Hero Worship, Julian Assange and Religion

Articles,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 6:21 pm
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[Advance apologies for scatterbrained nature of this post, it’s kind of an expanded idea I was running with on Twitter that keep taking more than 140 chars and I just wanted to write it out while it was fresh in my head. Perhaps I’ll expand on it more in the future as well if folks think it’s worthwhile.]

So there’s been a lot of discussion of the Rape accusations against Julian Assange recently, and a lot of discussion about the reaction to those accusations. I don’t think I’m mistaken when I say that a non-trivial number of people have publicly speculated the rape charges might be fraudulent for one reason or another putting the credibility of the accusers in question, but there’s also been a non-trivial number of people who’ve done just the opposite – instantly believed any and all accusations and condemned Assange based on what is basically hearsay at this point. We’ll see how much that changes after the trial, but I think that’s to be expected for a lot of reasons.

It’s easy to think this is indicative of some kind of sexism but it’s worth noting that, in my observations anyway, I’ve seen just as many men as women take both of the above sides. Personally, having known women who have been raped, as well as men who have been falsely accused of rape – I’m extremely hesitant to make early assumptions but I’m very much in the minority there I think. It might be some underlying sexism, it might be some ingrained guilt, or it might be something else. I think it’s less of those things and more that our society as a whole has a really hard time accepting the duality of people. People are not all good, or all bad. They are both, sometimes they do really good, or really bad things, but by and large one action isn’t indicative of everything about a person.

So in the case of Julian Assange, people who are supporters of wikileaks are having a really hard time with the idea that the guy behind it might not be a saint. And I’m not using that word as just a random example, I think religion, Christianity specifically, is very much to blame for a lot of this. People are brought up being taught about this group of people who were completely flawless or who if by chance did mess up, were instantly repentant and forgiven thus maintaining their good graces with God. Children are taught to aspire to be like this, and given this ideal that isn’t realistic or achievable at all. So what happens is when someone gets in to the spotlight all of those hopes and dreams are projected on them. We saw it with Obama and we’re seeing it again with Julian Assange.

It’s very hard for people to wrap their head around the concept that someone they look up to on one level might not be as respectable on another. Wait, how could Obama smoke? He’s supposed to be perfect and a role model. Wait, how could he give Bush & Co a pass, I thought he was going to be the shining light of change? This is a problem when you put anyone on a pedestal – how could Assange be anything but a gentleman in his personal life because wikileaks is such a great thing? Wait, I really agree with that one thing Assange said, but I can’t support rape so in order for that to balance out in my head one of those must be false, and I want a hero so I must assume the rape charges are bullshit. Hell maybe the rape charges *are* bullshit. But maybe they aren’t.

Good people sometimes do really bad things.

Bad people sometimes do really good things.

There’s no such thing as saints or saviours. People are just that, people. Anytime we expect them to be more than that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. This is something we should keep in mind, and judge actions based on the actions, and not try to constantly fit people into the role of great redeemer.

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3 Comments »

  1. Great book on this very subject: “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck, pub. 1983. Greatly helped (and still helps) me deal with all the good guys/bad guys in my life.

    Comment by J. Hillman — December 20, 2010 @ 1:05 am
  2. For Julian I would not care that he’s not perfect if it was something he does and involves bad things only for him. But it doesn’t, it doesn’t look good and I still can’t understand how something as simple as good behavior with a woman is out of reach, asking too much, for someone visibly smart. I feel like it’s saying “I’m doing an incredible thing with Wikileaks I’m living hell, I’m getting my fun now woman”. I guess it happens often with brilliant, powerful people that they think they can do some bad because they do so much good. It doesn’t work this way for me and I don’t like this pattern. Simple opinion for sure.

    I don’t know what happened between him and them. But for me the bottom line would be “the more you do good and represent something huge, the less you can fuck around because it ruins everything”.

    Ruining the trust and faith -not in a religious way- people gave him and Wikileaks for vaginas, really? This is ridiculous. If I was in his situation of living like a terrorist, I’d masturbate and not get involved into any-thing that could/would compromised a PR mission with such importance. Maybe I’m naive.

    But now, he’s in trouble. And for what I understand and read, it was avoidable…

    Comment by Harold — December 20, 2010 @ 2:36 am
  3. We were just talking about this and I’m not sure how I feel. I’ve known rape victims (male and female) and men falsely accused of rape. Date rape is still rape. It is hard to tell what actually happened with some people minimizing and others exaggerating. It concerns me that the women were concerned enough to talk to someone but…I just don’t know. I’d like to wait to see this sorted out by the police but I guess we are stuck with public speculation.

    The thing that bothers me is those that automatically defend Julian Assange and assume that it is a cover-up. I watched Naomi Wolf belittle the comments made by the women (e.g. victim: I couldn’t be bothered to tell him again…) and I wonder if she would say the same things if the person accused didn’t agree with her political views? Would people say that these charges were nothing if the women were accusing a right-wing pundit? Or would some of these people then say that belittling the comments are disparaging the victims? It is hard but we should try to look at the information before deciding our opinion.

    I’m very liberal and I want Julian Assange to be a saint but I’m pragmatic enough to believe that he might not be perfect.

    Comment by Catherine — December 28, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

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