Sunday 14 May 2023

A glove puppet on a glove puppet - but who is the puppeteer, scriptwriter, director?

Last year I posted a meditation on the philosophical issues raised by glove puppet Hartley Hare's antics in the Pipkins children's TV show of the 1970s, and The Sooty Show during the 1990s. The knotty issues were further clarified by WmJas Tychonievich

These reference the question of who is morally responsible for the behaviour of a naughty glove puppet called Michael, when that puppet is being controlled by another (naughty) glove puppet called Hartley Hare? 

In the episode, Michael's behaviour was blamed on Hartley. But at a deeper level we could say that both puppets were worked by puppeteer Nigel Plaskitt - was he then responsible?

Yet Nigel the puppeteer was under the direction of a man called Michael - who told him what to do, including to be make the puppets be naughty. And Michael was following a script written by someone else; and all of these professionals were hired by a Producer; who was himself an employee of a TV company... and so on. 

In a world of puppets - who is the real Puppet Master? 

To paraphrase the archetypal Vicar's sermon: "And then I thought - life's like that!"  

Who is morally responsible for the escalating evil that happens in the world; in an ultra-complex and bureaucratic system that is specifically designed to conceal and deny responsibility? 

Because, in addition to the layers and networks of people telling other people what to do, and themselves choosing whether or not to obey such instructions; we also have voting, committee procedures, precedents, computer (or otherwise automated)-decision-making - and many other ways of denying individual responsibility, or eliminating it. 

And, for Christians, there is a further and invisible - but far more powerful - top-layer of supernatural evil Beings - Satan and the demons...

Given all this; how can we possibly discover where strategies, policies, and specific orders actually come-from? 

The answer is that we can't, even in principle - and even assuming access a breadth and depth of knowledge which we are, in practice, forbidden and blocked. 

So what then? Does this (as so many people seem to believe, get us all 'off the hook'? 

Does it mean that we are all puppets living in a puppet show; "so that" nobody is responsible for anything? 

And that the world Just Is; so, because we cannot discover the source of evil, to confront and oppose it; we "therefore" may as well give-up on futile agonizing about morality; and get on with doing the evil that apparently must be done?

We need to step-back and examine the assumptions on which such seemingly-inescapable evil expediency is based. 

We need to be able to understand that in material terms the bottom-line is that we are indeed puppets living in a puppet show - and there is no point in pretending otherwise. But it is these 'material terms' that are at the root of the paradox. 

In other words; if we restrict our analysis of the problem to the assumptions of mainstream modern materialism; then Of Course nobody is responsible for anything. 

After all; the assumption of materialism is that everything is either caused by something else or random; so it does not matter how far back we chase responsibility, we can never find it - since we have already assumed it does not exist.

Modern society delights in such toils of pseudo-complexity! Rulers use it to get themselves off-the-hook for evil policies by claiming, correctly enough - within these materialist assumptions, that they were "just obeying orders"; and that those who gave the order ought to bear responsibility... 

Only for those who gave that order to claim that they themselves were merely following orders... 

And the masses too-often delight in such arguments - because ultra-complexity seems to exempt everybody from responsibility - as if everybody is merely obeying orders and doing what has to be done; in a single, vast, interconnected closed cycle; with neither beginning nor end.  

Thus the endless chase to locate responsibility begins - until terminated by the decision to make a convenient scapegoat who is arbitrarily declared to be The One To Blame - then everyone can pretend that something valuable has been achieved. 

In this sense, the above stuff about glove puppets and bureaucracy is just a red herring, a distraction from the fact that The Problem is that we are thinking from underlying assumptions that already deny the possibility of moral responsibility.   

But understood in spiritual and Christian terms - we are all (to some significant, albeit incomplete) divine Beings,; we are children of God the Creator; and can/ must/ do actually choose to "ally or defy God". 

I mean that we can, must, and do pick sides in the war between God and evil; between divine creation and those who oppose it. 

We do not need to know where evil comes-from nor its complex interactions; only that we are, our-selves, moral Beings.

We need only recognize evil, take personal responsibility for the evil we do (whatever its ultimate cause may be), then spiritually reject that evil - and instead align ourselves with Good. 

No matter how complicated the world is (and it is, in truth, far more complicated than the largest and most bloated bureaucracies); we should not allow ourselves to become confused by it - because such confusion is itself a tool of evil.

Exactly because we inhabit a creation, made for our ultimate benefit by God our Father; whatever really matters and is necessary to our salvation and spiritual development, is always simple, and always do-able

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