Heroic Villains and Villainous Heroes

I recently saw two films and a cartoon, and was puzzled, perhaps even a trifle aghast, and could not puzzle out what it was I was seeing. Then I heard one speech, and the puzzle was solved.

The two films were MAN OF STEEL and DESPICABLE ME 2, and the cartoon was BEWARE THE BATMAN. This is not a review of any of these, but the reader is warned that the surprise ending of at least two are revealed below. By way of review, I will say only that each was worth the ticket price, each was well done and well written.

The one speech was by the author of KINDER GARDEN OF EDEN, Evan Sayet. By way of review, I will admit I have not read the book, only heard the author’s description of its main idea, and this idea resolved the puzzle that so bewildered me about the three shows I saw.

Let me describe the puzzle first. I spoil the ending of MAN OF STEEL in the next paragraph, so I urgently beseech any reader who has not seen the film to read no further.

MAN OF STEEL boldly deviated from the established expectations of fans of Superman in three ways. The first was that Lois Lane, instead of being a damsel in distress, is portrayed as a tough and competent reporter who discovers the secret identity of Superman in one five-minute montage of investigative journalism. She dashes around the spaceship of the villains armed with a laser gun, doing deeds of derring-do. The two-sided love triangle which formed the core of the Superman mythos since its inception, that Clark loves Lois who loves Superman but despises Clark, is jettisoned.

The second was that young Superman, when given a chance to rescue his father from a disaster, decides not to for fear of revealing his secret identity, and so lets his father die right before his eyes.

The third was that Superman, in the climactic battle with General Zod, a Kryptonian supercriminal with powers equal to Superman, kills Zod by breaking his neck, in order to prevent Zod from burning a group of cowering civilians to cinders with his heat vision.

I assume the film maker’s intent was to put Superman in a situation where he had to make a Sophie’s Choice style decision between living up to his moral imperative never to kill and his moral imperative to protect the innocent, and for some reason not explained to the viewer, the option of forcing Zod’s head into the ground was out of the question, whereas wringing his neck like a chicken was not. Or having Supes put something, a large rock or a looking glass or his own body, in the way. Or pulling the maneuver we call “The Moe Howard” and poking at Zod’s eyes with two fingers.

After the killing, Superman screams into the camera to show the powerful emotion racking his manly soul. If you do not recall a similar scream from Gary Cooper playing Sherriff Kane at the end of HIGH NOON, that is because the idea of how the manly soul reacted to tragedy differs from those days.

Meanwhile the first episode of BEWARE THE BATMAN recently debuted, perhaps to fill a void left by the unwisely abrupt cancellation of YOUNG JUSTICE and GREEN LANTERN (both favorites of mine). In this episode, the Batman is on the trail of Magpie, a curvaceous yet kleptomaniacal supervillainess in a shiny black leather corset with bikini bottom and stiletto-heeled thigh-high boots. The two engage in kung-fu fisticuffs, so that whenever the Batman is not kicking or punching the leggy yet buxom babe in her pretty face, the bathing beauty is throwing him across the room like a sack of wet laundry.  When Batman coldcocks Magpie from craven ambush at their first meeting, she exclaims playfully, “You would hit a woman?” and he growls in a voice of gravelly menace in reply, “I am hitting a criminal.”

If I recall, eventually Batman beats her into unconsciousness by dropkicking her into an electrical appliance that discharges a spray of lightningbolts. All these fight scenes were about as realistic and enjoyable as watching a stalwart linebacker or a beefy riot cop putting the beat-down on a callipygious lingerie model or the nubile cocktail waitress at a Playboy club.

I don’t think I have ever seen a version of Batman less physically impressive. The shapely lass was not from the planet Krypton, nor from Paradise Island, nor was she a cyborg, and yet he could not overcome her. Her only superpower was that she was crazy, and could feel no pain, so she fought with the strength of ten half-naked showgirls. I am hoping Batman will take on a more formidable opponent next episode, such as a fat guy in a pig mask, or a dwarf dressed as a toad, or perhaps Tiny Tim from A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Meanwhile, in DESPICABLE ME 2, our hero, or, rather, ex-archvillain, Gru the long-nosed evil scientist, is strong-armed into aiding a secret global police agency to track down one of his old fellow villains, and in the course of things protects his adopted daughters from untoward attentions from young swains, saves the earth, but most of all wins the love of a female superspy, and weds her.

