Friday, July 3, 2015

American Humanism



There's a new religion out there. Well, it's really an old one (humanism) with a new, American twist, and it's central doctrine just got summed up in the hollow ending of Arrow's third season. If I had to name this religion I'd call it American Humanism. But we'll get to that in a minute, cause where this started is important to understanding my viewpoint.

I used to watch the show Arrow, right up until the ending of season 3. Contrary to what a lot of people were saying about it I really liked the third season. Oliver was finding that he didn't necessarily want to be a mythological figure and that may be OK, until he bumped into Ras Al Ghul, a man who is a myth. For obvious reasons this didn't quite work out in Oliver Queen's favor, because a myth is true no matter what, that's the point of a myth. Don't fly too close to the sun or your wings will melt cause they're not real, make sure you change the sails on your ship or your father will kill himself, all power comes at a great personal cost and the hatred of others with power. And, in Arrow's world, the League of Assassins is an unstoppable force. Oliver tried to stop Ra's once and failed, because he is not the Arrow in the way that his opponent was Ra's. To Ra's there was no other man in him, he was the myth, the legend, and that made him unstoppable.  In true American fashion Oliver Queen decided that being Oliver Queen was good enough and took out Ra's single-handledly in the finale of the third season. It was an amazingly hollow end to an otherwise great season. Arrow hasn't stuck a landing since the first season finale, but for whatever reason this one really got my goat. So much build up to.... nothing.

So I called my friend Marty, who usually is kind enough to listen to me rant and rave about shows that he has absolutely no liking for (he hates American TV). But this time he had an insight to it. Now, Marty and I share a passion for mythological themes in shows and literature. It's our little geeky thing we talk about where we start going "ooh, did you see that?" Heck, he ran a beautiful Torchbearer game for Andy and I that just blew our socks right off.

Anyway. Erhem.

 I was telling Marty how the whole ending just felt off, and he said the magic words "Why, because he invented his own myth and somehow it worked? Yeah, I didn't think you'd like that." After the light bulbs in my head dimmed enough for me to sleep I did so, but here's the thing: myths aren't made up, they're inherited, passed down to the next holders who live it out and add their own selves to it. It's a corporate and individualistic experience because the interpretation of the myth is up to you. So long as you remain loyal to the myth your interpretation adds to what's passed on. It's one of the reasons why I love being an iconographer: I am part of something more than myself and yet my contribution matters, because it's then added to the whole.

Which is why American Humanism is so sick. It's the idea that you define your own mythology, you are the center of your own little world, and that the larger world has no place in defining it with you. Oh wait, what were those suicide numbers again, particularly for men, who have based their lives off of mythology since the world was young? Oh yeah, that's working really well. Isolating us from a whole is a really great idea.

And, before anyone goes "that's not true!" I ask you to look at our culture today. Actually look at it as an overarching pattern. What's been going on for awhile now? Well, the LBGT crowd's having a field day, pedophilia is slowly being accepted as just another sexual orientation, and then there's this whole "I feel like I should be disabled" thing going on, and that's before you start talking to "regular" people. If you, the reader, feel that whatever people do is fine so long as it doesn't hurt you or others then you espouse American Humanism. What right have you to mess with someone else's domain? Their life, their mythology, their religion is paramount. So long as no one challenges your own sovereignty it's all good. Right? Right!

I proclaim all of you gods.Go, spread the faith of yourself! No one's going to listen cause they have their mythology, and so therefore you'll do little good, but what does that matter? The telling's what's important, right?

Now, before anyone gets on their little "the individual's choice matters!" soapbox I'll stop you. Yes, the individual's choice matters, otherwise there's no point to a collective myth or anything else collective. But there must be a collective, humanity's too group based to not invent mythology and cults to enact it. That's popularly known as religion. But one thing's for sure: fighting for your own sense of identity ain't what's gonna work. And the ratings of the ending of that 3rd season certainly seem to back it up.

And also, for all you guys reading this who are going "I don't do this, I am my own person!" I'd like you to remember the last time you had something very precious and dear to you like football, gaming, a spouse, etc, insulted, and remember feeling indignant not just because they were insulted but you were insulted because you identified them with you. That feeling? You expanded your sense of self to a greater whole. That's myth. That's religion. And you have proven my point. You can't not be part of a whole, which is why American Humanism is so dangerous. You are not an autonomous individual, but an individual inside of a larger collective that you can either benefit or hurt. You matter and so do "they". As a matter of fact, you are, to a certain extent, "they". And their well-being impacts you as much your well-being impacts them.

Ain't it glorious?

A note: Yes, I know what I've been writing about is called moral relativism philosophically speaking. I have taken that philosophy and re-phrased it into properly religious terms, thus legitimizing it. Just as certain philosophies are a natural outgrowth of  some religions, moral relativism comes directly out of American Humanism. Except that the people practicing it generally aren't aware they're practicing it, but that's half the point, isn't it?

I mean, how it could be religion (such a patently trite thing!) if it isn't universally true?

A further note: I wrote this about a month ago and just happened to schedule it for July 3rd, didn't notice for two weeks, and then chuckled when I did notice. Well, with the advent of the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage I feel that my point has been illustrated better than I ever could attempt. The fact that this post will be appearing July 3rd is a deep knife twist now. If anyone even attempts to tell me on this blog that my religious freedom will not be impeded I will kindly ask you to drink your American Humanist beverage far away from this blog. Thank you.