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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Saturday Morning Villainry

If you were born when I was born, and watched as many cartoons as I did, then you are probably well acquainted with villainry of a specific sort.

Cast your eyes over this little bevvy of bastards (original artwork here: )

We all know who THESE folks are, surely.

The maniacal Megatron, leader of the Decepticons. Mumm-Ra the Ever Living, sworn enemy of the Thundercats. Skeletor, perpetual thorn in Eternia's side. Cobra Commander, GI Joe's constant nemesis. Shredder, leader of the Foot Clan, whom the Turtles battle at every turn.

All indisputable bad guys of the most epic quality. All, as Don John from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing would put it, "Plain Dealing Villains". You know what they are about the moment you clap eyes on them.

They were so ridiculous, weren't they?

I mean as we all grow up and become adults we know that no villain looks like this. Nobody deliberately bedecks themselves with the trappings of mwahaha evil and does what these people do. I mean some of their truly most incredible plans include erecting a pyramid of blackness around the earth to block out the sun, unleashing a mostly uncontrollable iron titan to raze Eternia to the ground, and Megatron's biggest and weirdest plans are just erratic in the extreme. Hypnotising twenty-somethings in nightclubs for unknown reasons, convincing the world that the Autobots are evil by very dubious means (THIS ACTUALLY WORKED), and drilling to the core of the planet are all means by which the gladiator from Kaon thought he could secure victory.

They aren't the only crooks, obviously. I mean just name a cartoon. Captain Planet fought a whole host of bad guys who randomly polluted things as if that would benefit them in any way. I mean some of them weren't even making any money. They were just deliberately fucking up the rainforest for no apparent reason. Doc Terror and Hacker from Centurions were similar - they just acted douchey as if that would get them more likes on Instagram.

But then we all grew up. We started looking for nuanced antagonists. Sometimes, we found them. If we look at Alien we find a dual antagonist - the instinct-driven inhuman xenomorph, incapable of good or bad, simply doing that which it does, and the faceless corporation so determined to exploit aforementioned xenomorph that it is willing to give up the lives of its employees to secure the dangerous creature for profitable ends.

We started seeing bad guys in the regular world, with motives that were understandable that we could almost sympathise with (and in a few places, actually could sympathise with totally). We found Roy Batty and his quest for more life; we found the competing forces of nature and industry; we found antagonists of every stripe, some more like us than we liked, some more like those four-colour bad guys that we had grown up with. A whole spectrum of supervillains.

We start seeing them in real life, too. We see the faces of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ed Gein, Charles Manson. We realise that evil still lives, still exists in the world beyond the cartoons that we watched with our cereal on a Saturday morning. We realise that the antics of Megatron - a huge, mighty, despicable tyrant - are still more bearable and tolerable than those of, say, Luis Garavito. (If you don't know who he is - look him up - his nickname is La Bestia.)

...and then we have the current leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Now every time I see the Cheeto holding up a piece of paper, another executive order, another bill, I get nervous. Because the first few made you think - well sure, it can't keep up this pace the entire time he's in power, can it? He can't keep signing these bills, which are clearly pretty shit for most of the population. Like every single thing this guy does seems to be something that Cobra Commander would do if he was in charge. Every single thing.

A selection of those bills that have been signed include trashing the Affordable Care Act (yes, he literally got rid of affordable healthcare, it means what it sounds like), promising to build the big fucking wall that won't stop drugs or people entering the US, making women's lives harder the entire world over, send federal authorities into every city that don't do what he says, fuck with the lives of immigrants from the Middle East (but not those countries he has business or military deals with), and force through pipelines that are mostly (if not universally) considered a bad idea.

Meanwhile, the Wicked Witch of Westminster is engaging in similar shennanigans, promising a trashing of trade deals and making vague threats of engineering better ones (usually with people like the Cheeto), cutting funds to objectively good things (The NHS and renewable energy), promising to spend billions on nuclear weapons that don't work, and indicating a willingness to deploy troops we can't afford to properly equip into countries we won't accept innocent refugees from.

...see, that's not evil like real world evil. That's not subtle. That's not the kind of thing a taut drama is written about, like Frost/Nixon or like the extra-judiciary murders conducted by Mossad in Munich.

This is Saturday Morning Evil.

How do we fight this? We aren't Optimus Prime, we aren't Lion-O or He-Man or G.I. Joe or the Turtles. If we show up and just kick people's asses, we are the ones who go to jail - or worse, get shouted down by well-meaning people on our side (just look at the response to the neo-Nazi chappy getting punched or how people felt about Shia LeBoeuf not turning the other cheek to another alt-right Nazi prick).

It's had to believe that people actually voted for this.

...well most people didn't, it does bear mention. Just less than 20% of the population of the United States voted for the Cheeto. Just over 17% of the population of the UK voted for the Tory party, who then changed out their leader for the Wicked Witch of Westminster without public consultation or similar.

I don't think that one in five counts as a mandate.

So what do we do about it? As Theoden says in The Two Towers: "What can men do against such reckless hate?"

...well I have to be honest, I am not strictly sure. But we have to make sure this shit doesn't happen again. I've often spoken out about resisting these bastards. Now it seems those words have come home to roost. Enough people have started to realise that this right-wing fuck-em-all approach is just going to get innocent people hurt and killed. If they haven't realised this, then they haven't been paying attention.

I've been experiencing fatigue in this department. There is only so often you can preach what you think is common sense, that you can tie the facts together to come up with a course of action or a method of resistance, and have little to show for it. Almost all the people who read my blog either agree with my particular line of thinking or just don't care very much - and I have no idea how to get my ideas TO the people that matter, TO the people who can be convinced by argument. Because I have faith that there are people that vote Tory, there are people that vote Republican, who are at their heart good people that are making a bad choice.

Everyone makes a bad decision, sometimes - none of us can look back at our lives and claim a golden streak - but some of those decisions only result in personal misery. Some of them compound with a great many other bad decisions.

And those decisions sometimes lead to these two cartoon villains being in charge of previously proud nations.

This sounds like a generalisation. It probably comes across as one. I know, love, value and respect people who don't vote like me, and don't think like me. We can still get on if we don't see eye to eye on this topic. And I don't think that everyone that wears a Labour badge is a saint, or that every Democrat is in it to help the world. It just so happens that the current antagonists of this season of Human Life are, well...jesus. They're like poster children for the worst of the worst.

But what can I do?

I can keep talking. I can keep up the facts and the thinking. Because giving up doesn't help anyone. And if there's any one thing that being ill for this long has taught me, it is that victory isn't always something that happens in a single action. Sometimes, victory takes weeks, months and years. Sometimes it isn't about knowing what to do in this moment...Sometimes it is about doing the right thing for as long as it takes, and staying standing until you can't - or until you win.

That's the lesson to take from Saturday morning. The fight always continues, but the good guys can't afford to give up. So they just don't. They fight, until the fight is over.

So let's do that.

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