At no point does Gru punch any women or kill any men.

The happy ending, just as in an old-fashioned Shakespeare comedy, ends with a marriage, and the orphans now have a mommy and a daddy, not to mention of horde of giggling banana-hued goggle-eyed minions.

Let no one be deceived by the arch tone of my remarks. These were not bad shows. These were rather good shows. I would recommend them without reservation to any fan of superhero stories. And yet I was puzzled: why was the only truly heroic man in the last three super-shows I saw the ex-archvillain?

Why were the heroes so lame?

I say yet again, these shows were not bad shows, and yet if I wanted to show my young sons an example of how a man should act, or a hero, I would not point at the most recent version of Superman and Batman. I would point at Gru, particularly at the funny scene where he is trying to protect his daughter from the attentions of an underaged Lady’s Man. (What does one call an underaged Lady’s Man? A Girl’s Boy?)

Nobody can believe nothing. When a man says he believes nothing, two things are true: first, that there is something in which he desperately, perhaps dearly, wishes not to believe; and second that there is some unspoken thing in which he secretly believes, perhaps even unknown to himself.

What, you may ask, has this to do with Superman and Batman? What has it to do with that despicable archvillain, Gru? The answer is that this is the key to the puzzle.

Even as there were, in times past, superstitious people who believed the various powers of earth and air were produced without cause, as if grain could spring up without seed, or baleful comets be seen in heaven due to some caprice of fate, likewise in the modern world the superstition has spread that thoughts can exist without cause and without consequences.

Ideas have consequences, as the Libertarians (ironically) like to say; ideas also have axioms.

There is a curious evasiveness about modern thought: if asked, a modern man might say that thoughts are a side effect of brain-molecule motions, or a by-product of Pavlovian conditioning, or a side effect of class interests generated by material dialectic of history, or some other such rot.

The axioms of the thought are precisely what all such answers are designed to deny. The one thing a man educated in modern philosophy will never admit is that his thoughts are the conclusions of his axioms: he will point to any and every cause, from brain molecules to class interests, that gives rise to his thought except prior thought.

The one thing the modern will never, ever admit is that thoughts are deliberate, caused by a cause rather than as a side effect of a non-deliberate nonhuman process. The modern is not responsible for anything he thinks.

In truth, no thought can exist without the axioms from which it springs, or the conclusions to which it leads. A man, particularly a modern man, by a diligent effort of willful evasiveness, can lull himself into being unaware of the implications of his thought, and particularly unaware of the antecedents. But even as we see an oak tree lifting mighty branches, and can know that, if a slightest breeze does not topple it, it must have roots, so, too, can we deduce that a thought a modern man voices also has roots he does not voice.

What is this unvoiced thought from which modern thought springs? What is the axiom of modernity? I propose we ask, not philosophers (for modern philosophers are schooled to lie) but comic book characters for the answer.

No reader with the slightest familiarity with the modern age can miss the odd, elusive scent of its unspoken axioms. We can catch the whiff of it everywhere, but, by a law of human nature as old as Aesop, we will sniff the sharpest waft of the smell in popular entertainment, particularly in fantastic entertainment.

Science fiction and fantasy and superhero epics are unmoored, by their nature, from the necessity of being realistic. The imagination is given greater play, a wider room in which to roam.

Realistic fiction, by being realistic, is constrained to abide within what the demands of the audience for realism, that is, the audience’s view of what can and cannot be done in the real world.  Fantastic fiction abides by rules or expectations just as strict, namely, the demand of the audience for idealism, that is, the audience’s view of what should or should not be done if the real world were out of the way and things were much more like our ideals.

