “Psycho-pass”, which was basically a lecture in Utilitarianism. As well as brutal hammer murder. So basically just like my ethics class. (That link should explain the noodle incident from the last post)

Truth be told, I've had some of these ideas kicking around in my head for awhile now. I even considered presenting them as the second installment of “Real Talk with Havoc Mantis” for my anniversary, as a call-back to the post that (re)started it all. But considering how strangely prophetic that turned out to be, I think I'll avoid the risk of jinxing it and refrain from referring to this as a Real Talk. Because if there's one thing that my life doesn't need right now, it's more crazy murderesses.

I suppose my theory goes something like this: Fictional characters are held to a different moral standard than real people. In a story, almost any crime can be forgiven, if there exists a sufficiently tragic backstory or a sufficiently heartwarming act of redemption. Remember all those kids Darth Vader kind of slaughtered? Remember that planet he blew up? Yeah, kind of, but he also threw an elderly man to his death, so we're expected to believe that his Karmic checkbook is as balanced as Skullgirls' roster. In fact, my ethics professor addressed this misconception on the very first day of class (a bit too late, I might add): Hurling a senior citizen down an elevator shaft does NOT absolve you of culpability. Darth Vader also has the tragic backstory angle working for him. Bearing witness to something as terrible as the prequel trilogy changes a man. It's what caused Qui-Gon to lose his faith in humanity, ultimately leading to his attempt to destroy Gotham City. The despair it caused in Obi-Wan led to him taking up heroin, and its banality caused me to continually reuse jokes.

Ewan Mcgregor once played a role in which he did heroin. That was a joke.

I think it's safe to say that, from a young age, most of our exposure to weighty morality comes from fiction. On screens and in books, we see heroes make tough choices. Is killing the villain justifiable if it means fewer people will die? Is it permissible to lie in order to protect someone? Should you really tell Becky that she looks fat in that dress? In our everyday lives, morality is far less pronounced. When was the last time you were in a climactic duel that ended with your nemesis dangling over a vat of molten steel, clutching your outstretched arm, and you had decide whether to pull him up to safety or drop him to his death? If you're anything like me, that could have been up to a month ago. In real life, morality is much more subdued. Being a good person is less about “Deciding that human life is sacred, and there is no crime for which death is a fitting punishment” and more about “Abstaining from getting your friends involved in time-consuming projects, then forcing them to do all the work because you lack every necessary skill to get anything done, wasting their time with a half-finished mess”. As much as that sounds like a cheap shot at someone else, (because it kind of is) it's actually directed at myself. I doubt you're reading this, Basicles, but if you are, I'm sorry about doing that thing. I'm being so sincere right now.

So, to recap, in fiction, terrible actions can be forgiven by virtue of external factors. And in real life, most people's exposure to morality comes from fiction. When we judge ourselves, (as seldomly as possible, in most cases) we know our own backstory, and can use excuses to rationalize our seemingly immoral behavior. Like that one time you ran that red light, but you were really late for an important job interview, so you had no choice. Or when your friend punched that cashier in the face for making small talk, but he only did it because was really stressed from a bad day at work. Or, to use a personal example, that one time I set fire to a McDonalds Playplace, but only because some men want to watch the world burn, and I am among their number. But the problem is that when we start judging other people, (or they start judging us) we don't know their reasons, nor do we give one infinitesimal dshit. When someone else runs a red light, well, they were probably in a hurry to the asshole convention they're chairing. If someone else punches your friend in the face for trying to be polite, they should be locked up. If someone else sets fire to a McDonald's Playplace, they're clearly unhinged. Because we only know the backstory for ourselves and our friends, we tend to be much more forgiving of them than strangers. This is called special reasoning, and is the source of roughly 60% of the world's problems, and an astounding 100% of them that don't stem from me setting fire to things.

Hey, remember that thing I said earlier about crazy murderesses? Well, that was because I originally intended to compare various fictional killers, (all female of course, as well as at various levels of being a computer) and discuss how odd it was that the ones with the higher body count were actually the ones I found more sympathetic, despite my softcore subscription to utilitarian ideals, which might conclude that death is not conducive to happiness, and therefore killing is directly correlated with bad times. Sure, I could attempt to justify my opinions with the argument that those with the highest K/D ratio exist in a state of affairs where punishing them would bring about no further happiness, but then I realized that no one cares about my perverse ethical standards, and the potential to give away spoilers would be too great. And besides, one of them managed to convince me to bake a real life cake, possibly risking the health of my real, flesh and blood family, which is certainly indicative of a major problem in my brain, chemically speaking, if not spiritually and metaphysically. On the other hand, one of the girls was GlaDOS, (Don't you dare get uppity about this. This is less of a spoiler than the fact that Tale of Two Cities ends with you getting bored and closing the book.) so I'm sure I could have made a killer joke about how the cake being the truth is a far harsher reality that a blissful lie. I had also intended to give a shout-out to my friend Quincy Sharp, but not for the murderess that you might expect.

The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma.

Anyway, speaking of crazy murderesses, I finally found a new blog buddy! If you like things that are funny, you should go check out Lessons in Unnecessary Enthusiasm (DoubleFactorial), a blog written by an improv associate of mine, All Ice 'n actually, scratch that. She gives her real name right there in the URL, so there's no need for my to devise a cryptic pseudonym that only I find funny. As for referring to her as a murderess, what can I say? Funny people have a thing for killing. No one yet knows if this is an example of correlation or CAWsation.

That was a pretty funny joke, but at what CAWst?

Speaking of cryptic pseudonyms, I'd like to take this opportunity to issue a resounding “screw you” to the AHPI. But I would also like to once again thank you for that thing with my wallet in the QuikTrip bathroom. We're cool.

Out of respect for my newfound blog buddy, I will now end this post in the same way she ends all of hers: with a haiku.

All haiku are dumb
This one is no exception
I am so meta  

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