Strip 215 - "Clues within the past"

20th Aug 2015, 1:08 AM in Corvus Village
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SeriousBiz 20th Aug 2015, 2:56 AM edit delete reply

To be fair, a lot of gods tend to be unbelievable jerks. Case in point, the child sacrifice advocating Tlaloc. Kids are annoying as all heck, but sheesh, man!

I can't really fault Eli for his desire to kill Zeus, the murderous, torture happy control freak and unrepentant rapist, even if it turns out to be for selfish ends only. In fact, I'd say absolute, total evil quite naturally follows from the whole absolute cosmic power thing, so I'm more surprised that not all gods are total jackasses.
Disloyal Subject 21st Aug 2015, 4:24 AM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
If I'm recalling my research from nearly a decade ago correctly, Tlaloc is actually pretty benevolent, child sacrifice notwithstanding. Being a sacrifice was generally considered a huge honor in South American empires' religions, like being given a backstage pass to go meet the god(s) in person. Though obviously with a lot more pomp and ceremony.
Raxon 20th Aug 2015, 3:16 AM edit delete reply
You could always subdue Hera, put her on a leash, and make her your pet. Then tell her that Zeus isn't coming to save her because he likes it when she doesn't try to murder his lovers.

Give it a few hundred years, and he might start to miss her, if he's not forgotten her. Or just kill Zeus when nobody is looking, capture a few goddesses, and tell them that when Zeus decides he cares, he'll come looking for them.

After you have obtained immortality, and the months become years, then decades, and finally centuries, they will eventually break.
SeriousBiz 20th Aug 2015, 6:00 AM edit delete reply

Ew. I'd much rather put Zeus himself on a leash, thank you very much. Firstly, there's a certain kind of poetic justice to inflicting patriarchs with the same misogynistic punishment they prefer to inflict on women (and yes, leashing and making women "your pet" is just that). Secondly, Zeus is arguably the biggest asshole on Olympus, so why would you punish goddesses (who are, generally speaking, much less terrible) with centuries of torture and humiliation while giving Zeus a quick death? Thirdly, what would you accomplish by becoming a possibly even more creepy Zeus stand-in?

Speaking for myself, quickly ending the existence of all gods sounds like the only plan that would finally end the inherent power imbalance that results from godhood vs. mortality, and which is probably the main reason most gods are on a permanent power trip.
hotduelist 20th Aug 2015, 12:09 PM edit delete reply

Too be fair, some of the goddesses are total bitches. Like Arachne
Maniacal Overlord 21st Aug 2015, 1:07 AM edit delete reply
Maniacal Overlord
Arachne was an unfortunate mortal. Its Hera who's mean
Disloyal Subject 21st Aug 2015, 4:20 AM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
Athena was being kinda petty in turning Arachne into the first spider for her passive-aggressiveness, but when a Greek deity comissions a tapestry and you make it even more beautiful than the gods could have but weave an embarassing scene of the gods at their worst, you really shouldn't be surprised when they throw a tantrum. All that power makes them more like children with libidos than adults.
Malroth 20th Aug 2015, 2:35 PM edit delete reply
If you put Zeus on a leash you're stuck with Zeus on a leash, And i don't know about you but i can't think of many fun things to do with a pet creepy old dude.
Raxon 21st Aug 2015, 1:58 AM edit delete reply
I'm torn on this, because, first of all, imposing modern day political morality on stories that are over three thousand years old is lazy, plain and simple. That said, Zeus transforming into a bull or a swan to seduce a woman is a level of messed up that we just plain do not have words for.

By the ethics and morality of the era, defying the gods, any gods, was grounds to be cursed with a horrible fate, even if it's just punishment by proxy. Hera couldn't harm Zeus. They seemed to have rules against turning on each other, or were unable to harm one another. However, an unfortunate mortal, as was the case for Medusa, who was seduced by Poseidon in Athena's temple... and her two sisters, who had nothing to do with it, and your terrible suffering is not even an afterthought. Athena was using Medusa to punish Poseidon, just as Hera did to the women Zeus slept with, and their helpless infants.

It's pretty damn clear from the stories that the gods considered, and perhaps reasonably so, mortals to be totally inconsequential. Good for a bit of sport, a source of amusement now and then, but ultimately nothing more than a novelty. Even when taking wives, they weren't really their brides until they were made immortal. It's not that Zeus was particularly terrible by the standards of the day. It's that the gods considered mortal life unspeakably fleeting, and consequently, irrelevant.