Science fiction is hence ideal fiction, because only here do we see the ideals on stage with very little realism to block the view; fantasy has even less obstruction to the ideal view; and super hero comics have least of all.

Of superheroes, most or perhaps all fit into one of two broad categories: Heroes of the Day and Avengers of the Night. Superman is the most famous example of the first, but he comes from a long line of precedent reaching from Doc Savage to Sir Galahad. These are men who exemplify every virtue of trustworthiness and courage and chivalry devoted to the good of others rather than selfish motives.

In Superman, as befits a superhero comic, the element of selflessness is exaggerated beyond the operatic: Clark Kent receives no benefit for being Superman, not even the glance of the girl he loves, but is instead a mild-mannered reporter, and, in the earliest versions, a nebbish and a nobody.

Batman likewise comes from a long line of precedent, from The Shadow to Zorro and even to Spring-Heeled Jack, a rich playboy who takes the law into his own hands, turning from a worthless butterfly of society to a defender of the poor and oppressed.  All of these shadowy vigilantes dress in black capes and cowls and black hats, and look like villains, or like specters.

Even the Lone Ranger wears a mask like a crook does, and the Green Hornet (his nephew) poses as a gangster. It is interesting to note that this whole long line of vigilantes are rich men, either living beneath mansions in a bat-cave or hiding out in a silver mine. They tend to be subterranean for the same reason they tend to be nocturnal: because it is spookier.

All of these nocturnal avengers represents vengeance, as frightening to the crooks as the crooks are frightening to decent citizens, as eldritch and dread as the Angel of Death, monsters who prey on monsters. Superman represents the virtue of humility, of Herculean strength used to defend the weak and asking no reward.

These characters have passed through the pens of many writers and seen more reincarnations than practically any other character in the commonwealth of the imagination, except, perhaps for Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. I propose the theory that the versions of Batman have been the most popular have been those where his role as an angel of vengeance has been most clear, that is, the Dark Knight has been darkest; and that likewise Superman has been most popular precisely when the character has been portrayed as the strongest yet the most humble, that is, when the White Knight has been whitest.

So why was the portrayal of the most recent reincarnation of these perennial characters puzzling? What was askew?

On the obvious level, if you put Superman in a situation where he either has to kill the bad guy or let innocent people be killed, this makes him look weak. It means he is no longer an angel of rescue with powers greater than Hercules, but is instead like a policeman or a soldier trapped in a world of grim necessity where he must soil his hands with an act of necessary evil. His idealism is shown to be bogus. He is just a man with powers, not the Superman.

Likewise, if you remove Superman from the two-sided love triangle with Lois Lane, then the whole point of his self-humiliation as Clark Kent is lost. In MAN OF STEEL, Clark is never portrayed as the yokel from Smallville who admires the Big City gal who gets the big scoops and is frankly above him in life’s great totem pole.

In many another version of the story, Lois is too good for Clark: if you do not get that point, you do not get the point of the character. Because without that, there is no delicious irony to the fact that Clark can rip open his shirt, and underneath his nebbish exterior is his true self, a hero from heaven, a man who is in every way worthy and more than worthy of his beloved.

The reason why this particular love-triangle is so beloved of generations, whereas the romances of, say, Don Blake and Jane Porter and Thor, or Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris and Green Lantern are not, is because the Clark-Lois-Supes love triangle embodies everything a man hopes or fears or dreams when he first falls in love. But in MAN OF STEEL that plot element was dropped.

If Lois Lane can run around the spaceship with a laser-gun and do as much damage as, say, the Batgirl or Emma Peal, then she is no longer in any need of being rescued, that is, no longer a dame who needs a man, much less a superman.

If at the same time you remove from Lois the burning desire to unmask his secret identity (and marry him) she is no longer Lois Lane at all: she is a female version of Alfred the Butler, or, to find a more precise analogy, she is like Miss Chase, the Green Hornet’s secretary at the Daily Sentinel who knows his secret identity.

