To paraphrase Willy Wonka, come with me and you'll be in a world of philosophical imagination, where you'll find a blend of scholarly inquiry, popular culture, critical analysis, narrative speculation, and humor.
Check out my latest screenplay Shadow of the Force - an alternate (and completely unauthorized) version of Star Wars Episode VIII (written for those of us who needed to cope by envisioning a different story). There is a PDF available on the Screenplays tab.
“By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity we are killing our planet […] let’s face it, there is no Planet B,” said French President Emmanuel Macron in an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 25.
What’s significant about this statement is that it resembles the perspective of Thanos from the Avengers: Infinity War film (which released two days later on April 27). Not that President Macron equates to a real-world Thanos (far from it). But rather, that the observation that our planet is vulnerable resembles the point Thanos makes in Infinity War: that we’re going to need to find a solution (Macron and others who signed the Paris Agreement have a reasonable solution; Thanos doesn’t – still, they at least agree there’s a problem).
Thanos isn’t just a run-of-the-mill, take-over-the-universe comic book villain. He’s the first legitimate threat the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have ever faced and – spoiler alert – he not only wins (he gets all six infinity stones and wipes out half the universe with the snap of his fingers, including half of the Avengers in a devastating, heartbreaking way) he’s also got a point (sort of).
In Thanos’s back-story, he’s shown killing half the population of Gamora’s home planet under the logic that he’s actually saving them. As he reasons, people were starving, resources were dying, and he was the only one willing to do whatever it took to save the planet (kill half the population so the other half could live).
Thanos even claims it was done randomly, to rich and poor alike, because that’s the only fair and balanced way to do it (it’s a poignant flashback when we see Thanos save what looks like a five-year old Gamora, shielding her from seeing his soldiers slaughter half her people – this is also how Gamora became Thanos’s adopted daughter).
Thanos also claims to have been proven right when he tells present-day Gamora that people on her world are thriving, all thanks to him. So, is Thanos right? If, as Macron observes, there is no other planetary option (Earth is all we’ve got), then is sacrificing half the population in order for the other half to live really a possible solution?
Of course, we don’t live in a world where alien visitors routinely drop in on our world to wreak havoc, destroy cities, and indiscriminately kill millions (and eventually billions) of people (because when you destroy cities, there’s collateral damage). We also don’t live in a world where the Avengers, let alone any sort of superheroes, are a reality.
But – and I say this no matter which spot on the political spectrum you identify with – our world is strange nonetheless. All you have to do is watch one hour of cable news and you’d think the world was one tweet away from nuclear war (or, if you watch Fox News, that America is actually being run by the Deep State – a coordinated effort by Obama, Hillary, the FBI, CIA, and NSA to undermine not just Trump but the American people and democracy as we know it).
And, if you argue that Thanos could've just snapped his fingers and doubled the resources then you're missing the point.
What’s significant is that our world (or at least our American society) seems to be at a moral crossroads, having to decide what happens next in the story of humanity. This is what Infinity War seems to be asking: How do we save our world, our society, our loved ones, and ourselves when we’re faced with such an overwhelming enemy? What are willing to sacrifice for the sake of victory?
Or, perhaps (like the reimagined Battlestar Galactica routinely asked and The 100 continues to ask into its fifth season on the CW) the question is this: are any of us worthy of being saved when all we do is destroy?
Posted: May 5, 2018 (modified June 23, 2018)
Our country has been debating the NFL kneeling issue for two years. Why? Do both sides really have valid points? Is this issue really debatable?
That’s what we want to say, isn’t it? After all, we’ve become so polarized, so dogmatic in our beliefs that we can’t imagine that our position isn’t valid – not through relativism (though some may argue that) but because we know we're right and they're wrong. Remember, we’re living in an age where facts can be asserted and where reality can be constructed – this isn’t relativism. If it were, then both sides would observe and respect the validity of the other (either through a moral relativism or cultural relativism) and this isn’t what’s happening.
We might also want to say that the football kneeling issue is polarizing. So many issues seem that way right now, so why not kneeling?
Yet, saying that kneeling during the National Anthem is polarizing is incorrect because labeling something as polarizing suggests that there are two equal sides. But, both sides aren’t equal because those who kneel are protesting hatred and there is no legitimate counter position to that, there is no equal opposite (despite the efforts of many hate groups – sorry, but hatred, racism, and bigotry are indefensible).
Those who kneel are doing so out of respect for those who’ve experienced hatred. Those who stand are doing the opposite – they’re not standing to respect soldiers, the flag, our country, or because they want to observe patriotism, they’re standing to expressly negate those who kneel and that's not just indefensible, it’s morally corrupt.
If we really wanted to observe soldiers, the flag, the country, and patriotism, then we should kneel – we should kneel for those who serve, we should kneel for those who can’t, we should kneel for those we’ve hurt, we should kneel for those we love, we should kneel for every soul who went before us to give us this moment, and we should kneel for those who will one day replace us as the stewards of this world.
We should kneel until every life is born equal, is treated equal, can live equal, and can die equal. Only then can we stand proudly, only then can we say America is truly great.
Posted on September 19, 2018
Why do we blame victims? Why is it so easy for us to rattle off recommendations of what a victim should or shouldn’t have done when they were being victimized? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Is it a defense mechanism, a way of deflecting our guilt?
But let’s face it, we’re guilty, we’re responsible, and we’re complicit.
We’ve created a society where fault resides with the victimized. From “stand your ground” laws (which make it easy for anyone to commit murder and then blame the victim for making the shooter feel threatened) to the Kavanaugh hearing where his accuser is at fault because she didn’t report being sexually assaulted sooner. And let’s not forget the thousands of children bullied every day in our nation’s schools who are afraid to tell what happened because our system is designed to reward the bully (from “let’s not make him feel bad” to “we shouldn’t let this incident ruin his life”) and punish the bullied (from “maybe you’re just too sensitive” to “you need to toughen up” to “well, what did you do to cause this?”).
It’s almost sickening to hear and read the myriad (and preposterous) excuses offered by Kavanaugh’s supporters. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to support someone and standing by them when times are tough, but that’s not what’s happening.
What’s happening is that we’re losing any sense of decency and morality that we might have left. And, maybe we just don’t have any left, maybe the last of it was spent during 2016’s election – not just in its outcome (where we knowingly elected a morally corrupt man) but in its contest (where both candidates were seen as undesirable, with some voters feeling like they had to decide between the lesser of two evils).
What we’ve forgotten is that we began as a nation of immigrants seeking to form a nation of laws (after we’d reduced the native population to a manageable size and seized their lands – because, yes, we’re responsible for that, too).
We’d fled tyranny in favor of democracy, where “of the people, by the people, for the people” was supposed to replace “by royal decree.” And we created a system of checks and balances and co-equal branches, but it’s all starting to crumble, isn’t it? No one really trusts Congress (we haven’t for some time), we don’t trust the White House (not when its occupant lies daily), we don’t trust the Supreme Court (at least not since Bush v. Gore), and we’re being told not to trust the press, the fourth estate of government who’s supposed to help keep things transparent.
So, what do we do? How do we get our morality back?
Maybe we can start by not blaming victims, by respecting the rule of law, and by realizing that democracy isn't just about the elected, it's supposed to be about the people - it's supposed to be about us. Maybe that's were our morality is - its in each other, in how we treat each other, and in how we're responsible for each other, not as republicans and democrats and independents, but as Americans and ultimately as global citizens.
It's like Tony Stark tells Loki in The Avengers, "we're sort of like a team, Earth's mightiest heroes type thing [...] if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn well sure we'll avenge it."
Posted on September 21, 2018