Compassion. Knowledge. Truth. Freedom. Loyalty. Family. Friendship. Science. Faith. Bravery. Order.
No, this isn’t a test to see which Hogwarts House you belong in, although it probably could be that too. (Ravenclaw FTW!)
Rather, it just goes to show that out of all these values, which are all arguably good things, we all have our favorites – the values that form our foundation, sometimes without us even knowing.
To us, to support them goes without saying. To oppose them is crushing.
That’s why our fandoms – our passions – so strategically wield values in their narratives (this is true of religions and political parties as much as shows and books.) We respond viscerally.
Certainly that’s one reason “The Handmaid’s Tale” so incredibly effective to me. What I thought were shared human values of choice, respect, diversity, are savagely wiped away. After witnessing a horrible domestic act of violence, the main character June delivers the heartbreaking lines:
I thought there were still secret places.
Hidden in the cracks and crevices of this world.
Places we could make beautiful, peaceful, quiet, safe.
Or at least bearable.
But, she concludes, there aren’t. Creating safe spaces for others is sacred to her, but not to the people around her. And her devastation is mine as well. I feel the horror of the smashing of my values every time I watch the news. It makes me wonder – where is the humanity of those who rip away children from parents or those who plunder the environment for personal gain?
That said, we always have to be wary of oversimplification even in our beloved fandoms. It’s a mistake to assume our priority values are the only ones to reasonably have. Liberals and conservative conversations hit major roadblocks that way. For example, to say, “but it’s patriotic” doesn’t do much to convince me. Meanwhile, “science says so” isn’t a sound rebuttal for many.
On top of that, the labels we give our values don’t mean the same things to all people: “that’s American” could mean everything and anything. Even if we are all speaking English, our different connotations make us all speak different languages.
Meanwhile, the fate of our own real world depends on having a real conversation. How, then, to be multilingual when it comes to values? Is it possible to be a belief polyglot (speaker of many languages)?
First, we must really know our own values – and I think looking to our fandoms is a surefire path. After all, even the silliest of fandoms is steeped in the values of the creator (even if that value is just to not take things seriously). We watch what is comfortable for us more often than what’s challenging – so what is comfortable for you?
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is so darned appealing to me because ultimately it celebrates the things I hold dear: choice, freedom, family, learning (at least as I see those words.) “Orphan Black” is another favorite because it holds up science, personal agency, mother/daughter/sister relationships ideals.
Once we know what is sacred to us, what we hold most dear, it pays to examine why we believe these things. Great good can come from following these moral compasses, but just because we once decided something was clear-cut doesn’t mean it always is. If we think something is simple, it probably isn’t.
Finally, we must compare our evolved, complex values to others’ – and understand that theirs could also be evolved and complex. Danger comes in when we assume a value (as we lay it out) is universal, or when we engage in the circular reasoning that our value must be right because it is our value. “But it’s sacred” can’t be our mantra; rather, “but that idea has been sacred to me.”
Of course that doesn’t mean we don’t fight like hell for the right things. If “Handmaid’s Tale” has done nothing else, it has convinced me of that. Nolite te bastardes carborundum, bitches… after all.
But let’s make sure we don’t use our fandoms to relax in the echo chamber – let’s use them to gain insight into the values of ourselves and of others. Even the bastardes. Especially the bastardes, ugh. Let’s make ourselves into belief polyglots as much as possible, so that we can be well-informed for an in-depth conversation.
Just make sure you don’t let them te carborundum in the process.
To remember that, we can get into High Lunge Twist. Your weight is semi-precariously supported by your lunged feet and your one hand that is down – these represent your values that are your foundation. But you are reaching up towards help/insight/the other, bearing in mind that there is a world outside of your foundation, too.