The symbolism of Lois Lane trying to discover the ‘real’ Superman and trying to marry him is painfully obvious and painfully true: a woman cannot wed a man unless she knows him, unless her feminine wiles are equal to the task of seeing under the mask of male pride he holds between himself and the world. (Since Superman is written for schoolboys, of course, the wiles of Lois Lane are always insufficient, and she never figures him out or brings him to the chapel. Stories written for schoolgirls are more realistic.)

Again, on the obvious level, if you have the Batman beat up a girl, he looks like a wimp. If he ambushes her, he looks like a cowardly wimp, and if he ambushes her and gets his ass kicked, he looks like an incompetent and cowardly wimp. The Batman is supposed to be the freakin’ Angel of Death made flesh, the kind of force of nature that terrifies the Pharaoh of Egypt into freeing all the Hebrew slaves, or at least terrifying the mobsters and crooks and scofflaws of Gotham City, who are a cowardly and superstitious lot. We need the Dark Angel of Vengeance to carry out the divine (or infernal) retribution our human hands are too weak to carry out.

A zany chick in a bathing suit with split personality syndrome does not make the grade: the World’s Finest Detective and Badass Martial Artist should have been able to capture her with a batarang and a bat-lasso or a capsule of bat-teargas, or, if he must hit a girl, it should have been a one-punch fight, as he breaks her collarbone or her jaw with his bat-baseball-bat.

But the obvious level does not actually answer the puzzle. Indeed, the modern audience might have been nonplussed, even offended, had the characters been treated in the way suggested here. The modern audience is bored or even offended by women portrayed as damsels in distress rather than pillars of strength, and they want to see lingerie models kicked in the face over and over again, since to do otherwise implies a physical weakness or lack of masculine fighting spirit in the fairer sex, oops, excuse me, I mean the fairer gender. I know of any number of women in the military who could beat up a platoon of French soldiers, and it is no use pretending such women do not exist.

Again, the modern audience might like seeing their Superman face a paradox even his great strength cannot solve, so that he must kill or let the innocent be killed. There is a certain gravity, even a dignity, to the portrayal of a mighty man impaled on the horns of a dilemma even his might is insufficient to allow him to  escape. Certainly there is dramatic tension there which is lacking in any story where the superhuman character can always escape human suffering.

But this merely moves the puzzle deeper one step. The superhero story shows the ideas and ideals of the writer who presents it and the audience who accepts it more clearly than any other type of story, because it is pure fantasy, and pure heroism. If the audience applauds and rewards the tale, then the tale shows what the audience thinks a hero should be. So what is the ideal here?

We all know what the ideal of the modern age is, the one thing that set us apart, and frankly makes us inferior, to every previous age of man, even to the most barbaric ages of darkness. The ideal is equality. The ideal is freedom, limitless freedom, freedom without check or let. The ideal is self-will. The ideal is believe in yourself. The ideal is do your own thing. The ideal is just do it. The ideal is that you did it Your Way. You are the author of your own life; you create your own reality. The ideal is gratuitous and meaningless sexual encounters in a permissive and consequence-free environment. The ideal is the revolt against reason. The ideal is to imagine that there is no heaven, no nations, nothing to kill or die for, and all people living together as one. The ideal is that there is no God. The ideal is that Thou Art God.

Now, the first thing to notice about these ideals is that they are self-contradictory. All this mess swirls around the idea that there is no truth: but if there is no truth, then the idea that there are no truths is not true.

The second is that they are singularly ill-defined. In the days before the current Dark Age, equality was defined as the specific notion of moral or legal equality, that is, equality in the eyes of the law, or equality in the eyes of God: Saint Louis is not more of a saint than Saint Francis because one was a king and the other a wandering beggar. A poor man stealing a penny from his neighbor is not more guilty than a prince stealing a province from his. Nowadays equality is a sloppy notion of homogeneity: it is considered an injustice if nature does not allow little girls to grow up to be Daddies.

