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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On Mel Gibson And Evil Stories

Mel, this is God: What the hell were you thinking?

Jokes aside... I don't think being a drunk, or even a pampered celebrity drunk, is any excuse for vile bigotry. "In vino veritas," and this sure confirms any suspicions raised by that icky film THE WHIPPING OF THE CHRIST -- sorry, THE PASSION OF THE TORTURER.

(By the way, my mother -- who comes from a Catholic family and volunteers for a church charity in her retirement -- thought THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was a sick movie. I agreed: it was an exercise in sadism that completely missed the point of what Jesus preached.)

One dark truth about any sort of creative endeavor -- such as writing -- is that anger can be a driving force. Even hate.

I'll admit that some of my own books and stories were written in anger. (Anger against corruption in politics, against war, bigotry, oppression and stupidity...) Authorial fury is no guarantee of quality -- rather the opposite -- but a big psychic "push" of anger can fuel the writer and make him or her accomplish more than usual.

But what happens when the hate overwhelms the work -- or the artisan? (I don't want to use the word "artist" here because it's so loaded with pretensions.) When does the creative passion go too far and become downright pathological? Can stories hurt people?

They can.

There are books that should never have been written -- evil stories that contain evil messages and try to poison the reader with hate. Many political and religious pamphlets are of that sort. But you can also find evil in fiction -- myths masquerading as fact, stories claiming to be based on fact, stories that warp history to suit a bigoted agenda.

One particularly evil type of fiction is the "scapegoat myth":

1. Some atrocity, wrong or slight is committed against a people tagged as "good." (Not because they do good things, they just are.)

2. The "good" people quickly find that they have been wronged by representatives of another people, who are somehow, magically, a single entity -- and therefore all equally responsible for the wrong.
(This blame extends to those who have no knowledge of the deed, or were born after the wrong was done, but are related to the "guilty" people.)

3. The "good" people, having thus justified themselves, try their hardest to persecute and annihilate the "scapegoat" people.

Scapegoat myths are toxic: they have killed people throughout human history, and still do.

I'm convinced that our species has evolved from hairier and stupider primates, and that we share many of the worst traits of chimps. So I've come to suspect that "scapegoating" derives from ape behavior. Anyone who writes or tells stories that spread scapegoat myths, tries to tempt us: "Don't think. Just find the weaker opponent, kill him and take his females. Your might is your right."

Deep down, the bigot who spouts myths about "evil peoples" longs to cast off his humanity and become an ape -- a murderous, unrepentant primate. Do not listen to his stories. Do not read them. They are evil.
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ADDENDUM: Denis Leary sings the "Mel Gibson Blues" (Caution: explicit lyrics, but this is humor, satire... don't listen if you don't understand satire.)

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