Saturday, February 14, 2009

Protection and Destruction

The line between the two is incredibly thin. All too often, the effort to protect something requires that something else be destroyed. This is most obviously seen in war, when armies do battle. Usually with both sides claiming justice; all claiming that their goal is to protect. And all the while, more destruction rains down. Sometimes, it reaches even what’s being protected; the old joke “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” is a classic for a reason.

But then, where can the line be drawn? Just yesterday, I watched the eleventh Pokémon movie, Giratina and the Sky Warrior. (It’s on again tomorrow, February 15th, at 1900 hours. Although I will spoil a good deal of the plot, so if you want to watch it, I’d read this after you do so.) And interestingly enough, the story of a reversed world and its role had plenty to say about the line between destruction and protection.

The villain of this tale was a man named Zero. Who knows why someone would actually be called by that name, but whatever. And his goal was to take control of the Reverse World by basically taking power from the Reverse World’s sole inhabitant, Giratina. Sacrificing that legendary Pokémon in the process, of course.

But he of course had his noble motives. You see, the fight between Dialga and Palkia from the tenth movie (I didn’t know the Pokémon movies had this much continuity…) had put strain on space-time, and the Reverse World was relieving this strain. The results of this process were fairly severely polluting the Reverse World. And Zero billed himself as its defender, working to prevent the real world from polluting the Reverse World any further.

The strain is visible. Protection, or destruction? Or both? For Zero’s plan, a fairly major amount of destruction was called for. To protect the Reverse World, the real world would have to be destroyed. To even get there with the power to do anything, Giratina would have to be destroyed. In this specific case, it’s fairly obvious where Zero falls. In actually watching the movie, the sheer madness is obvious more than any desire to protect.

Likewise, the heroes are also fairly apparent. But still, the line between protection and destruction exists. By trying to stop Zero’s efforts, Ash and his friends (along with the titular Sky Warrior, Shaymin) were basically saying that the pollution of the Reverse World was acceptable. Along with, of course, doing indescribable amounts of damage to Zero’s Pokémon and assorted gadgetry.

So why is it that the destruction endorsed by the heroes is acceptable while the destruction of the villain isn’t? What is it about their actions that makes them better than Zero? There are a number of answers to that question.

Some philosophies dictate that the massive amount of destruction that Zero would have caused versus the smaller amounts that the heroes caused in the end justify their actions. That purely weighing the different sides of the balance show how Zero’s actions were worth stopping. Likewise, Zero was protecting an abandoned world in which only he would live while the heroes protected the real world and all of its people. That’s a perfectly valid answer to that question.

Personally, though, I prefer the one rooted in intent. Zero’s intent wasn’t really to protect. Sure, he tried to claim that he was protecting the Reverse World. And it’s certainly even true that his actions would have stopped the pollution of the Reverse World. But that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to forcibly take power from Giratina, killing it in the process. He wanted to rule over the Reverse World and destroy the real one. He wanted to destroy.

While the heroes? The heroes at all points were protecting something. Ash and his friends spent much of the movie trying to protect Shaymin, or at least accompanying it when it didn’t really need protection. They put no small amount of effort into protecting the real world, of course. Even more, they knew that it was sadly the natural order of things for the Reverse World to react as it did to the strain on space-time. It can even be said that they were trying to protect the natural order of things. They wanted to protect.

And when Giratina was at Zero’s mercy, Ash, Dawn, Brock, and Shaymin put no small amount of effort into protecting it: a legendary Pokémon that they had actually fought earlier in the movie; one that certainly had no real desire to help them at the time. Shaymin had been terrified of Giratina earlier in the movie; now, Shaymin nearly exhausted itself helping Giratina.

Intent and the will to carry it out can change the future. As such, intent must be where morality is rooted. There are those with the desire to destroy. They can claim that they’re protecting something: Hitler can say that he was protecting the German people; Zero can argue that he was protecting the Reverse World. But intent is what matters: Hitler wanted to rule the European world, Zero wanted to rule the Reverse World.

And if the heroes have to engage in destruction to stop them, then so be it. If the Allied Nations have to engage in World War II to protect the free world; if Ash and Shaymin have to accept the pollution of the Reverse World, then so be it. The line is indeed thin between destruction and protection. And in so many cases, both will be seen at once.

But it can be determined who is in the right. Destruction may be all too common, on all sides of a conflict. And in many of those conflicts, the intent of each side is paramount. Whether to claim protection in order to destroy, or carry out destruction in order to protect… I know which side I fall on. I will make no excuses. I will destroy if I must. But I will do no more than I must, and I will remember why I act in that way.

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