Thursday, July 25, 2013

'Context' and Motivations Part 2

My last post was more of a focus on Teyla and Michael from Stargate Atlantis. This post takes a look at the same relative story but with a focus on Ronan. While I'm posting in reverse order than the title would lead one to suppose, the Michael and 'motivations' part is needed precursor to understand the concept of Ronan. I suppose you could imagine the words being out of order conceptually but not alphabetically...

As I stated in Part 1, Michael was a wraith turned 'human' by means of a virus and it's all Ronan can do to not kill him each time they come into contact. Initially, this seems a disturbing extreme since the viewer naturally identifies with the people from Earth where we have not grown up under the horror of half our population being killed by wraith feeding. Even Teyla, who has lived under that distress, tries to overcome the natural prejudice (not fully successfully, but consider that she tried). So what's up with Ronan? Why such an extreme reaction? Hatred? Why?

As you enter season 3 of Atlantis, we are reminded of his personal story. He had served in the military trying to protect his planet from wraith depredations. They did not succeed. Rather than escape with the unscrupulous military leader, the woman he loved stayed to help in the hospital and was killed in an explosion. Then he was captured, and when they discovered some fluke meant they could not feed on him, they tagged him with a transmitter and set him loose. Whether for kicks or training or psychological warfare, they hunted the runners down (much like Zaroff hunts Rainsford in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell).

While runners did not normally survive for very long (the wraith held all advantage in the hunt) Ronan's military training allowed him to survive for seven long years before meeting the crew from Atlantis. Survival in that galaxy already required avoiding the wraith, but for him it went deeper - hunted day-in and day-out, every wraith was a fight to the death. Kill or be killed. And there was no help from the people who also feared the wraiths' revenge should he be helped. Until, that is, the Atlantis team stumbled upon him. They got the tracking beacon out of him and neutralized it and invited him to join them.

The 'brain' of the group often referred to him as the 'caveman' for his roughness and reliance on brawn, but taken in context with where and what he came from, it makes perfect sense that a man who had to live alone, fighting, hunting his hunters for survival for so long would exude certain character traits. Likewise, the instinct that allowed him to survive is precisely what is seen when he reacts so violently to Michael. There can be no moral condemnation for what created those instincts. Indeed, it is admirable that he restrained himself at all. That is not to excuse the fact that 'us verses them' mentality will always lead to conflict and potentially death, but it does give insight into the difficulties involved in bringing opposing parties to peace. (Consider Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and how hard it was for Captain Kirk to overcome his distrust and dislike of the race that killed his son - and that was only a single trauma event!)

I am reminded of an event in Mormon history that is not well known and often mis-perceived. While I have not studied up on this event, I have discussed it with a teacher who has and I think it could be enlightening. The 'Mountain Meadows Massacre' is a negative point in Mormon history that media and anti-Mormons like to exploit against us. It is not an event condoned by the church leadership, nor the general membership, and while some claim it was instigated by the Brigham Young, the leader at the time, there is not proof of that and indications otherwise. The point is not to excuse or argue the details, but rather to point out some elements for consideration.

Like Ronan, the Mormons had gone through some pretty nightmare-ish times trying to build a place of safety where they could practice their religion in peace. They would build up one city only to be driven out to find and build up again. From New York, to Ohio, to Missouri where the violence and hatred got so bad the governor issued an 'extermination order' against the Mormons to drive them out or kill them. You see, Mormons didn't support slavery and they were an industrious, religious people. At the time, Missouri was the edge of the frontier and to see good, solid houses and towns built up by a people who don't hold with the loose life-style made them feel rather insecure in their future prospects of continued debauchery. (This is pulling from a general profile of those who participated in the constant attacks. Try looking up the 'Haun's Mill massacre' to get a whiff of the truth of it.)

Before the Mormons were driven out of Missouri in the middle of winter with what little they could carry, some angry members decided they didn't like the treatment and foolishly made things worse by instigating their own attacks and retaliations. Ultimately, it didn't make a difference and they made their ways to the swampy banks of what became Nauvoo, Illinois. There they had some few years of peace but the hatred followed them there as well. After the prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were martyred, the local militias again drove them from their homes. Many died on the trip across the plains and they thought that, leaving America for the Rocky Mountains (actually part of Mexico territory at the time) might give them a chance for security. Once again, they had to build up an existence from the wilderness - this time the desert.

Ten years of relative peace, and suddenly the United States government decides the Mormons can't be left to themselves. Military presence and immigrant trains from their old tormentors tapped into that decades long fight for survival. Belligerent comments others would ignore triggered the trauma of past realities and the local leaders involved in the massacre, like the foolish Danites, decided they were going to claim the position of power this time. Somehow they thought it was legitimate and convinced themselves certain 'teachings' proved it. (Consider that such distortions and twistings have happened time and again throughout history. An earmark of foolish people rather than flaws in the material.) In the end, some 120 people were killed.

This is not an excuse for what happened. Rather, like Ronan's history allowed for understanding where he had come from and the difficulties that meant for wraith relations, consider that there are similar contextual insights for why and how such things happen. Consider how recognizing and being patient with past traumas rather than scraping at them will better serve the desires for peace for all. It seems that many problems occur because each party is actually only interested in their own situation and either disregards the other or recognizes and taunts the traumas of the past in some perverted idea that it gives them a higher standing by dragging the other down. When the traumas are as deep as these situations, it will take more effort on both parties, but imagine if we actually tried to build everyone up and not just ourselves? Imagine if we set aside our pride of place (it'd have to be awfully lonely on the top...) and sought to lift rather than debase.

Like Part 1 of the post indicates, we can't control the other party. We can only try to open the dialogue. It may work, it may not. But if, like Teyla's ultimate hope that turning the wraith into man would bring peace, our ultimate goal is for good, I think we would do well to consider the contexts and motivations of the parties involved. It will serve to put us on a much more solid ground as we seek that end.

No comments:

Post a Comment