Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Weapons of the Righteous

It’s one of the more interesting things that the characters in Tales of Symphonia say, for an end-of-battle quote anyway. Most of the time, one of the four in the party, the one that dealt the finishing blow, will spout off some quick taunt to the now-dead foes. However, sometimes you get a combination quote out of the party. And when Colette, Genis, and Kratos are in the party, one of those quotes that has managed to stick in my mind is, “Our weapons are love!” “Justice! And-” “-hope.” (Colette, Genis, and Kratos, respectively.)

It bears thinking on. Obviously, no small amount of video games have a war between good and evil, between the righteous and the wicked. In fact, it’s common in all fiction. And I fully believe that those offhand remarks are also completely accurate. There are some qualities, some attributes, that are essential to a righteous cause if it is to be completely successful. Those qualities are what define such a cause; they’re what set the righteous apart from the evil.

And in the fantasy worlds of Dungeons and Dragons, Tales of Symphonia, Shannara… the list goes on. In a story of high fantasy where the righteous heroes are out to save the world, you’ll be able to find those qualities in the adventure somewhere. Yet are they applicable to our own world? Can it be said that the weapons of the righteous are as necessary here as they are in high fantasy?

I do think, for those good causes that people look up to, that the most important weapons are going to be love, justice, and hope. And I think that those causes, from governments to religious organizations, need to remember that an openly militant stance won’t always be an effective weapon. As counterproductive as it may seem, sometimes the most effective weapons are those that do no damage; that are worthless in killing and incapacitating enemies. After all, it’s only with such a weapon that an enemy can be permanently defeated.

At first glance, that statement seems easily contradicted. After all, the Second World War didn’t end with love, it ended with Soviet tanks in Berlin. It seems at first glance that military power has ended most conflicts, not ephemeral concepts like love, justice, and hope. This is only the case, though, if you consider the end of a war to be the end of the respective threat, which it rarely is. That concept is even more visible in the terrorist threats of the modern day, who have no capitals and have so far evaded all efforts to crush them with military force alone.

If we’re going to take the righteous high road of virtue and morality, or claim that we’re better than they are, we can’t simply attempt to eradicate all opposition with sheer firepower. If a righteous cause desires victory over those it considers wrong or evil, the only way to do so is to deploy those weapons unique to such a cause.

The word love usually conjures ideas of true love, boyfriends and girlfriends, and the old fantasy stories of a prince and a princess. But there are more kinds of love than that. There is also the tolerance to accept other people as they are, or the empathy to care about and understand any and all fellow members of the human race. Both applied even to an enemy, even to one who would see you dead. It is those kinds of love that find a place as weapons to defeat such enemies.

Those two forces combined are a powerful weapon, one that has an even greater effect than a weapon that actually does damage. While killing an enemy removes a threat, deploying tolerance and empathy can, under the right circumstances, turn an enemy into an ally. A force that shows such traits, that uses love as its weapon, will gain respect and admiration from all corners. Its allies will respect its capacity for kindness, and be all the more willing to assist; the individuals opposing it will know that they would not be ostracized if they were to switch sides.

Likewise, a “righteous” force that shows no hint of love will find its path to be all the harder. A lack of tolerance or empathy will seem insular and unwelcoming. Allies will dislike helping a force that has no tolerance for any of their unique views, and enemies will fight to the death, knowing that no quarter will be given even if they want to defect. Possibly most damning, the youngest generation will look at that force and see a hostile, unwelcoming presence. This only continues a cycle of death and destruction.

Justice is often a word used to label a righteous cause, but it is also a weapon of such a cause nevertheless. Although the exact definition of justice can at times be debated, one way to define it as a weapon is to call it respect for and adherence to a consistent code of laws. Or in other words, being consistent and open in the way that people are treated is important to a righteous cause.

Such a cause that puts a high value on justice, and treats even its enemy in a fair and consistent manner, will also gain respect and admiration from those around it. Especially if its opponents have no regard for common decency, allies can look to the righteous cause and see even and fair treatment of all. This emphasizes the need to defeat the opposing forces and helps a righteous cause gain widespread support. And as no one person or group can fight alone, such support is very important.

The contrast is a “righteous” cause that disregards justice in some form. A cause that does so, perhaps by applying a different standard to the enemy, will be viewed as having the same flaws of the cause that it is opposing. A cause that denounces a certain practice while engaging in that practice itself will be seen as hypocritical. In either case, the youngest generation will rightly question how righteous such a cause is.

The last and possibly most important weapon is hope. Technically, hope is not a weapon to be used on an enemy, unlike justice or love. It is, however, a weapon that backs up the efforts of all of the people fighting in a given cause’s name. It is the weapon that gives people the strength and the will to take up a cause in the first place. Hope, the belief that a cause will succeed in its goals, enables a person to fight to bring about those goals.

If a cause fails to provide hope, no one will be able to fight, either with conventional weapons or with love and justice. Without someone to say that victory is possible, or with a belief that victory cannot be found, no one will stand up and try to bring about what is right. A group that says, “Yes, we can” will find widespread support from many different corners; a group that says, “No, we can’t” will never even exist.

Love. Justice. Hope. An offhand comment, yes, but one that so clearly demonstrates what is important to the truly righteous of both this world and any other.


Mr. Mud said...

No more posts Counter? D=

Counterpower said...

Don't worry, give it a few days and you'll see.