In the days before the darkness, freedom did not mean merely the unhindered willpower doing whatever it willed when it so willed. Freedom was a perfection, that is, it was the liberty to do what your highest nature demanded, not your lowest. Following your lowest nature was rightly regarded as a type of slavery. No addict is a free man. Freedom was the flowering of what was innate and in potential inside every soul: it was the lack of legal hindrance of a man’s growth toward the proper end to which nature and nature’s God directed him.  The modern notion of freedom is to render Sandra Fluke  ‘free’ to live a life of sexual dissipation on the dime of the Catholic institution she attends. The logical fallacy of this notion of freedom is that, in order to operate, certain persons must be unfree, or, better yet, unpersons. Fluke has the right to demand Catholics violate their consciences because their consciences count for nothing because Catholics are not really people. Neither are unborn babies. Neither are blacks in Africa dying of AIDS.

And yet again, this clattering cacophony of meaningless clamor constituting modern philosophy is merely another puzzle at a deeper level. How could anyone be so stupid as to believe that words do not have definitions, that “marriage” means everything and nothing as anyone would like it to believe, or “rights” or “freedom fighter” or any other term whatsoever? Or how could anyone who was smart enough to know this was a lie be so wicked as to tell it?

These evil ideals do not spring from a lack of intelligence nor a lack of conscience. Many a man who repeats this garbage is both bright and decent, at least in any area uninfluenced by these ideals. They come from a lack of character, that is, from the lack of a trained habit of virtue.

It is much more like a man who suffers from an addiction than a man who wills to do evil. It is more like a disease than an inability to think. You do not think the town drunk is a thief and a liar merely because he is a drunk, particularly if you talk to him in the morning when he is sober. But if he must lie or steal to get a drink, then he will steal and lie in this, even if he does not and would not steal or lie for anything else.

These modern ideals are drunk spots in the mind, like swamps if swamps were filled with alcohol rather than mud. Or, if you like, the modern ideals are clouds of poisonous gas hanging in certain spots on the battlefield of the mind. A perfectly rational and sober man, walking boldly into one without his gas mask, come stumbling out on wobbly legs, vomiting and uttering nonsense, and if he is college-educated, polysyllabic nonsense.

In the middle of the cloud is something that lures him in: usually a perfectly natural or tragically natural desire to flatter himself, or to escape his conscience, or indulge his lust or gluttony, or to go along with the crowd, or to go along with the idea that he is a rebel defying the crowd (just like all the other nonconformists).

No matter where or what his particular cloud of mental and moral blindness happens to be, there is one master cloud, one Dark Tower, to which all men poisoned by these bad ideals must flee to seek shelter, like vampires fleeing to their coffins at dawn. That is the Dark Tower of the un-conscience.

Every guilty man must do something with his guilt. The choice is simple and binary and inescapable. He either must evade his guilt by that mental process for which there is no name, the mental process of halting thought, or he must admit his guilt and repent.

Repentance requires at least two things: a desire for justice as cruel and severe as the Batman’s, which is not any less severe when directed against oneself; a humility as great as that as Clark Kent’s, so that one might submit to the discipline of an objective moral order one recognizes as greater than oneself.

But the ideal of justice is the direct opposite of the modern ideal of social justice, which is the ideal that says that there is no such thing as justice, merely the social institutions erected by the strong to oppress the weak, which the weak should overthrow and set institutions of their own to oppress their oppressors. Racism against Blacks must be overthrown (so the theory runs) not to produce a colorblind and fair-minded society, but to produce a new kind of Racism, Reverse Racism, Affirmative Action, Race Quotas, Hate Speech Laws, and the legal lynching of any “White” Hispanics or “Cracker Trash” unfortunate enough to kill in self defense a member of that special class of persons whose conduct, even criminal conduct, is above reproach on the basis of skin color alone.

And as for humility, that ideal runs directly counter to the self-help gurus and witch-doctors who claim that man’s only ill is his lack of self-esteem. If only Hitler had been more of an egotist (so runs the theory) he would have been a kind and productive member of society.

