On responsibility

Thinking about Ezeulu in Achebe's Arrow of God got me thinking about how far we are supposed to enter into the world and motivations of the character affected by the supernatural.

Ezeulu takes an action which hurts his village. But the reader is informed through the internal monologue that he does not feel responsible for this action. Ulu, his god, is mandating this action.

Who is responsible for the consequences? Do we judge Ezeulu on his terms, or on our own? I don't believe in his god. Does that mean I believe that he was delusional or fooling himself? Is he a victim of his 'god', or of his circumstances, or of himself?

I've been watching an anime series called 'Hikaro No Go'. It's about a Japanese kid who is haunted by the ghost of an expert Go player (I know, I know).

On one level, the level the show asks us to take, the kid is cheating when he lets 'Sai', the ghost, dictate his moves. He is taking an unfair advantage over his opponent.

On another level, he's totally insane. If some kid tried to explain that he had different skills at different times because sometimes he listened to the 800 year old go-playing ghost that only he could hear.... he'd be committed. If he's insane, and the ghost is a figment of his imagination, then the skill is really all his and he's only needlessly handicapping himself when he plays at his 'true' level.

Which is it?

1 comment:

Richard Mason said...

< unattributed anecdote > Someone was telling me about three different cases in each of which the defendant plead insanity. One defendant claimed God told him to commit the murder, one defendant claimed that a spider told him to do it, and one defendant said that Satan told him to do it.

The first two were found not guilty by reason of mental defect, the third was found guilty and presumptively sane.
< /unattributed anecdote >