In Serenity, the Operative is an otherwise nameless government agent set on stopping the rather protagonists. The relative merits of the systems – the Alliance’s bureaucratic control vs. the Browncoat’s libertarian bent – isn’t the point here, it’s the Operative himself. He is not part of the government, he is not part of the world he is helping to create and protect. He is a true believer in that better world – but is fully recognizant of his role as a monster in its defense. The Operative is – at least in his own perception – the immune system of that better world. He is not part of it, but is intrinsic to its survival.
It’s not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin…I’m not going to live there. There’s no place for me there… any more than there is for you. Malcolm… I’m a monster.What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.
I was certain this was – while a bit of smart writing on the part of Mr. Whedon et al – not the given that it is taken to be. That social change does not inherently *require* those completely separate from it. That a better world can come about without the Operative – or his equivalents – to ensure that the old order does not wreck it.
And then I learn of the Deacons for Defense, who performed a similarly protective (though not prone to the Operative’s excesses) role for the largely non-violent USAian civil rights movement. Their role has been played down – even outright ignored – by popular culture.
It appears that our popular culture has submerged the history of valiant, brave people to praise the mythology of non-violence. It appears that we have lauded passive struggle while ignoring those who made the passive struggle sustainable. When else, I wonder, has this happened? Gandhi? What about the Nazarenes and other militant Jewish groups of the time of Yeshua?
When do our heroes and protectors – our societal immune system – become monsters? What is the distinction between inflammation and autoimmune disorders, between sustaining peace and becoming a police state?
When is the world better *enough*?