In the modern theory, “justice” is denounced as injustice in disguise, and “vengeance” is something regarded with revulsion, perhaps as a sign of mental illness. As for “humility”, in the modern theory, the meek do not inherit the earth, they need therapy to  encourage their self-esteem to reach the healthy levels of those modern paragons of sanity and decency, Rock Stars and Movie Celebrities. As for “strength” that is something to be apologized for possessing, not something to be used in a just cause. There are no just causes, because there is no justice, because there is no truth, because there is no God.

So if repentance is impossible according to modern theory, on the grounds that there is no justice and humility is wrong headed, the only thing left is evasion, that nameless process of thought by which a man seeks to stop thinking.

This, then, is the one Dark Tower to which all the evasive souls poisoned by the smog of modern theory soon or late must approach. The master ideal which permits all these lesser nonsensical ideas to exist is the Grand Ideal of Nonthought.

Nonthought says that words mean nothing, that logic is arbitrary, that the senses cannot be trusted, that the brain is merely an inanimate machine, that life is an illusion, that beliefs are rationalizations hiding uncomfortable deeper thoughts from yourself, and on and on and on. Nonthought says that reason is unreasonable. Nonthought dismisses the authority of reason. Nonthought rejects thought.

This philosophy, technically speaking, is called Nihilism.

Ours is the first civilization in the history of mankind ever to embrace Nihilism as the mainstream, if not the official, doctrine of our most foundational beliefs. No less a body than the Supreme Court has announced that the meaning of life for each individual to invent such meaning for himself and impose it on the yielding material of plastic reality. The truth is whatever you say is true for you.

Despite that the mainstream and official doctrine of our postchristian (and therefore postrational) society is that thoughts have no meaning, unfortunately, thoughts do have meaning and ideas have consequences. The first immediate consequence of nihilism is intellectual cowardice, a blubbering craven timorousness on a vast and sickening scale.

In the grotesque lyrics of John Lennon’s revolting paean to nihilism, we are to imagine that there is no heaven and no nations in order that there by nothing to kill nor die for.

If it is true that there is no truth, then it is also true that there is no God, and hence nothing worth fighting for. Even those lesser things was serve as lesser gods, such as the flag, or the family, or the honor of the regiment, or the sanctity of motherhood, or the self-interest of private property; all of it is now illusion, none of it is worth taking a bullet to protect, or taking a life. Nothing is worth anything.

Logically, if the nihilists actually believed in nihilism, they would be as placid about, let us say, civil rights for Blacks or animal rights for Spotted Owls as they were about defending the national honor of the United States against Communists or Terrorists. They are, of course, liars who lie to themselves as deeply as they lie to others. Nihilism is not a philosophy, it is a rhetorical maneuver, something one says as the need arises to sooth the prickling of a conscience not yet quite dead.

But it does have a real appeal. Nihilism promises peace. It promises that if the Terrorists would stop believing in Fascist Islam with as much fervor (if that is the word) as the Nihilists have stopped believing in truth and justice and the American Way, why, then, there is nothing worth fighting over, nothing worth doing, and everyone should just drink booze and get fat and watch porn and chase distraction and diversion and dissipation, get venereal disease, and report to the Euthanasia center which someone else will pay for, and we will all live (if that is the word) in peace and harmony.

It promises the kind of peace at a price which even the most wretched slave should be too much of a man to consider.

It is, of course, a false promise. It is appeasement. Slow suicide does not have an appeal to anyone who is not a nihilist. This is because only nihilists, perhaps correctly, judge their lives to be worthless. A bold communist or Nazi slavering over the chance to destroy innocent lives by the millions, or the Jihadist imp eager to kill himself while destroying innocent lives in more modest numbers, when called over to the negotiation table will listen in puzzlement as the nihilist explains the deal to him: “Listen, neither one of us wants this war, right? I have here a bottle of mortal poison, but it is very intoxicating and produces long hours of euphoria and delicious psychedelic vision ending in sudden but painless death. If we both drink it together, there will be no war!”

