As my daughter, Joanna, has always had a similar sense of humour to mine, we decided to Watch Monty Python’s The life Of Brian to kill a slow afternoon. Both of us Christians, I warned her that some people have been offended by the content and the apparent slur on the New Testament of the Bible. As we watched, and laughed, I started to see something deeper underlying the obvious debate between comedy and blasphemy. Social Media seemed to resonate throughout this movie.
Running With The Crowd
Watching the huge crowd that quickly gathered to follow Brian thinking he is the Messiah reminded me of how quickly a moral message can explode across the world on Social Media. The same sad fact seems to be reflected in equal measure in the movie and reality. To be seen to support the cause is far more important than understanding, or actually supporting it.
The movie blatantly shows us the irony of the crowd blindly and loudly pledging their life to a non descript person just as the masses on Social Media appear to blindly and loudly jump on the latest moral cause. Few people seem to take the time to truly understand their ’cause’ nor commit to the risks and sacrifices required to truly follow it.
The crowd in the movie never question Brian. They proclaim his every word as ‘a sign’ and loudly proclaim their dedication to his every instruction, though they never quite manage to follow them. Instead, they just ask how they should follow them.
To me, countless people are equally blinded on Social Media. The doctrine of Brian becomes the doctrine of our moral cause online and there is no tolerance of opposition, or openness to discussion. All too often the ‘Heretics’ or ‘Unbelievers’ from the movie are the ‘Racists’ or ‘Super Spreaders’ of the same society reflected on Social Media. Such demonization of any opposition of, or discussion around, the cause of the day sadly reflects the very evil such causes are meant to oppose.
Everyone looks to Brian in the movie to tell them what to do or how to live. His endorsement of anything, even his perceived endorsement of anything, is reason enough to do something. In that context, innocent people are killed even though Brian, being a good guy, didn’t want any harm to come to them.
If we think it’s not ok to do something, it’s not ok to do it. Not in the name of the law, the Pandemic or perceived social injustice. I think it’s wrong to smash a shop window and run out with a telly. If I do this during a protest or a riot it’s still wrong. No matter how wrong or corrupt I think the fabric of society or those who enforce the rule of law are, such actions can only further damage the fabric of society and the rule of law. Not carrying out this action does not make me either a coward or a racist even though someone would label me as such on Social Media.
Gestures Rather Than Action
As the movie reaches it’s conclusion, many people with the power to save Brian do many things, none of which is even intended to save him. In one example, the group who could save him arrive and read him a message of support before heading back down the hill. The scene is hilarious even if the reality it reflects is sad.
All too often on Social Media, people display gestures of support but it’s almost as if the gesture itself is enough. To me, it’s all very well to post the words, “Be Kind,” and I fully support the sentiment they express. But, even though it can be harder at times to actually be kind, it’s the action, not the words, that changes the world around us. Telling the world to, “Stay Safe,” does not stop the spread of any virus and calling someone a Racist does nothing to remove any of the prejudice held by the sender.
At first I was quite shocked at how closely The Life Of Brian seemed to portray the behaviour of society 40 after it’s creation and decades before Social Media had even been conceived. Then I realized it wasn’t predicting how society would evolve, it was actually reflecting society 2,000 years before it was conceived and drawing parallels with the society of it’s time. Society has been the same blind and judgemental social entity since the time of Jesus. Neither he, Monty Python or Social Media has been able to change it. It’s just how we are and what we make it.