Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dragon Ball Z as it Parallels to America

Sometimes when I write what I consider to be a really good article I never truly stop thinking about it, even years later after I've published it. My best and most careful writing is in veins of thoughts I revisit on a regular basis. Why I Like Dragon Ball Z is one of those articles. After having published it I continued making more philosophical identifications about this series, which has continually increased my admiration for it. For instance, I've realized that every major villain in the series has extreme self-esteem issues. Frieza pursues immortality because he's afraid someone will best his great strength and kill him; Cell actually attempts suicide when he gets hopeless about his abilities; Majin Buu wails and screams like a child whenever he has difficulty beating someone. I could go on and construct a large list if I sat down to do it.

Succinctly, the reason why I like the series so much is because it presents heroes that are actually worth admiring and displays the good as immensely more powerful than evil. There may be lots of mysticism involved, but this view of the nature of good and evil is enough to hook me as it has. What I've recently realized is that the three separate parts of the series actually deal with different relationships between good and evil, and furthermore those relationships actually parallel with America's own happenings quite uniquely, and gives a good metaphor as to where America is right now culturally. Of course, as I cite those parallels I'll explain the series for those lacking in background information.

The first part of the series deals with the heroes fighting a powerful alien from space, a dictator and leader of an army. Here the relationship of the two sides of ethics is that of strength; that is, how strong each is in comparison to the other. The reason why the heroes had a hard time defeating the alien, Frieza, is simply because they weren't as strong as him, allowing him to kill and commit genocide with little challenge. However, after becoming morally outraged at the murder of his best friend, the main hero, Goku, unlocks a state of hidden strength called super Saiyan mode, which made him so powerful that Frieza was about as strong as a child to him thereafter. Any further obstacle and challenge from there was imposed by Goku himself. He could have easily killed Frieza within moments of achieving that state, but through innocent error he believed in the notion of mercy and that Frieza could redeem himself, so he chose to stay on a planet about to explode because he wanted to punish and shame Frieza.

I'm not very sharp on history, but this makes me think of the American Revolution. During the time in which the yet-to-be-established United States was trying to break from monarchy, it had the philosophical premises to challenge its suffocating dictatorship, so it was only a matter of physical might to gain independence. It was probably a tough battle, just like the Goku's against Frieza, but eventually we triumphed and developed ourselves into the most powerful nation in the world, the political equivalent of a super Saiyan. Now physically the U.S. is virtually undefeatable: If we waged all-out war on another dictatorship like Iran, they'd be annihilated like Frieza was by the super Saiyan hero.

In the third part of the series -- I'm saving the second part analysis for a little later -- the main villain was a mystical genie name Majin Buu who was a demented monster who destroyed and killed for its own sake. It's weird of think of it this way, but Buu was never really much of a threat to the heroes. Instead, it's the heroes' own intellectual errors that allowed him to *actually* develop into a threat, whereas proper thinking early on could have stopped him before he did anything considerably bad. Here the relationship changed into that of the good doubting the potency of true evil, believing itself to be so strong as to not be concerned about it. Buu was pure evil and devastatingly strong, and the heroes were right in believing themselves strong enough to handle him without a sweat, but through their intellectual errors they allowed him to become dangerous. Goku could have defeated Buu when he first confronted him, but he held back his strength and eventually abandoned the battle since he wanted the other heroes to have a shot at him. This lead to Buu eventually splitting into good and evil halves, and the evil half absorbing the good (magically) to make himself even stronger than the original. Goku's son, Gohan, had his own inner strength unlocked and was able to flick around this new Buu as punishment for all his crimes, but since he abstained from immediately destroying him Buu absorbed three other heroes which allowed him to best Gohan's strength and gain the upper hand again. Goku tried to solve the problem by attempting to fuse with his son, but Buu got weaker since two of the heroes he absorbed weakened him within a half hour. (They were fused, and the fusion wore off.) Goku then decided not to fuse, again viewing Buu as a null threat . . . which allowed him to absorb Gohan and become even stronger. Ridiculous, isn't it? Well, Goku then managed to fuse with another hero, Vegeta, to become a fused being call Vegeto, which allowed him to once again flick this Super Buu around like a piece of lint. Rather than dispatching him -- yep, again -- he decided to be absorbed by the monster to rescue his absorbed friends, which caused the fusion to be nullified. Vegeta then decides to destroy the earring which they need to fuse, thereby preventing them from fusing ever again. After rescuing their friends they pull out an essential person -- the good Buu first absorbed -- which causes Super Buu to retrogress back into his original and most dangerous form, Kid Buu. Kid Buu blows up the planet and forced the heroes into hiding. Once again they're given the means to fuse and effortlessly defeat Buu, but they destroy the earrings again, thereby artificially boosting the difficulty of the situation and making it so they only defeat Buu by the skin of their teeth.

If they had just taken things more seriously, then Goku could have stopped Buu at their first confrontation, but continuous overconfidence and amusement in the situation held everyone back from taking the right steps. They had all the strength and power they needed right from the beginning: They just didn't take the situation seriously enough to employ it, which is what led to things getting so bad, right up to the human race becoming nearly extinct and earth getting exploded.

