philosophy

Environment Versus Technology

One of my favourite comic books of all time is Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy.

As is typical, no one is really safe in a Remender story, and no one should expect a happy ending for all (or even some).  Things do end up well for Debbie and Takara, but there’s a scar left, the mark of any good drama.

If your character at the end doesn’t have permanent changes as a result of the events leading up to the finale, you haven’t done your job.

In this case, the whole thing is an exploration of dependence, as based on nature or technology and the conflict that comes with dependence with both connecting with others, or dependence on something that allows you to shut them out.

In Debbie’s world, all is connected and natural, a joy to be celebrated.  In Teddy’s, the world is cruel and unrelenting, a reminder of insignificance and impotence, and he submerges himself into the drug of the world’s all-encompassing techno-entertainment, all at the lowest common denominator.  Debbie seeks connection at the highest levels, seeking to pull Teddy (and everyone else, eventually) up, to her level.  Her inability to do so is what causes her disappointment (and various downfalls).  It is this unwillingness to let go of her co-dependence that keeps her from moving on to do what’s right.

Teddy wants sedation at the lowest level; something to abdicate him of his responsibilities.  Debbie wants self-awareness and cooperation, and nothing but responsibility for herself and her impact on the world.

It’s this implication that makes me love the story so greatly – that reaching up, taking personal responsibility for yourself and your interactions is natural, and if we all did it, this world could be at peace.  Tuning out and letting someone else decide is weak, and only serves as a placeholder for the inevitable entropy to come.

I don’t think technology and environmental issues are particularly exclusive, though I believe we’ve given technology too much power over ourselves and our culture.  But it’s not about living as a Luddite (though I often do, despite my participation and career in technology).  I don’t see the need for every technological advance to be gobbled up and embraced like a stack of Paunchburgers at a Little Sebastien tribute in Pawnee, Indiana.

(Parks & Rec fans, represent.)

As with anything potential helpful or harmful, it’s all about how we use it.  Money isn’t necessarily evil; how we use it determines its impact on the world.  Modern media isn’t necessarily evil either.  There are plenty of smart shows to offset the lowest common denominator that we see in most programming (and reality programming, in particular).

There are shows that raise real philosophical questions, or take a hard stance on a particular subject that can make you think (or at least cheer).  Mr. Robot addresses technology in a modern democracy.  Game of Thrones plays on all kinds of themes regarding power dynamics.  Sense8 was a poem written to the power of kindness, connection and understanding.  Orphan Black is just all kinds of brilliant.

Again, it’s all in how you use it.  Debbie’s problem was never that she couldn’t live the life she wanted to live; it was that she couldn’t let go of the fact that no one else wanted to live it.  She wanted to show them a better way, but she couldn’t do it tethered to Teddy.

In the end, it takes Takara to remind her that she needs to operate on a higher plane, to do what’s right for the environment as a whole, to use the technology Davey wants to kill everyone with to save them instead.  It takes her letting Teddy go to shut it all down, to leave no other option but connection and responsibility.

To me, that’s the natural way, because in spite of all our trying, that’s the way it is.  We are all responsible for our behaviours, for who we are and what we do.  We are all responsible for the state of the world around us, and it’s up to us to step up to that higher plane, even if everyone else around us won’t.

It’s time we let our Teddy go.

 

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