Star Wars Kid tips the Scales of Justice

Ah dear readers, I'm sure that most of you are aware of Star Wars Kid and his immortal broom-stick-fatso-combat-dance. Please take a moment to click on the previous link and enjoy the ensuing performance. Afterwards, come back here and I will make you feel guilty about it.

What you may not know about Star Wars Kid is that, like all famous people, he is Canadian. In fact, he goes to high school in a medium-sized town in Quebec and his life was ruined by his unwanted internet-celebrity. He could no longer attend school because of the constant banging of fists upon tables and chanting of "Star Wars Kid, Star Wars Kid" that followed him everywhere he went. And indeed the phrase 'star wars kid' does make a particularly good chant. Try it now.

Well, lo and behold as well, he has settled out of court with the families of the boys who posted his video on the internet for hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can read more here.

Obviously this brings to mind the philosopher Hannah Arrendt, who invented the phrase 'the banality of evil.' Her phrase referred particularily to Nazi Germany, but can be applied in any situation where atrocities are committed with organization and disinterest of a bureaucracy. It calls to mind the men who must have laboured over complicated train schedules to transport jews to concentration camps -- in such situations it is possible for genuine evil to disappear within a mundane task -- such that a person's emotional and moral sense is disrupted, the consequences of the action are horrible, but the action itself is quite tame.

Now I'm not going to label your watching of the Star Wars Kid's video, but what I am suggesting is that we need another new term for a new sort of moral ground that is developing in our world. In all honesty, the boys who posted the video didn't really do much. It was a harmless, although slightly mean, high school prank, it should not have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of emotional damage. What happened is that the prank was magnified via the magic of the webernet.

In order to demonstrate to you the magnificatory powers of the webernet, I draw your attention to the website One Red Paperclip, wherein a young gentleman is soliciting trades of all kinds, beginning with a single paperclip, with the intention of trading his way up to a house. So far, he has obtained a year of free rent in Phoenix and along the way he has possessed, a keg of beer, a snowmobile, and enough studio time to record and produce an album. He has obtained this startling success, by inverting the process which has destroyed the life of the The Star Wars Kid, and distributing a great gain across a wide variety of people, such that no one feels particularly put-out. Other websites have met with similar success, such as the women who paid off a hundred thousand dollars of credit card debt by begging for pay-pal donations, or the man who held a very cute rabbit hostage and threatened to kill and eat it if he did not receive ten grand in donations within a few months.

To return to the topic at hand, it seems to me that we all are infinitesimally responsible for the destruction of Star Wars' Kids life. This is distinct from the situation of Nazi Bureaucrats who did untold harm through months and months of truly horrible, but mundane actions -- each one of us has only done Star Wars Kid a tiny amount of harm, indeed the harm we have each done is perhaps less than the pleasure we have gained.

What are we to make of being a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny amount guilty? Human emotions were not designed to react to situations like this. The immorality of watching and laughing at this video is so negligible that we don't and perhaps shouldn't feel guilty about it. However, it isn't really the fault of those kids who put the video on the internet either... perhaps we all ought to pay three or four cents -- certainly a fair price for the delectable sight of sir chubsalot swinging his broom. To be honest, for once, even I am not sure how this dilemna can be resolved, but as internet-use increases, I think we will see more and more situations where culpability is split a thousand, ten thousand, even a million ways. This will be the moral dilemna of the future -- perhaps even the method of our destruction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another fantastic post Matt ... err, Mustard. Keep it up.

2:29 p.m.  

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