Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Full Metal Alchemist ponderings pt. 1

Disclaimer: The following concerns a show I have already seen and thus might have spoilers. If you haven't seen the show I highly recommend it. What I have to say shouldn't influence what you may or may not have seen in the show. These are just my thoughts.

Recently I had the pleasure of watching both versions of Full Metal Alchemist (the second version was watched mostly in Japanese with subs so I eagerly await access to English dubs). The main thing I like about this series and most Japanese animation series I've gotten into in the past is the ability to promote extensive thought about the notions and ideals communicated. For instance,while I enjoyed both versions, I liked how the first actively questioned or at least was critical of the taken for granted notion of  'equivalent exchange'; where in order to receive something, something of equal value must be given. I have my own issues with this notion that is very much a part of how daily life is encountered, especially when it comes to the justness of such thought when it comes to the less fortunate and downtrodden.

Another thing I like about both series and have been thinking about surrounds the 'philosopher's stone', its creation and its use. The main thing about the philosopher's stone is that it can be used without adhering to the 'first law of alchemy', equivalent exchange. This stone has a great deal of power to do whatever the beholder desires, giving that individual a great sense of being powerful. Often the stone is used to gain and maintain power and is seen as a grantor of wishes in a sense. Its creation however might be problematic to some--especially those that are social justice oriented--in that human souls are needed. The stone is essentially human lives/souls and relies on them for its power.

As such throughout human history as it exists in FMA, this knowledge has lead to large scale massacres and even genocides of various groups i.e races of people with made-up names (but minorities nonetheless) that have resided within or around the fictional dominant nation Amestris.All of this appears to have been done at the behest of the state military strictly for the creation of philosopher's stones which serve a  myriad of purposes I wont go into but all of which have to do with gaining and maintaining power and authority. Interestingly, until the present story line of FMA, the philosopher's stone was/is treated largely as a myth and seekers are warned of death and peril to those that pursue it.

I mention all of this because after watching the show, I have been wondering about the equivalent of the philosopher's stone in our current reality. What is the thing or things that ensure the power of a nation or group of people? What is the object or objects that have cost thousands, millions, billions of human lives in order to obtain  it/them for our own use or livelihoods? On the unacknowledged backs/souls of whom do we stand  as we proceed with the quality of life we have? What is it that allows for the dismissal of the concept of equivalent exchange on micro and macro levels by the powerful? What are the true intentions of such senseless murder and destruction?

I hope the answer that surrounds these queries isn't as simple as power. Or maybe its resources that were or still are symbols exchanged for power and domination. Those are just some guesses I have on the matter. Often I think about the near elimination of American Indians, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Middle Eastern conflicts the U.S. is or isn't directly involved in and a lot of the movement toward genocide that has taken place in various African countries as real world examples of human atrocities for the sake of many things I do not fully understand but might equate to a purpose similar to the acquiring of a philosopher's stone like substance. It is interesting how minorities are made to suffer the most for such lofty aims, though we all suffer just the same despite the differences in which it occurs.

There is so much I am unaware of in regards to these issues yet I am not sure how I would take responsibility or begin to act responsively to the knowledge that surrounds these issues. Like the Elrich brothers, is it too naive or idealistic to think I could live and achieve my goals without use--known and unknown--of a philosopher's stone, whatever that happens to represent in reality? Though they manage without it (at least in the first series), the paths they discover are arduous and painful at times yet alternatives to using the stone are ever present. However those that do use it with a conscience acknowledge the souls/lives within the stone to the point where it is believed they are willing participants in the use intended for the stone (hope that made sense). At the very least, gratitude is expressed towards the souls/lives that make use of the stone possible.

I wonder what that would mean for us in reality? At the moment I can't even begin to imagine the vast amount of people, besides my ancestors and American Indians, to give gratitude to for the life I currently live here in America. And this is only one aspect of the show that I've dwelled on in my head--which is why I like it so much. I wonder what others think about this? Any insights into this  or FMA in general are welcome.

Oh and thanks to The Coolest Brother Ever for introducing me to this show!  

Up next...pt2: the Gate

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