I give you points for using the word patriarch in a nonstupid way, though. Kudos.
SeriousBiz 21st Aug 2015, 7:02 AM edit delete reply

"Some rant about morality n' stuff"
Okay, I'm curious. What is "political morality?" Morality is the practical application of ethics, and it generally affects politics, not the other way around. Pardon me if I'm misreading, but it seems to me you're suggesting that the modern form of morality is the consequence of politics and not the combination of basic human empathy and increased knowledge of how the world works compared to our ancestors. That is... not how morality works in a non-dictatorship.

I find it odd to make a judgement about the interpretation of ancient cultures from a modern point of view, since our knowledge of ancient times are often colored by modern-day interpretations anyway (for a few examples, see how historians have made assumptions about gender roles in viking societies based on modern ideas of gender roles, and how racism has affected the study of ancient African cultures to the point that many people still believe the Sub-Saharan continent was full of uneducated, uncultured savages). In my opinion, imposing biased interpretations of ancient cultures on the ancient cultures themselves and calling it "historical accuracy" is lazy.

Acknowledging that a culture was morally lacking in some areas is not condemning of everything in said culture, and pointing out the morally repellent aspects of myths does not mean you can't find the mythology as a whole fascinating. Once again, I'm a huge fan of Tolkien's works, but even I can acknowledge that the morality system of that universe is sorely lacking. One can enjoy parts of a piece of work while pointing out that other parts are problematic. That's how ideas evolve and improve.

Furthermore, "times were different" is a non sequitur: the ethical treatment of others is not relative, and the point of ethics is not to excuse perpetrators of terrible crimes; this is not about their sensibilities. Ethics and morality is about treating everyone right, and learning to overcome our own biases and shortcomings that may be hurting others is what personal ethics is all about. Morality is about making sure you're not perpetuating harmful ideas and doing harmful things, not abut making excuses for your behavior.

That slavery was once commonplace does not mean it was ever ethical: people were still suffering whether the slavers regarded slaves as people or not. That some people weren't heard does not mean they didn't exist.

And really, whether or not the morality of ancient times was different makes no difference, since we're telling these stories in modern times. Not in ancient Greece, not in medieval times, but here in the present, where modern understanding and modern morality still apply. What kind of stories you weave tells a lot about you.

That the gods did terrible things because they viewed mortal life to be inconsequential is no excuse, it is a big part of the problem. Having power, be it economical, political or social (or supernatural, in this case) will quench empathy. That is what power does, without a fault. That's why the Greek gods probably resonated with the people of the day: the Olympians were a reflection of what anyone might do if given enough power to get away with it. That does suggest a thing or two about how people actually saw morality, considering that many stories (think Prometheus) focused on mortals defying the spiteful, arrogant, controlling deities. Resistance to the unfairness and injusticies perpetuated by those holding the power and the desire to be in control of your own life was present even in the ancient myths. People weren't really that different back then.

Finally, yeah, having Zeus on a leash as your pet would only serve to degrade him and strip him of his humanity. It's cruel and sadistic and serves no purpose other than fulfilling a disgusting power fantasy of your own. Only an evil character would do something like that. So, again, I have to ask: why do the goddesses deserve such a treatment? I maintain that inflicting repeated sexual violence on a goddess for being a "bitch" while treating equally terrible or even more awful male deities with more dignity is indicative of a misogynistic mindset (since the violence is clearly gendered). On the other hand, if you'd be no more willing to sexually torture a goddess than you would a god, you're probably fine.
daftdeafdave 21st Aug 2015, 5:52 PM edit delete reply
Your moral views are shaped by the political and philosophical backdrop of your times. Even if your morality is different from the prevailing consensus - I'd wager it is still heavily shaped by the morality of those you respect and are closest to. That's not to say we have no objective(ish) reasons to say that our politics and philosophy (and our morality) have improved. Still, seeing no point in moral discussion of people who's social backdrop is vastly different to our own and who we cannot possibly have contact with makes sense to me. This is particularly true if the moral viewpoint being expressed is so widely accepted in modern society as to be uninteresting.
Raxon 21st Aug 2015, 11:28 PM edit delete reply
Disclaimer: When I responded, I hadn't slept in almost 24 hours. I still have not slept, so if the following rambling makes any sense, you should probably go see a shrink.

Several fair points, but I never said anything about abusing the goddesses sexually. What I meant was more along the lines of keeping them on leashes or in cages. That said, if you want to defeat the gods, you only need to capture one. One piece of bait, and you can lure a second into a trap. Keep going like this, and you have a chance at coming out on top.

