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Sennett asserts that the mythical tale of Zeus punishing humans for stealing fire through Pandora’s casket demonstrates how modern man-made communities often face the chance to harm themselves and also that people try to justify opening the casket through the allure of it. This invokes the nature of God in modern societies and how people deal with His perceived word and the fallacies that accompany this way of thinking.
The belief that a human himself has not caused his downfall comes from the belief of the role of God in society, especially in those like the Greek who have learned to fear God. The Greek believed that the evils of the world came due to upsetting Zeus, the king of Gods, and they deserved it for their transgressions. This eerily parallels the tale of Original Sin, where Eve earns God’s scorn by upsetting him by eating an apple after being tempted to by outside influences, and thus causes humanity to be expelled from the Garden representing paradise. In this way, the appeal of an item, whether it was the apple or the casket, caused for a moment of human curiosity to take over and lead to the introduction of pain and evils among men. The belief of Original Sin and related stories has created a God fearing culture in many societies.
Many men look to the role of God in deciding how to act rather than relying on their own instincts, and when their own instincts do fail blame God for intervening. One historical example comes from a crucial battle of the Second Peloponnesian War, where Nicias, the commander of the Athenians, remained still while the Spartan Navy was conducting an ambush attack on his navy; he acted as such to not upset the Gods as he believed that the Solar Eclipse currently happening indicated such reasoning. He reasoned that upsetting the Gods will lead to their downfall and thus they stood still, taking many casualties from the Spartans and using years to recover their forces from this travesty. From there to modern society, not much has changed in this regard, with many modern societies and customs originating from what one believes to be God’s will.
Much of the political philosophy for the American government comes from Locke’s work. Locke’s treatises on Government represent a look into the state of nature and the social contracts man makes to secure their liberties and thus create a society. Locke derives the morality of his society from the theology of a Protestant God. The adoption of these principles in a country, America, already founded by Puritans seeking greater religiousness in the society, creates a government and community inherently based upon the perceived will of God. As people look not toward each other but God for morality, they also see any of their misfortunes as attributed to the will of a higher power. Due to this belief, many societies act to please God in their actions even if it means foregoing a riskier or morally questionable action for the safe path. A recent example of this is the ban on stem cell research that occurred in America while many countries in Europe, a notably less religious Continent in many parts, continued funding such work due to its potential. This example shows how people continue to invoke God even in their own actions.
An interesting part of the passage comes from Sennett’s subjective observation that people “are seduced by sheer wonder, excitement, curiosity, and so create the fiction that opening the casket is a neutral act”, implying a human nature for people to justify their wrongdoings. It speaks to a greater degree about the lack of responsibility found in many people, who would rather find an excuse for their mistake rather than accept the failure. It leads to examples like people who blame advertisements for false promotion where they are “tricked” as they decided not to use their rationale to judge the veracity of it. Of course this comes from their belief that it’s the system itself that remains corrupt, that a higher power, that of God or the government, caused such a failure; this leads to another of Sennett’s interpretation of Pandora’s casket, that “man-made things risk continual self-harm”. He’s saying that the system created by other men hurts them and in making this accusation seems to indicate that following the will of God might lead to a more “good” society. Whether this actually does can be disputed heavily, but many see it as a form of survival.
Sennett notes through the paradigm of Pandora’s casket the belief of many of what occurs when humans upset God, that of how evils spread due to disobedience. The tale of Pandora relates in Christian mythology to Original Sin and shows in the Christian doctrine found within modern governments like America and even in the actions of the citizens in this secular state. The individuals of the country often blame higher powers due to this nature and not see fault in themselves although that might serve as a greater indicator of the truth. In this way, the role of God needs to be further evaluated and questioned in how people proceed with their daily actions. A better way to display this paradigm is through a potential film idea.
A few years in the future, Eugenics has finally been perfected. Any indications of birth defects like Down syndrome are found in the zygote and immediately rectified. Scientists believe that soon many symptoms without a known cause, like Autism, can be diagnosed and corrected in the womb to assure a child without mental conditions at birth. Of course, parents can still opt whether to partake in the service or not. The movie starts with various headlines explaining the discovery and applauding the scientist responsible, including the President personally thanking him. As the intro ends, the scientist is found dead with the word Devil scrawled on the wall above his body.
The next scene shows protest groups outside clinics for “eugenics” procedures. They protest anyone who goes in, saying that these people are defying the will of God by changing their baby and thus acting like God himself in the process. One man trying to go with his wife into the clinic tries to tell some of the protestors that he’s trying to let his child live without any physical or mental disadvantages and is subsequently booed and jeered by the crowd before he can finish.
The man and his wife are in an examination room, waiting for test results from the doctor. In comes a government official, who says that their child matches a profile for the government’s military program. The official notes that the success of eugenics had been downplayed in the public and they had greater capabilities. Indeed, the child fits the genetic makeup for a “super soldier” and that with eugenics they could create one so strong he would reduce the manpower necessary for the army to work. The man is understandably horrified and leaves immediately despite the official’s insistence that the government would offer great money to the family, not to mention the patriotic nature of the action.
Later, the man learns that the government has been taking various actions to secure other children to implement these actions on, believing they could create a child suited to a field, like physics, such that they would take that science much further. He leaks this information to the public and riots start. Many of those who previously supported or acquiesced the genetic invention now challenged it on grounds of forcing a child to live how the government desired; war hungry citizens exclaimed about the necessity of such actions due to belief that Russia and North Korea would be doing the same. This conflict leads to many public riots and destruction of clinics along with a mass hysteria that the government might target their children.
The movie ends with the government announcing the end of its eugenics program, with all public clinics closing down. The government waits a couple months and continues its super soldier and scientist program, at which point the issue has passed out of the public mind.
In conclusion, the role of God and attempting to take the perceived notions of his rule into that of humans can cause uproar due to the radical and unpredictable nature of the idea.
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