I’ve mentioned my … appreciation … for the Operative from Serenity more than a few times.
Usually in the context of “It’s a damn good thing I don’t have superpowers.”
Back in 2008, when I first learned of The Deacons for Defense, I had this thought:
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?
I was thinking about the Operative again today. How you try to keep the worst of life from getting to your family. How you keep it away from your kids. And then I heard this Radiolab clip on inheritance. It’s called “You Are What Your Grandpa Eats” – and it’s meant quite literally. In short, if your grandfather ate well at a certain period of life there’s (bad) health effects up to two generations down the line. The reverse also held true: If grandfather ate poorly at a certain time of his life, the positive effects have a positive health effect generations later.1
Which brings us back to the goals of the Operative. To protect future generations. To keep them safe. To make a world without sin.
A world without the pressures, conflict, and evil that shaped the Operative into someone willing to sacrifice everything for a greater, worthy, goal. A world where any greedy impulse can go unchecked – because there is no longer anyone like the Operative.
This is the horror of the Operative – or anyone who wishes to do good, ever. This is the dark, despairing side of “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
There will always need to be monsters on both sides, both creating wrongs and righting them.
1 I’m drawing an analogy here, by the way, though other parts of that episode show that environment directly impacts biochemistry as well.