Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Modern Heroes

Our family finally watched the finale of Breaking Bad. Then we moved on to Sherlock Holmes. It seems our culture keeps cranking our very similar heroes. Guys who are absolute geniuses. Not just smart but so smart there just isn't even anyone close to them. Gregory House is so much smarter than any other doctor that he routinely calls them idiots and nobody denies it even behind his back. Jack Bauer often disagrees with the decision-makers at CTU. He is always right. They are always wrong. He knows it to. Walter White is way smarter than all other chemists. Sherlock Holmes makes all the detectives look like fools. It comes back over and over again.

Theses heroes are also rule-breakers. They break moral rules and they break the law of the land. They are not above rules but it seems to us like they should be. They live by consequentialism. That is that if something will have good consequences that makes it good even if the act would normally be viewed as evil. Now one of consequentialism's big problems is it assumes we are smart enough and unbiased enough to predict what will happen.  So it makes sense that our heroes would be free from this. They are smart enough and cold enough to analyze the data rationally

This brings up another thing these heroes have in common. They are all socially inept. They suppress their feelings. They don't suppress their pride. They insult people frequently. Not jokingly ribbing someone but seriously questioning their competence. Jack Bauer is a bit of an exception here. He has family issues and drug issues and authority issues but he is different. He is more sympathetic while the others are offensive.

On the positive side they are all decisive. They are not afraid to take risks for what they feel is right. The scripts do tend to push them into places where they can't  remain as cold as they would like. There is a sense that we like to see these emotionless men crack and show a sensitive side. We tend to have faith that it is there despite all the evidence.

So is this who we want to be? Is this the ideal man in today's society? It is pretty sad if it is. Sad for men because it seems the only virtue that matters is one we can't control and that is our intellect. Most of us are just not way smarter than everyone else in our field. Yet if we were would we want to dispense with all social niceties and moral principles? Are they really just compensation for our lack of intelligence?

It seems to present a false choice. Either we think or we trust. Either we embrace reason and logic or we obey the rules. That somehow you can't do both. That being a loyal employee or even a law abiding citizen is for second class people.

The truth is that smart people are more productive when they can work with other smart people. That requires they are able to take leadership from someone and work withing a larger organization. It actually does not stifle thought if it is done right.

The church has this dynamic to. Protestant pastors often have huge freedom and are unwilling or unable to take direction from anyone. They have their own church. They choose their own theological positions. Their is no meaningful reporting structure.

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