Doctor Who & the Price of Sacrifice

The Doctor had a bone to pick with capitalism this week, which I can’t disagree with; capitalism has its place, but not when it replaces humanity. In this episode, the Doctor slowly unravels the truth: humans have become “inefficient” in a space station, and their suits are programmed to kill expenses – these humans breathe too much air, air is expensive in space, so eliminate the human and program the suit to use the human, without them needing air (and, meanwhile, send a replacement crew!).

I cannot help seeing parallels between this reality and the one we live in, where humans are becoming obsolete as robotics take over. It’s cheaper and more efficient to have a robot assembly line, rather than human beings; and it will be cheaper in the long run for Amazon.com, the world’s largest capitalist empire (which has put countless little stores out of business as it expands) to use robots to stock and ship boxes, rather than human beings. Where go the jobs, there goes the self-worth of people who once had a job, and now longer have a “purpose” in an increasingly “electronics-driven” world.

Humanitarians, therefore, have a moral issue to deal with, when considering how to balance free trade, capitalism, and the self-worth and welfare of the human beings involved in “the algorithm.” The Doctor, perhaps unconsciously, also touches on how systems see human beings as components within the system, and when the humans rebel, the system no longer has a place for these “corrupted” components. Humans have been categorizing one another since the dawn of time; them and us, our tribe, their tribe, our beliefs, their beliefs. You are welcome to stay here while you agree with us and when you cease agreeing with us, if we cannot kill you physically, we will kill you with words such as “heretic,” “traitor,” or “radical.” But, it is often the free thinkers, the beloved heretics, who question the system of which they are a part, who question and challenge the motives of the system-builders.

Once you distinguish the purpose behind the system, the system’s “use” for you becomes obvious; the religious state or political party cannot exist, operate, or succeed unless you are a willing participant and supporter, and the minute you cease being one of “us,” or challenge the system itself, or the beliefs of the higher party members, you become an “enemy,” an “outcast,” a “turncoat,” or worse, you were never one of us to begin with, you were a fraud from the start. And, while the other people in the party are busy looking at you, as a “common enemy of ours,” the people at the top are delighted, because you’re not analyzing them, or wondering what they get out of your support. (This is why we’re having such massive political upheaval globally, as people start questioning their political system and pointing out the flaws in their own party hierarchies; and why people are en masse leaving religion / churches, but that’s digressing the point.)

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From a belief perspective, Jesus was the ultimate radical because he publically challenged both the State (the Roman empire, through his countless cultural references, and his assertions of himself as the Son of God, a name reserved for Caesar) and the Church / Temple of his time (calling out the religious hypocrites, blasting their love of scripture over their love of fellow human beings, and zinging them with shocking parables, the equivalent of which today might call a transsexual a kinder person than a Bible-thumper, and cause similar outrage and upheaval). Martin Luther continued this tradition in his merciless criticism of the medieval Catholic Church, by pointing out that many of the current beliefs in some way benefitted the priesthood and those in power. Jesus was an original troublemaker, a fine tradition that has carried through the major reformists and “heretics” to follow; and in each instance, Christianity has rejected these men (and women) at first, only to revere them later. Since Christ was the ultimate “analyzer of the systems” that govern our lives, we must be called to do the same: question, ruthlessly.

This is never a comfortable position to be in, since if you start to pull apart beloved formerly held beliefs, you may wind up with a sense of “I don’t know.” Not knowing is the ultimate act of humility; you don’t have the answers. And, others will call you heretic, traitor, lost, mislead, no longer one of us. That’s the price you pay for questions.

For every question there is an answer, and for every truth, a price. The Doctor unearths the horrific truth of the space station… and nearly gets Bill killed in the process. His price is his eyesight, to save Bill from death. Jesus paid with his life. So did Joan of Arc. And Anne Askew. And countless other martyrs. Martin Luther paid with a life on the run. But that is the price of love: sacrifice. Love means sacrifice, either of self, or a component of self, or a total loss of self, a willing sacrifice made for another’s spiritual, moral, or physical wholeness. “You must lose your life, to find it.”

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Modern society has a choice to make: profit, or human beings? Robotic advancement or the moral welfare of the lower working class? The sacrifice for capitalism will be the bottom line; the choice to employ human beings, to give them a sense of worth, a task to do, a method to provide for their families, or make a less expensive commodity.

This is, of course, a #FirstWorldProblem. While we easily access our personal home computer from our phone, and send files to download there from the internet while we zip through the shopping line at King Soopers and chose from 24 different candy bars for under a $1 each, children are dying of starvation in third world countries. Or sold into sexual slavery. Or had parents disappear thanks to communist governments. Or have their freedom revoked, because they are screaming out against the corrupt system in their country. One massive radical extremist group is murdering anyone who questions their religious traditions and views, or dares to abandon prejudice for love, acceptance, or tolerance. Some people refuse to bend to fear. They speak out, even knowing it may mean their death.

It is in the nature of the powerful to crush those who speak in opposition, because they want to maintain their power. It only remains, so long as the masses support it. And yet, Christ placed his focus on the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the spiritually crushed, the undesirables of society. Next time you see a troublemaker questioning the system, be it political, religious, scientific, etc., do not look away. Do not call them a traitor, or a heretic. They have the courage to look a sleeping dragon in the face and ask it how it dares to exist. And, some of them pay the ultimate price.

Better yet, be the troublemaker… for a higher cause.

2 Replies to “Doctor Who & the Price of Sacrifice”

  1. “…if you start to pull apart beloved formerly held beliefs, you may wind up with a sense of “I don’t know.”…”

    Not knowing is terrifying, but what might be more scary is when you DO know–but are scared of the truth.

    The other night a friend and I had a pretty long, intense discussion, about judging people in the context of their historical era. For instance, by the end of the revolutionary war, George Washington seems to have decided that slavery was wrong. So he went from the stage of being “unquestioning”, to “conflicted” over the issue, to the firm decision that it was wrong. So now he knew the answer to a question that would be debated until the Civil War. The question is then what did he do about it?

    What do most humans do, when they find the answer to a troubling question?

    Whenever I hear people criticize capitalism, I find myself thinking of the quote oft-attributed to Winston Churchill, about democracy being a terrible system of government–only all the other ones are worse! The same can be said of capitalism, in the sense that attempts at an “alternative” to capitalism, like communism, have failed repeatedly. Perhaps capitalism in some form is inevitable, and all humans can do is try to curb its abuses, and remember that a world where capitalism reigns above all things, is a self defeating one. A world where workers are pushed to the point of having no life beyond their job, where “anything” is acceptable to put on the market, be it human life or tainted food product. Because in such a world the human beings who are both the employees and customers of an industry wind up being consumed by it (along with the environmental resources of the planet they inhabit), until neither buyer nor seller nor worker is left.

    1. And people sometimes wonder why Jesus tells us to “love one another, as we love ourselves.”

      The result of not doing so, is that future generations are left with a far bigger mess, due to our lack of love. For example: George Washington might never have faced the overwhelming dilemma of slavery, had the “Christian” nations ahead of him had the moral fortitude to heed Christ’s mantra and “love the slaves as one loves oneself.” The decision not to enslave them, not to trade in them, not to import them, could have stopped future sins, led to fewer future complications, and saved future generations from moral dilemmas.

      Our society has always suffered from a problem of — just because we CAN do it, doesn’t mean we SHOULD.

      Thus, we are left to ponder — what will our future look like, if we pursue technology at all costs? Will human life have any value at all?

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