Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ronin, Godzilla, and Philosophy

For those wondering about my user name, a Ronin is a samurai without a lord or master. I do not have delusions of being a great warrior nor am I alluding to an atheistic worldview. I do not have a Bushido Shoshinshu code of honor or discipline required of a samurai. Rather, I am drawn to the idea of a drifting person in search of answers to regain something lost that may or may not have any meaning. It is natural to associate with those of like purpose and it is here that I make the connection with the wandering Japanese mercenary of ancient times. School, especially the study of philosophy, tends to beg more questions that it answers. Age may lead to wisdom but it also tends to challenge the psyche with regret. Like the Ronin of old, this blog will seek to answer various questions, mostly philosophical and literary, and do battle in the province of the past.

As far as Godzilla goes, it just does not get any better than watching a guy in a rubber suit destroying a miniature city and battling other guys in similarly ridiculous rubber suits. I think Godzilla is one of the most fascinating characters in literature. Don’t laugh, I know you sometimes want to say, “I am Godzilla! You are Japan!” to the mini-van driving troglodyte on the cell phone that just cut you off or to the TV producers that gave you 3 minutes of your favorite show and 5 minutes of commercials related to erectile dysfunction, fast food, and cleaning products you will never use.

Seriously, Godzilla is the product of the nuclear, social, and economic apocalypse of one of the last true empires. Japan is the only post-apocalypse country in the world so it is fitting that a pissed off, radiation breathing monster is their quasi-mascot. Godzilla is also female so I guess it is a commentary of sorts that the strongest, most willful female in film over the last 80 years is a monster. What is interesting is that she is decidedly good or evil not based on her intent but on random chance and consequence to a people for which she is barely aware and could not care less about. If Godzilla happens to walk into Tokyo to do a little shopping, battles Rodan instead, and saves the city from Rodan’s purposeful wrath, she is the heroine. If her favorite sushi bar is out of Dragon Rolls and she flattens the city then she is the most terrible threat to all of human existence. There is a bit of Godzilla in all of us and that is why such a silly genre has endured since its introduction in 1954. I am not suggesting that we are amoral creatures, only that we are not always aware of the suffering and joy we unwittingly impose on others. Morality and awareness will be recurring themes that I will revisit in this blog.

So, that is part of the reason why I chose Ronin and Godzilla as my user name and image for this blog. I am sure the rest of the story is still unknown to me and is possibly psychiatric in nature. What fictional or historical figure do you find a kindred spirit and why?


Bill Eseltine said...

When in a pinch I often ask myself, "What would Gatsby do right now?" The problem is the obvious answer is always "spend more money" and I am forced to look at other options. Welcome to the blogosphere.

APDoherty said...

It started as a joke between roomates, but in my first year of college (when i was still in Boston), i became a ninja. now, in form the ronin and the ninja are not particularly different, but in substance they could not be more different. the ronin's quest is ultimately self-serving, this is why our lone-hero-loving american psyche fails to grasp that samurias thought it shameful to be a ronin. similarly, godzilla literally commands the attention of everyone in Tokyo. both are selfish responses to the domination of previous eras: the ronin to the feudal system, godzilla to WWII.

the ninja could be considered the alternative response to oppression. what we have romanticized into magical heros, actually began as farmers. an interesting point about farming communities is that the best way for them to operate is if everyone acts towards the greater good. clearly, this modus operandi is geared toward maximum productivity (aka survival), not maximum morality. the ninja are farmers who learned to thwart the samurai who ate their crops and commandeered their possessions and children at will. naturally, the techniques they used were clandestine and communitive.

this is how the substance of the ninja differs from the substance of the ronin and, ultimately, godzilla. ninjas act for survival, which means they act for the survival of their community. they relentlessly fight a superior enemy. they protect each other with their lives. they are shadow revolutionaries.

this is much how i see myself in the philosophical community. we philosophers, and the world citizens we represent, are the robbed farmers of feudal japan. the so-called legitimate disciplines and the confused politics of our age are the the feudal structure, the next world war. the godzillas and ronin of our times strap bombs to their chest in hopes of inflicting maximum damage on a quest for god. the ninja have been gathering their numbers and perfecting their techniques... waiting to strike.

if humanity finds a way out of this mess, the ninja will not take responsibility, but you can bet they will have been behind it.

Jason Epps said...

So can I call you Ronin from now on?

Jason Epps said...

Also, would you please disable the comment moderation so I and others will be free to leave inappropriate comments on your blog? Thank you. :)