The following video points out how moral absolutism can only exist in an advanced civilization. That makes sense to me. It reminds me of Karen Armstrong’s view that fundamentalism is a direct response to modernism.
The reason that such immense ideals have an “otheworldly” feel to them is because God is the ultimate Other… which isn’t the same as saying God is separate. This Other can also be experienced inwardly (if such a word applies), but this doesn’t change the esential Otherness. God’s Goodness isn’t human goodness meaning it isn’t comprehensible in everyday terms nor can it be conformed to our purposes. God undermines our entire sense of self and reality which isn’t a bad thing per se, but its hard to interpret such an experience according to our normal beliefs and expectations of goodness.
This world of suffering is Hell and our complicity with suffering is Evil. I use these strong words because only they can convey the power of suffering when felt deeply. But, by this, I don’t mean to assume any particular theological claims. And, yet, I do mean to say that essentially both the Christians and Gnostics are right about God. Thusly, without logical consistency and without psychological reconciliation, I accept my inability to separate my experience of suffering from my experience of that which is other than suffering… whatever one may wish to call it.
Or, anyways, this is what makes sense to me at the moment. Unlike a pessimist of a materialist bent, I don’t deny any metaphysical possibility. I have experienced something that felt like an Other. Was it God? Was it even good in the ultimate sense? I don’t know. It felt real… and, in this world of confusion, a glimpse of reality may be the closest one gets to the Good.
One character plays the role of a patriarch of the town, but not necessarily in a formal position of authority. Even though this character is amoral in his behavior, he isn’t evil. He values loyalty, and he only hurts those who get in his way. He isn’t primarily interested in power nor in grand visions. He just wants to keep the status quo and enforce a loose order. He is confident in his ability and inspires other people’s confidence in him. He doesn’t always have a clear plan, but he is a man of action that gets things done.
The other character plays the role of an opposing authority figure and maybe in a less political position. He isn’t interested in power or money. He is trying to be a good person, but has personal issues. He is somewhat a loner in that he feels that its up to him to figure things out, and there can be a conflict between his relationships and his sense of duty.
The two characters have to test eachother. The latter character in particular doesn’t fully understand the former character. They have different motivations, but their purposes aren’t always in conflict. They’ both value the town and are protective of it. When other people seek harm to the town citizens, these two characters slowly develop an uneasy truce. An outside threat creates a common enemy.
Neither of these characters play the traditional roles of good and evil. In coming to a truce with eachother, they come to a more complex and nuanced understanding of morality. Both characters are capable of good and evil, but the moral lesson is more about relationships than about individual behavior. What is important is the life of the community.
The shows I have in mind as examples are Deadwood, American Gothic, and Invasion. In Deadwood, the two characters are Al Swearengen (played by Ian McShane) and Seth Bullock (played by Timothy Olyphant). In American Gothic, the two characters are Sheriff Lucas Buck (played by Gary Cole) and Dr. Matt Crower (played by Jake Weber). In Invasion, the two characters are Sheriff Tom Underlay (played by William Fichtner) and Russell Varon (played by Eddie Cibrian).
Of course, between these two men is a woman. In Deadwood, its Alma Garret Ellsworth (played by Molly Parker). In American Gothic, its Gail Emory (played by Paige Turco). In Invasion, its Dr. Mariel Underlay (played by Kari Matchett).
This female character is in the middle of the conflict and she is trying to define her own identity. Her allegiance is uncertain. She has experienced emotional struggle which might have involved the death of someone close to her. She both mediates and exacerbates the conflict between the two male characters.