I’m going to make an assumption that pretty much everyone at some time has entertained thoughts about what the world might be like if we were God. In sure we’ve all toyed with the idea of how we’d use, or abuse, our powers as a deity and what it would be like to be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, if only for a short while.
I suppose the great thing about being almighty in that particular way is that the more savvy of us would, no doubt, depart from the more traditional expectations of an all-powerful being and have a sort of ‘God on our own terms’ setup instead – after all, we’ve all seen Bruce Almighty, and learned a few lessons about how not to do deity as a result!
The question remains however… Would we be any good at it?
It was probably Ben Franklin\Einstein\Julius Caesar\Hitler\Colonel Sanders (pick any of those and the internet will probably say you’re right) who said, “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and I can’t help thinking there’s more than a grain of truth in that assertion. The big question is, however, would we – an incorruptible incarnation of holiness – succumb to corruption?
I think that SL can give us some clues as to whether, if we should one day wake up endowed with godlike powers, we’d make a decent job of it or balls it up completely. The virtual world allows us to flirt with being demigods in a revealing, and sometimes disturbing manner. Inworld, we have the power to create and destroy, move mountains, spawn copies of ourselves and be in different places at the same time. We can fly, see through solid walls, make ourselves invisible and shape-shift, we can converse silently with others, eject and exclude people from our property, and control their bodies. All this, and more… But the question is, should we?
Just because we can see through walls, does that make it OK to peer into bedrooms, behind closed doors? Just because we can talk to everyone in the room about someone, but exclude them from the conversation, does that make it right to gossip about them behind their back? Just because we have godlike powers, does that give us carte blanche to exercise them for our own devices, without thought or care about how that may impact on those we target?
How be behave inworld can provide us with a great deal of insight into just how good a god we might make, but since that’s not every going to happen anyway, it’s largely irrelevant.
Or, is it?
You see, omnipotent or not, how we behave inworld can be a very good indication of the hidden side of our characters that we possess as everyday, run of the mill, human beings… In the relaxed and sometimes anarchic world of SL do we behave in a manner that we’d never willingly admit to in the real world?
I have a sneaky suspicion that maybe a large number of us do. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if most of us get up to things in SL that would cause us some embarrassment if we were caught doing it in real life. There may even be things we do inworld that might easily fall into a whole number of dubious categories if we were to undertake then in RL: illegal, immoral, intolerable and downright nasty are just a few that spring to mind and it’s surprising just how many of us seem to have no qualms about behaving in such a way in our virtual lives, but would never want to be seen to be associated with such misbehaviour in our real lives.
You could say that SL hides the moral compass that – for the majority of us – is inherently present in the real world. Given free reign to behave as we wish, with no constraints, even the most incorruptible of us can find ourselves slipping into disreputable ways, without the steadying influence of peer pressure, public opinion and the rule of law. And why do we do so? Because we can!
We can get away with such things, almost without consequence and if we were to look at ourselves objectively, we might wonder who on earth we were watching. When we can do whatever we want, that’s exactly what we tend to do, and unfortunately it’s so often the Mr Hyde, lurking behind the Dr Jeckyll of our psyche that’s calling the shots.
That’s a somewhat sobering thought, especially for those who might entertain delusions of godhead… If we can’t behave ourselves when given a modicum of power and freedom, how the heck are would we conduct ourselves if we possessed unlimited power?
It’s a frightening thought! More frightening still is the knowledge that we are entirely capable of such things, and given the chance, we’d go right ahead and do them anyway, and to hell with the consequences!
I will deliver
You know I’m a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith
Depeche Mode – Your Own Personal Jesus