Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ubermenscher and Trayvon Martin

My favorite episode of The X Files is titled "Ubermenscher." In the episode, the Ubermenscher, a demonic entity called a tulpa in Tibet, was summoned from the Earth by Gene Gogolak to enforce his reign of terror on The Falls at Arcadia. Arcadia, in Greek mythology is the home of the god Pan, and an unspoiled, harmonious plane. In the episode, Arcadia is a harmonious, gated community where everyone is scrupulously careful to obey the rules and becomes very, very upset when any rule of decorum is broken. 

People start to disappear. People who just don't seem up to code. Clumsy people, odd people, anyone who deviates from the rules and regulation that make Arcadia pristine. Stray from the path or express any sense of individuality or eccentricity and an anonymous warning is issued. Your mistakes are corrected for you. Disobey again and the demonic Ubermenscher is dispatched to rise up out of the dirt and devour you. 

The Ubermenscher has no face. It is the summoned hatred and ignorance and will to maintain obedience and conformity of an entire community. 

Once the disappearances are reported, agents Mulder and Scully are dispatched to pretend to be a married company moving into Arcadia. Mulder soon begins tweeking the nose of the community by flouting the rules and acting in his typical eccentric way. But he finds his attempts to disrupt the harmony of Arcadia usurped at every turn. A mailbox he intentionally skews to one side is magically restored to its upright position while he goes to the bathroom. The secret helper who maintains order so obsessively is never seen. This wrankles Mulder, who goes on 24 hour watch to catch the super helper in the act. But he can't. 

No one ever does. The Ubermenscher comes from the collective will but no one person is ever held responsible for it. It's a manifestation of our collective neurosis that something or someone among us is ruining it for everyone by being deviant, odd, or upsetting the apple cart. 

In everyday life we encounter some comical examples of The Ubermenscher, like the obsessive compulsive legion of Wikipedia editors just waiting for someone out there to make any slightly askew statement about Ayn Rand or who appeared as an extra in episode seven of season three of Dr. Who so they can blow their whistle and scold the perpetrator about keeping their beautiful patch of the Universe unsullied. 

In politics we see more serious examples of people who would like to impose their morality on the rest of society with a Procrustean bed of laws designed to make the rest of us behave to the exact specifications of their God. Not ours, but theirs. All the Gods help us if these people ever have their way again. 

I'd like to keep my legs (and my own set or morals and ethics) thank you.

So, what are you on about this time, Thomas? Greek Gods, monsters, Procrustean beds, Wikipedia, what's the point?

On February 26, 2012, 17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot dead after being involved in a scuffle with self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in the planned community of Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin, who had reported via a 911 call as acting suspiciously, in an act of self defense. The facts of the case will probably never be clear, but what is known is that Zimmerman called 911 46 times in the year previous to the shooting, predominantly to report young, black males acting suspiciously. One of the calls was to report a child 7-9 years old. 

Already the facts of this matter have become virtually impossible to discern over the outrage of those who feel this is a tragic murder based on racism and those who believe law and order should be maintained at any price, but what seems clear to this writer is that America has become a very scary place where some people feel it is their God-given right, no, their God-appointed duty, to make sure the rest of us conform to their standards at all times. Act suspicious, stray from the lines only they can see for more than one step and you become suspicious, someone who needs to be followed, harassed, and ultimately weeded out.

Certainly an episode of The X Files is insufficient to convey the tragedy of what has happened here. The life lost. For no good reason other than one person wanting to decide who can and who can't walk freely in "his" community. But we've seen this before. We've seen it since the beginning. And we've never dealt with it. So it seeps into the water, the soil, the very Earth beneath our feet, and it waits, and it waits, and it waits. Then it rises like an amorphous golem of hatred and ignorance and snuffs out a life filled with promise and hope. 

People have always longed for that perfect place. Arcadia, Nirvana, Heaven, Elysium. And societies have always flirted with the idea that eliminating certain types of people would make life easier for everyone who wasn't one of those people. As one of those people I always remain wary that the pitchforks and torches will be out for me eventually. Or maybe you. Or maybe any one of us who isn't "them" enough. This battle needs to be continually fought because it has never been won and never goes away. 

Will there be justice for Trayvon Martin? I don't know. I know there's a war going on in America. A war that never really wasn't going on. A war I hope never breaks out into open violence in our streets over violations of humanity that were never punished and never atoned for. There seem to be people out there who not only are unwilling to atone, but never want that war to end. I don't want to live in a society like that. But I also feel it would be wrong to let those people continue living in ignorance and hatred, spewing their venom on the rest of us simply because it may be their "right" to be wrong. I'm not sure what the answer is. Maybe it might even be better to just fight it out. But I hold out hope something like reason or goodness or truth might save the day. 

Ask Pandora. There's always hope.

February 21, 2013 update: It seems I haven't heard anyone in my sphere even mentioned Trayvon Martin in months. Yet it seemed so important to so many people for about a week.

More things the Ubermenscher thinks you should or should not do. Or else.

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