Saturday, 24 October 2009

Too Good To Live, Too Young To Happy (Mana Khemia spoilers)

(I couldn't resist the subject line; is love. Someone clearly got derailed somewhere along the line there. And I love that the word Japan always sticks in place of anything when they don't know what to say is "happy". It's like their "smurf". And I think that's utterly adorable... but I digress.)

So I wound up engaged in longdiscussion over on lj-mana_khemia_fic about the philosophical and ethical issues that arise from a being who can grant any wish, and one person brought up the TVTrope Too Good For This Sinful Earth in association with Vayne. Basically, if you don't want to subject yourself to a productivity downgrade, this trope covers cases where a being is seen (by the authors, by the other people in their world, or both) as being too good, pure, and/or innocent to live in the world without being corrupted by its flawed nature. It's often accompanied by some kind of power that the being has which, due to their goodness and eagerness to help, could easily be turned to corrupt ends. Thus, it's a statement that anything which transcends a certain threshold of beauty is too dangerous/too vulnerable to continue existing, and must be destroyed for its own sake and possibly the sake of the world.

There are problems with this that involve Vayne specifically-- namely that, as a being who can grant any wish including his own, he could wish for world peace, plenty and understanding, or simply transcendence of everything into an enlightened state, before anyone gets to him. But I think there are also problems with it in the greater philisophical sense.

One, as I mentioned, it seems like essentially this is saying that any being who meets a particular threshold of goodness and positivity needs to be struck from the world. Doesn't this, therefore, continue to ensure that the world stays a place that only contains lesser beings, with not much good in their hearts, and thus remains a place that people will judge as unfit for greater beings-- thus keeping people from ever improving? Simply put, if you destroy anything that's "too good for the world", the world may never be able to reach a level where most beings are that good, because it will lack the influence of the beings best positioned to help it grow. (Note that I don't quite agree with this because I think the world will continue to evolve no matter what, but it seems at best perverse to kill off the very best of your society and force it to advance the slow way. If every time anything is born which has a significant chance of advancing society by large leaps, you insist that it dies, then you're resigning yourself to unnecessary struggle and suffering. And there's no reason to do things the hard way-- that's just a conceit people invent because we have to do things the hard way and we like to think something good is gained from it. Something good often is, but there's a lot gained from doing things the easy way, too.)

Not only are you keeping the world from improving this way, but by saying something is "too good for this world", you're also making a statement that the being can't or shouldn't improve the world. It's not just a practical case of "this will hamper the world's ability to grow"; it's also a philosophical position which argues that the world is a sick place and cannot or should not be healed, since every time a creature came into it with powers for good that could help people, you'd argue they should just be sent packing to a better place to let us wallow in our misery, since we're just helpless. What of the possibility that such creatures were sent to us to help us and know what they're doing? And even if not, how pessimistic is the idea that that help shouldn't be given a chance? That's not just looking every gift horse that comes your way in the mouth, it's kicking it in the teeth.

Which leads me to my next point: aside from all else, I think it's incredibly immoral to murder something beautiful and transcended. A life is a life and lives should be valued no matter how humble or cruel, but as I said in a post a while ago about Firefly's witch-burning episode, I think there's a particular evil-- and it's very rare that I actually think the word evil is warranted-- to trying to get rid of something specifically because it is good, pure, magical, etc. I think that the only way the word "evil" can possibly make sense is if it's defined as "something which directly defeats or destroys good"; I don't think people can be evil, but I think something which attacks and eats away at the existence of goodness in the world is an evil, and in that sense I think the removal of high and beautiful creatures from the world, with the express intent to get rid of that good, is an evil. Even if you say it's "because the world cannot bear it", if you've admitted the being is pure, noble and good and that that's your reason for trying to kill it, I would call that an evil act.

Even if you don't necessarily agree with the word choice, I'd say it's a horribly immoral act, to destroy beauty and wonder because it is beauty and wonder. It's like going out and murdering kingfishers because they're pretty, or something. Maybe it's because you think the beauty of them will inspire people to idle daydreaming and not enough work, maybe you're just a card-carrying Saturday morning cartoon villain who wants the world to lack colour, maybe you think it will force people to do something about the state of the world-- whatever your motivation ultimately, if part of it is that you think there needs to be less beauty in the world for any reason, I am against you to the end. That can't be justified, in my opinion. It's one of those things I feel particularly strongly about.

So yes, that makes it tragic if Vayne is killed for being what he is-- and yes, a good tragic story can be beautiful in its own way. But I think to say that "it's tragic, but there's nothing that can be done about it because the world forces us to bring these tragedies about" is a way of looking at things that, itself, is just as immoral and problematic; in that it denies the possibility of goodness, of moving beyond what we are, and keeps us from trying to look at ways to right things.

When confronted with a being like Vayne, shouldn't we, in our position as beings whose nature is always to strive for improvement, be looking at him and considering how his potential could help us, rather than simply saying he's too good to live?

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