In parallel to America, I view this as the insidious process by which bad philosophy took over the culture after the United States was born. Most Americans, I think, doubted the power of evil to the point that they didn't take bad ideas seriously or at least didn't really believe their logical conclusions, such as how even minor government involvement in the economy can lead to the acceptance of statist principles, making a full-blown dictatorship possible down the road. Evil is weak for sure, but it can't be ignored or brushed aside if it's to be defeated. I think this is what Americans did out of naivete, which led to bad ideas making more headway into the philosophical soul of the nation and bringing us to today's point of near dictatorship and economic collapse. If every bad idea were taken on with full intellectual force, then maybe we'd be a dozen times better off and in a fully free society. Soul-wise, America has super Saiyan strength, as mentioned in the Frieza section, but it wasn't used to its fullest extent against evil as it could have been, whether at war or in the minds of men, and now we're in this totally unavoidable and unnecessary crisis.

The second part of the series I think is most relevant to how America is today. In this part, an android reminiscent of a parasitical insect absorbs people and two other powerful androids (by the means of his tail, not magic) in order to reach his most "perfect" form; that is, of the most powerful and nearly indestructible being in the universe. He's the ultimate Peter Keating in that he's trying to pursue "greatness" by genetically stealing other people's strength, abilities, knowledge, and techniques without cultivating them on his own, and his aim beyond that is to kill everything he views as lesser than him. The heroes, like with Frieza, were enormously weaker than the villain at start, but with special training they once again achieved more than enough strength to render him a nearly null threat. But unlike with Buu, the main obstacle was not that they didn't take him seriously; rather, there were moral obstacles towards defeating him. At this point Gohan was the one to defeat the android, but he thought that using his full strength would lead to him losing control and destroying all that he valued. In battle he could have defeated the android rather promptly, but his moral conflict led to him taking a near pacifist-like stance. In response the android taunted and teased him, and even tried torturing him psychologically by producing smaller androids to try and kill Gohan's friends and family. It wasn't until Gohan gained moral strength and self-confidence that he used his full power, and in doing so he beat the android like a puny thug and killed him by incinerating him into ashes. The android became so distraught at one point that he tried to commit suicide by turning into a bomb.

I view this as the state of America today, and the parallels are uncanny. Politically and morally we have all the strength we need in order to triumph. We could heal our economic problems very quickly, though with lots of discomfort, if we recognized the morality and power of real capitalism (not mixed economies), and started employing it. Our foreign enemies wouldn't be a problem since our most dangerous ones happen to be the most dilapidated in structure from the nationwide poverty statism causes, so if we used the full strength of our army things would be taken control of in a hurry.  And if we recognized proper and objective law, and started enforcing it rigorously and meticulously, then criminals would plummet in number and be castrated in their abilities. Intellectually, we have everything we need to start employing this within our lifetime, except for one thing: A proper code of morality and moral confidence in it. America could succeed and be great once more . . . but Americans are stuck in intellectual conflicts that leave them desiring one end, such as economic progress and foreign safety, while at the same time they're holding onto a morality which prevents that from being achieved, such as altruism and foreign appeasement. Gohan was not entirely consistent in his refusal to fight that android: He recognized that it needed to be defeated, but he was morally resistant to employing the proper means of achieving that. It's the same with America too: We know what ends we want and what means will get us there, but have moral resistance against actually putting those means into action.

The parallel is uncanny on multiple levels. Gohan is metaphorical in that his super Saiyan strength is representative of America's power and greatness, and his internal conflicts match that of America's contradicting ethical premises. The android can be considered a representation of -- who else? -- Barack Obama! They're both second-handed: The android is trying to hinge his greatness on stolen abilities and strength, while Obama is obsessively concerned with how people perceive him and is viewed as great only because other people have touted him as such, not because he has authentic accomplishments. (For instance, I've read he sat on the board as an editor for a Harvard paper, but never actually made a contribution. Also, I've read that during his time in Senate he was very politically inactive, instead known for only documenting that he attended the meetings.) To elaborate, even their attitudes match: The android was smug and cocky in his behavior during his destruction, the same that has been observed of Obama's temperament during significant political periods, such as the passing of Obamacare.

Like the super Saiyan Gohan did with the android, we have all the strength and knowledge we need to repudiate Obama's statist nature, vote him out in 2012, and start getting on the right track, but those moral hangups are stopping us. It's uncertain whether or when we'll triumph, and right now we at least have the satisfaction that essential issues are being brought into discussion and argued about, rather than having the nation go down the statist path without protest. And who knows, maybe once the tide turns -- once we reach that tipping point in philosophical change -- we'll flourish as dramatically as the super Saiyan strength overwhelms any evil power. Perhaps once enough Americans are on the good side of philosophy changes will be made dramatically and rapidly, rendering the statists impotent in action and arguments. It's taken statists and collectivists about two hundred years to bring us philosophically and materialistically where we are today; with full moral endorsement and confidence we can perhaps undo most of their work in two decades. Will we do it? I don't know, but I'm hopeful and optimistic, though know the battle yet still needs to be fought. Given the battle over the debt right now that tipping point may be coming in a few short months, I speculate.

Revisiting the third part of the series, we also can learn that even if good triumphs over evil our work still isn't done. As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." After winning we'd have to keep propounding our philosophical ideas and challenging bad ones, lest they make headway and eventually take over again. A quote by Ayn Rand: "The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow."

Here's to hoping the super Saiyan strength of the nation shines through in time.

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