Jim Carey is one of the few people who can irritate me, simply by breathing – his particular brand of zany, rubber-featured, humour may be loved by millions, making him one of the highest paid of all the Hollywood cadre, but it leaves me cold i’m afraid. OK, he redeemed himself a little in The Truman Show, but even then there were moments i just wanted to
pound him to a bloody pulp switch off.
Knowing this, it’s perhaps surprising that there’s one film of his – Bruce Almighty – that i find surprisingly insightful, and worth watching for the concept alone. An ordinary man, given the powers and responsibilities of God, and left to sort things out for himself.
It’s one of those fantasies that i daresay most of us have entertained at some time: how often, having been cut up by some thoughtless driver on a busy road, or had our peaceful weekend afternoon disturbed by some oik playing rap music at a million watts on their car stereo, have we not wished we had the power to summon a bolt of lightning from the skies to smite the offender mightily in the private parts? And who among us has not wished we could stop time, solve world hunger and put an end to war, if only we had the power?
Then again, as Jim Carey’s Bruce discovered, with great power comes great responsibility, and even the most innocent intervention in the natural order of things can have far-reaching, sometimes catastrophic consequences. The consequences of the Butterfly Effect, combined with the sheer weight of personal responsibility would almost certainly spell the end of the world as we know it pretty rapidly, and crush any mere mortal who dared assume the power of the Almighty.
All that aside, there remains the question of integrity – could any of us really be trusted to use our omnipotence appropriately? Being all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful is a potent recipe for misbehaviour, offering tantalising opportunities for getting up to no good. Of course – you’d never even consider such a thing, because you’re trustworthy, honest and respect the privacy and rights of others…. rubbish! Given the chance, even if just for a day, we’d be digging the dirt on everyone we could, prying where we shouldn’t and poking our omniscient noses into other people’s business, without a second thought!
SL perfectly illustrates such a scenario: it’s a world in microcosm, where we have ample opportunity to play God. Even the average Joe has powers and abilities that far surpass anything available to them in the real world, with boundless opportunities for mischief and mayhem. It’s a world where few things are denied to us – and, as long as nobody else knows, it’s perfectly OK, right?
How many of us have been guilty of dodgy practices that would probably get us arrested if we were caught doing them in rl? Put your guilty hands up if you’ve ever spied on somebody from afar, when they thought they had a bit of privacy? Are you telling me you’ve never surreptitiously de-rezzed items of prim clothing from a nearby avatar, just to see what colour underwear they have on? Do you really expect me to believe you’ve never messed with a noob’s head from a distance by constantly closing a door every time they try to open it? Of course you have, that’s what having the ability and the opportunity does – even to the best of us – power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Mute, de-render, ignore – powerful tools for both good and bad; maps and radar, friend lists and groups – an all-seeing eye, available to every one of us; permissions – giving us the power to grant or deny our beneficence, entirely at our own whim and pleasure.
What about those who ascend to the lofty virtual heights of land ownership and estate management? They have the dubious balancing act of working for the common good, whilst having the power to do whatever they want: we can, quite literally, move mountains, should we wish – and what are you going to do about it? Complain, and you’ll be ejected and banned… because we have the power: don’t mess with us!
Ultimately, it takes an enormous amount of restraint and self-control to wield the tools of godliness; far more restraint and self-control than most of us manage to exercise even in a virtual world, albeit with the best of intentions. All things considered, it’s probably a good thing that we’re only mere mortals in the real world: can you imagine what it would be like even if we had just a small part of those powers that are available to us in sl?
What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
Joan Osbourne – If God Was One Of Us