I spent the evening- post-work- alternately napping and watching whatever random shows happened to be on the station that was on.
(You know the laziness quotient is pretty high when I can’t even be bothered to change the channel to find something that claims some level of interest.)
I finally dragged myself off the couch to do some work and some chores, but kept the tv on in the background.
In addition to the ongoing craziness in Egypt, debate about intervention or non-intervention in Syria, more dire news about the real state of the economy and the horrific incidents of children killing other children that seem epidemic of late, I caught a commercial for the new season of ‘Survivor’ (that show is still on? Seriously?!?).
The ad asked whether or not you, the viewer, would betray someone close (parent, sibling, partner, friend) for a million dollars (hard to type that and not hear Dr. Evil’s voice in my head- for a number of reasons), the implication being that one (or more) of the participants will certainly do just that.
How is it we are still producing/watching programming that celebrates the most base and repugnant aspects of our human nature? How is it that such things are not only encouraged but rewarded– with cash money and with ‘fame’ (or infamy- depending on perspective)?
Can someone please explain?
And can someone also shed some light on how, in a society that applauds such reinforcement of the most heinous of actions, there are people that still hold onto the belief that evil is something that is in any way external to this propensity that we humans have to show off just how very terrible we can be.
Betrayal is a motif- and polemicized sin- that recurs throughout our myths and history.
The assassination of Julius Caesar, betrayed by his (former) friends/allies due to differences of opinion regarding the ways in which Rome should be governed (specifically whether Caesar, as an individual, or the Senate, as a governing body, offered the best possibility to maintain freedom from tyranny while still upholding the power and supremacy of the Empire) on the Ides of March is a classic(al) example of political betrayal. The root of the betrayal was power- at the highest level of government- because of the misuse of that power for the betterment of the few over the best interests of the many.
According to Christian mythology, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to the Temple Sanhedrin- and ultimately the Roman authorities- for 30 pieces of silver. His name has become synonymous with betrayal- he is the archetypal traitor. Although the Gospel accounts of Luke (22.3-6) and John (13.27), blame Satan (who ‘entered into Judas’), the fact that he was paid for his crime against his friend is what makes the betrayal all the more resonant and despicable.
*N.B. Of course this is just a quick, superficial mention of an extremely complicated character and motif- one that has been interpreted and reinterpreted and used to justify the unjustifiable for thousands of years. Judas was a complex cat- but the motif of betrayal- for money- is the part of the transmission and interpretation history that is relevant for this particular discussion.
The dude most associated with betrayal in the annals of American history is Benedict Arnold- a general in the Continental Army before he switched sides to join the British. By most accounts, his decision to do so was more financially- than ideologically-driven. Regardless, he has come to epitomize treason both in the States and beyond its borders. Even us Canadians use his name as the idiomatic descriptor for a traitor.
Betrayal for money and power. Just like that which is on offer as entertainment on the new season of ‘Survivor’ (and every season past, for that matter).
There has been a lot of talk of treason- or national betrayal in the news lately.
Chelsea/Bradley Manning was recently convicted of violations of the Espionage Act after releasing restricted military documents to the public through WikiLeaks.
Edward Snowdon has likewise been charged with espionage for his leaks of information concerning mass surveillance of the public by the US government. He has variably been called a traitor, a whistle blower, a true patriot and a dissident.
The label depends on perspective- he (and others, including Jimmy Carter) certainly doesn’t think he did anything wrong and he did not want any of his colleagues to be exposed to the inevitable scrutiny when his actions came to light (which is why he made no attempts to hide his identity). His disclosures were made as a result of his concerns about the level of scrutiny and pervasive surveillance undertaken by those in (elected) power against the citizenry.
Opinions about his actions remain pretty well split down the middle. But it IS refreshing to see that people are actually expressing opinions on this matter- and on the larger issues of the governments’ use of surveillance and the right to privacy in the age of information technology- rather than ignoring the story and plodding along as if nothing is happening. Snowdon has been discussed- and parodied- in the media for months.
According to Wikipedia (or Pythia, as I prefer to call her), Rebellion ‘is a refusal of obedience or order. It may, therefore, be seen as encompassing a range of behaviours aimed at destroying or taking over the position of an established authority such as a government, political leader or person in charge. On the one hand the forms of behaviour can include non-violent methods such as the (overlapping but not quite identical) phenomena of civil disobedience, civil resistance and non-violent resistance.’
Using the wonderful metaphor of children refusing to go to sleep when they are told, Arcade Fire (some proud Canadian props for the CanCon) point out the dangers of complacency- of listening to our elders and believing the stories they tell us to get us to behave– in their 2005 song Rebellion (Lies).
There is often an extremely thin distinction between perceived betrayal and rebellion with a cause, depending on perspective. Betrayal, that unequivocally negative human tendency- employed for one’s own selfish ends, is a label that can be misapplied to those who challenge the status quo and refuse to keep to the company line in the face of injustice.
Maintaining vigilance- staying ‘awake’- as our elected leaders engage in practices that often become problematic is our right and responsibility.
Sleeping is giving in,
no matter what the time is.
Sleeping is giving in,
so lift those heavy eyelids.
People say that you’ll die
faster than without water.
But we know it’s just a lie,
scare your son, scare your daughter.
People say that your dreams
are the only things that save ya.
Come on baby in our dreams,
we can live on misbehavior.
Every time you close your eyes
We have to keep those eyes open against the lies and fear-mongering – even when doing so becomes tiresome- or personally dangerous.
Such is the price of freedom from betrayal.