AN EMPIRE OF ONE

If you don't think the world's weird, you're not paying attention.

Survival Is Not Enough

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Indiana Jones escapes death

Why do so many people enjoy using up chunks of their own life watching imaginary characters escape from death? Look at it this way: all the time spent watching films such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark = x amount of lives, and we all know that the value of x, whatever it is, is very large. Suppose we are talking about just Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and Raiders. That’s roughly 4 hours total. And let’s say that together they’ve been watched a billion times. A billion times four hours is roughly 456,621 years. Let’s say the average life span is 70 years. That’s 6523 lives. These lives have been lost watching shadows on a cinema wall escape death, but meanwhile the spectator comes closer to death. And that’s just for two films.

For what it’s worth department:

There’s a scene similar to the above boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth:

The emphasis on survival at all costs is, of course, not limited to Hollywood films. There is a view which counts being alive no matter what as the ultimate measure of the goodness of a society. Those who hold this view use population numbers to prove that one society is better than another. The more people there are who are alive, the better that society. (An example of this thinking is the recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker which argues that violence, mostly death by violence, has declined in our times relative to earlier times.)

However, doesn’t it make more sense to ask how many people are able to achieve their full potential in a given society?   The hierarchical nature of practically every society in history, including our own, means that the vast majority of people who are at the bottom levels of society can never truly fulfill their potential because  in a hierarchical society there are far fewer positions at the top of society than at the bottom. This means that the hierarchical society cuts off far more lives than even the most violent society. And with more people alive today than ever before, there are more lives than ever before that are being squashed under the hierarchical pyramid of our civilization.

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Written by David Kilmer

September 15, 2011 at 10:15 am

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