What To Do Til The Essays Get Done!
Before I completely disappear into my essay-writing cocoon, I wanted to respond to this wonderful comment from Jason Kimble, a propos of Squadron Supreme:
Just a few nitpicks. I’m not sure if they’re of great detriment to your central argument or not, but having just finished the SS trade, I noticed these:
“In SS, certainly, the ‘b-mod victims’ do not suffer any actual averse effects…”
I’d suggest Lady Lark’s stalkerish infatuation was an adverse effect, but certainly it falls under the heading of “adverse” that Ape-X goes catatonic when she’s faced with a scenario in which her “programming parameters” are in direct conflict. Both scenarios point to the problem of mechanically chaining a mind: even if you discard the ethical questions, b-mod is flawed in that it forces adherence to the letter of the law without allowing for the very human (and, I’d argue, very necessary) ability to understand the intent of laws. It doesn’t just take away choice, it takes away the ability to evolve, as well (probably not an accident, then, that Gruenwald’s primary example of this is an ape).
“But no one is made to forget anything in SS–unlike in IC!–they are merely shown the ‘error of their ways’, ”
This one’s far more minor, but Nighthawk does have his people use the b-mod to make Blue Eagle forget he caught them undoing Shape’s b-modding. And oddly enough, he feels more remorse for that single act than he seems to feel at the bloodbath that his attempted coup incites. Not sure where I’d take that, but there it is.
Suffice it to say, your comments on Ape-X are very relevant to the line of argument I’m pursuing–i.e. the problems that inhere in the concept of the categorical imperative(s) itself (themselves? Kant insists there’s only one–but I can’t say I agree with him!) To wit: even if you are determined to follow the letter of the law, what happens when the “laws” (this law!) trip over each other (or “trips over itself”, which is a much crazier problem to think!)? If you were a really consistent Kantian, you’d probably go catatonic until this situation goes away–and I submit that the only the way that it could go away, within the parameters set by Squadron Supreme, is if everyone underwent the b-mod process (which would eliminate the problem of becoming an accomplice to human deception!) It’s the old socialism problem-you simply cannot have “state socialism”–it’s either the whole world, and every single person in it, or it’s just the emergence of, as Hawthorne would say, a “new state of antagonism” with the rest of the planet… But, of course, the question then becomes: what if your shiny universal code failed to account for something? (and you know it did!) Are we ever justified in making “the final decision”? Who will assume the responsibility for “ending history”? Very very heady stuff–at least as far as I’m concerned, and not as cut and dried as it sounds either…
As for the “Blue Eagle situation”, you’re right, and I do plan to discuss this, but the important thing to remember, from my perspective, is that this is an “unofficial” act of “b-modification”! It has nothing to do with the official program instituted by Hyperion, Power Princess, etc. It’s a guerrilla tactic–and Gruenwald is very careful to distinguish between the problems of “revolution from below” and “revolution from above”! Frankly, I’m more interested in the latter–precisely because the former seems inevitably bound up with maintaining the status quo (or, at least, as with a lot of colonial insurgencies–or my own beloved home province’s gestures toward “freedom”–, an imagined status quo antebellum… i.e.: “if we can just get these fuckers off our backs, we’ll be livin’ the good life again!” But what if the “good life” was the freedom to oppress others? And it was–there’s no question about that, in my mind. Not a very noble cause, I’m afraid…)
Did you notice how similar the tableau in which Blue Eagle is overcome is to the “brainwashing” incidents in Identity Crisis? And both scenes are prompted by a desire to “keep the fight honest” (i.e. the JLA don’t want to have to worry about villains picking off their loved ones–Nighthawk’s group don’t want to kill Blue Eagle, but they can’t let him go, knowing what he knows, either…); both teams of “modifiers” want the “battle between good and evil” to be “decided on the playing field”, which has to make you wonder how much they really care about ethics in the first place, right? You can’t say the same thing about the statist modifiers in SS, who certainly do make an unprecedented decision to confront the problem of evil at its source… Thus provoking the further question: will they (or should they?) take the next step and eliminate thought itself, in their quest to “moralize” the world, and, if so, what would be the consequences of this act? (basically turning human beings into “angels”…What bearing does Quagmire’s sacrifice have on this question?)
And, yeah, how about Lady Lark–! Her situation poses the Clockwork Orange problem in a far more interesting way, as far as I’m concerned (can we separate aesthetics–the search for beauty, and our need to “fall in love” with art, and each other–from ethics? or are they inextricably bound together somehow?) I’ll be thinking about it all weekend! I’ll get back to ya!
thanks for the comments!
Good night friends!