James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, November 06, 2005

On TV

One program I watch regularly, mainly because I like the cast and the puzzles, is Numb3rs which airs Friday on CBS. It's about an FBI agent and his genius math professor brother who moonlights as an FBI consultant. Me watching this show contradicts my belief that the FBI should be abolished. My excuse is that at least the agents in this show go after actual violent criminals.

If you don't watch it regularly yourself, I'm not suggesting you should start if you're doing something productive with your life in that time slot. But the episode that premiered Nov 4, and which began with a terrorist attack on a subway, has some healthy Homeland Security-bashing and even a little anti-war sentiment. In a few months, if you notice that this episode is going to be re-aired, perhaps you will recall that somebody somewhere (me, but you might not remember that) recommended it.

Speaking of TV, I also follow Lost. I was once asked by a bright teenage girl who's never seen it how the 40-some survivors governed themselves. I said it was pretty much natural - the people generally deferred to the one who, in his abilities and character, was a natural though reluctant leader. And his clique were those who from the start took the initiative to help him out, or who took initiative on their own. But there is no "government." It is anarchy on the island, but not chaos; everything is done voluntarily.

But somehow, no one is inclined to kill, rape, or steal from each other. The very few who even seem to be "bad apples" (and are, to a degree) are ostracized from the start. Is this a realistic portrayal of the human condition? Put yourself into the situation of surviving a plane crash with forty other survivors on a tropical island. Would YOU be inclined to harm the other survivors in any way? Or would you cooperate with them to solve common problems?

That isn't a question of whether human beings are "sinful", or even "evil." The question is, are most humans psychopaths inclined to violence? The more you are convinced that they are, the more likely you are to use violence as a first resort - to become a psychopath - yourself.

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