Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oppression is oppression

Went to see the movie The Golden Compass with one of my daughters this week. Found it to be an outstanding movie and one that resonated deeply with me. I especially liked the concept of our inner beings being visible and manifest as our daemons, which can change shape while we are young and determining who are but become fixed as we reach adulthood and assume responsibility for our lives.

The central theme of The Golden Compass is the battle between those who wish to exert control and power over society (to oppress) and the desire for individual freedom and empowerment that I believe is in each of us. Naturally this struck a chord with me as this quote from Heinlein is foundational to this blog:

  • Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
My blog also has links to the writings of Heinlein and Orwell, and my profile lists Star Wars movies, the Matrix trilogy and Casablanca amongst my all time favourites: all films where the central theme is the fight against oppression and stasis control, whatever label is used to disguise its totalitarianism.

Now I had one great advantage in going to see The Golden Compass: I was totally unfamiliar with the book upon which the film is based, its author Phillip Pullman, his views or any other commentators interpretations of his views. In short, the only ideology that I viewed the movie through was mine.

Consequently, the movie to me was outstanding, excellently crafted and gripping in its story, its implications and its metaphorical meaning.

I was not influenced by what others want the movie to be (more religious/less religious, more fantasy/less fantasy, more science philosophy/less philosophy -- for every critic, group and blog wanting the movie to be more this or that, there appears to be another wanting it to be less). I was unencumbered by anyone's dogma. How poignant, that a movie so against the imposition of dogma should itself be subjected to so much dogmatic scrutiny and comment.

To me, oppression is oppression. It matters not what the Magisterium is: it is an allegory for all forms of dogma, stasis control and suppression within society. It is the entity that Orwell derided, Heinlein sought to replace, the Republic of Star Wars and the false world of the Matrix.

In each and every successful Christmas movie, the greedy, the oppressive, the venal in life are overcome and vanquished by the capacity for love, compassion and freedom of the individual. A movie like A Wonderful Life endures because of its message of hope, its belief in the capacity of the individual and our desire to realize those values in ourselves.

The Golden Compass is the latest movie to address these most basic of human themes:

  • What values should define our lives?
  • What is the purpose of education if it is confined by prescribed, stasis limits and dogma?
  • Why do elites feel they somehow have some divine right to dictate to others how they should live?
  • Why do stasists obviate themselves from the strictures they impose on others?
  • Why do ideas frighten stasists?
  • Why is the unknown cast as evil, other than to frighten people into the confines of stasis control?
  • Why do we not teach the unknown as wonderous, magical and an adventure waiting discovery?
Dogma is the hand-servant of oppression. The purveyors of dogma hide their intellectual deceit behind a pious wall of protestations about welfare and the public interest. What they are really stating is their own fears and inadequacies prevent them from contemplating anything that is not preordained by their dogma. The whole concept of a metaphor eludes them, as does real learning. To learn you must be willing to grow and embrace the construct that there is much we do not know: an anathema for any theocracy, whatever deity is worshiped: God, money, the State, Marx, environmentalism, no matter -- oppression is oppression.

What frightens stasist forces the most is the existence of free will, free thought and free expression of individualism. It is the dust that infuses life.