By political morality, I was, in my own sleep deprived state, saying that morality and ethics can vary wildly, based on the political landscape. You can look at the internet for five minutes to see that something considered ethical where I live might be considered cruel in, say, Japan.

The foundations of ethics and morals are sometimes strange and can seem backwards to our moden, western ideals. Consider, however. Slaves? Heck, in Greece, people would sell themselves to a nice household to become citizens. It's funny how things sound so backwards by a modern opinion on slavery, yet would actually be entirely reasonable for the time. Oh, you want to immigrate to a land with a high standard of living? Well, you can sell yourself to a wealthy family, and have a much more comfortable life than before.

I think I get where you're coming from, but I respectfully disagree with the idea that morality and ethics are on a scale of good to bad, and that our modern interpretation of them is absolutely correct.

To say that, for example, Hera was evil to discard Hephaestus because he had a birth defect is a product of modern western ethics, because we can provide a decent standard of living. Back then anyone who was crippled, born with severe birth defects, or in poor health tended to die quickly. They did not have wheelchairs, elevators, antibiotics, corrective surgeries, or any of the other modern things that would give a disabled person an equal chance. Basically, I can think of two main interpretations. The first is that Hephaestus had a defect that meant she thought he would die. She didn't want to watch him die, so she cast him out. The other is that she believed it was unsightly to have a god with a birth defect.

Cruel and sad, perhaps, but not necessarily unreasonable, given the era, and the practical limitations of the time.

Ahoy there, Cap'n Morgan! Permission to come aboard the HMS bedtime! I have brought ensign Barry White with me. Together, we will sail safely to the land of dreams. Anchors aweigh!
SeriousBiz 22nd Aug 2015, 4:27 AM edit delete reply

Fair enough on the goddesses. The specific focus on them (instead of deities in general) did rub me the wrong way, as it does imply a target preference. Combined with the leashes and talk of "making them pets", we've got material for a deicidal serial killer with sexual domination fantasies. Hmm... *scribbles something in the notes about next criminal profiling RPG being set in mythical Greece*

I see we're in agreement on one thing at least: Not everything that is unethical needs to be considered evil. That is polarizing and unhelpful, since it ignores the circumstances in which the decision was made. The insistence that all decisions in all situations always have to be regarded as either "good" or "evil" is part of what makes many political pundits so annoying, it's like they haven't even evolved to the level of simplified D&D morality (where's "neutral", guys?). But that doesn't mean we shouldn't consider ethics whenever it is possible, since that kinda comes with living in a society with other people.

I must argue that the fact that being a slave could be used to an enterprising individual's advantage says nothing about slavery itself being ethical, it just means that in shitty political climates, people find ways to get by. Then and now. This approach relied largely on the personal ethics of the slave owners anyway, much like the systemic exploitation of third world countries in the present day means that people moving away to wealthier countries must rely on the goodwill or exploitation, i.e. the ethics of the majority rule in those countries. That is a situation that simply should not be, ethically speaking, and any good to come out of a crappy situation is not an endorsement of the situation itself. The fact that times are what they are says absolutely nothing about morality itself, just like the phrase "war is hell" says squat about the morality of decisions made during times of war.

On the subject of Hera and Hephaestus, isn't one large part of morality that the suffering of others be minimized, not that the person doing the deed doesn't have to watch the other suffering? That's still looking out primarily for yourself, not others, and that's not what ethics are about. If he's going to die, the least you could do is give the child a painless passing. What Hera did in this particular story cannot be considered ethical, but, as you said, that's not necessarily the point. That something might be necessary under the prevailing circumstances doesn't make it ethical, but unethical doesn't always mean "evil". There is not always a clear-cut "right vs. wrong" situation, since sometimes, the point is simply to survive.

On the other hand, the fact that Hera made the decision while being a frickin' goddess with much of the power of Olympus on her side to make another kind of decision besides throwing out a deformed child to die slowly on his own could be indicative of just not giving a crap about Hephaestus, i.e. making an informed unethical choice. That is evil.

But if that hadn't happened, Kratos wouldn't have gotten the Nemesis Whip, so it all worked out in the end.

EDIT: Oh, and no, I definitely do not think our modern morality is "perfect" in any way. Sorry if it came across that way. Morality evolves as our understanding of things evolve, and one day, people will look back on our times and criticize our heinous indifference to pressing social problems. And that is all fair and good, in my opinion.
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