To which the more reasonable reply is: “If you were not already destroying yourself, corrupt capitalist Great Satan swine, I would not have had the boldness to begin this war in the first place.”

But if you believe the false promise of the false ideal, you must also believe the logical and inevitable consequence of the ideal. If the source of all pain and hardship and suffering and sin in life is the belief in something, then logically the only way to obviate pain is to believe in nothing.

And the only way to reach a belief in nothing is to admit of one single unquestioned and fixed principle, as motionless as Polaris: every work of art, every news report, every word spoken in public must serve two purposes.

First, all efforts must make the good seem less good, so that people will gradually cease to believe in goodness, or pay it any respect or loyalty, or have any desire to protect it. The good must denigrated, until it is not good enough to merit being defended.

Second, all efforts must make the bad seem less bad, so that people will gradually cease to resist or oppose or object to badness, or pay it any disrespect or aversion, or have any desire to avoid it. The bad must be elevated, until it is no longer bad enough to merit being attacked.

It is a simple rule. Whatever is good must be desecrated and vulgarized, accused and splattered with slime, so that it no longer seems so good. Whatever is bad must be excused, apologized for, forgiven, shined, polished, applauded, rewarded and encouraged, so that it no longer seems so bad.

I challenge anyone to come up with a clearer explanation for the affection of the modern opinion-makers for the wretched theocratic homophobic misogynistic brutes sending terrorists to blow up Jewish schoolchildren, and yet at the same time the same opinion-makers praise and adore gay marriage and feminist madwomen and godless Communism. The groups that the modern nihilists adore and support have nothing in common with each other, aside from the fact that they are evil.

So there is the answer to the deepest level of the puzzle.

The foundational metaphysical axiom of our society is nihilism, the belief that there is no truth.  (Belief? Rather, the slogan that there is no truth. I cannot call it a belief, since no one honestly believes it.)

From this axiom only one conclusion, or, rather, only one emotional reflex (it is not a conclusion) is possible: war and conflict and all the ills escaped from Pandora’s Box, all the evils which erupted from digesting the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil come from the evil of discrimination, the ability to distinguish between good and evil.

To eliminate all wars, we need only eliminate the ability to distinguish between good and evil.

To eliminate the ability to distinguish between good and evil, we must elevate whatever is evil, make it seem not so bad after all, and denigrate the good, make it seem not so good as all that.

As I said above, no man believes in nothing. Those who say they believe in nothing are trying desperately not to believe in an objective and absolute truth. They do not want to believe in God because they think that such a Supreme Being would interfere with their own supremacy, and might damage their self esteem, or fling them into the lake of fire. They are also trying just as desperately to believe in something they cannot name.

I will name it. They believe in the salvific power of cowardice. They believe that if you are just craven enough not to fight for anything, no ideals, no flag, neither the ashes of your fathers nor the temples of your gods, then your life will be lazy, fat, and happy.

So what is to be done with heroes and villains in a society where this is the foundational and fundamental belief?

Truly superhuman heroes must be made to seem human, and even they must kill or be killed just like we mortals. Truly impressive and frightening agents of divine vengeance must be made to seem not so frightening and certainly not so divine. Even they make mistakes, beat up and get beaten up by  girls. All this is done in the name of drama and realism.

And villains become figures of amusing fun, and even they settle down, adopt cute orphans, get married, and give their children a Mom, just in exactly the same way a story loyal to the modern ideals would never show a hero doing. All this is done in the name of comedy and melodrama.

He can do it, because he is a villain, and for a despicable man to live up to the ideals of modern suburban America is still heartwarming.

But to show George Bailey, an average man living a life of quiet desperation, or even showing Audie Murphy, a hero, living up to the ideals of hearth and home and wife and family, that would be a story sharply out of step with the modern ideal. As would a story where a hero refused to kill; as would a story where a hero refused for honest and admirable reasons to fight a woman.

And as for a story where a woman falls in love with a man stronger and more powerful than herself, well, that sort of thing is allowed only if the man is a vampire.