Code Geass and the dissolution of nuclear weapons.
(Originally posted on my Quora blog.)
(Spoiler Warning: This post will have spoilers, thus it assumes you’ve watched the entirety of Code Geass. It isn’t a post directly about the anime, though – nonetheless, it will discuss the anime’s ending.)
I liked Code Geass. I’m a bit of a political anarchist, so the idea of taking over the world’s ultimate superpower and toppling it all into chaos was actually a bit like a wet dream. I mean, deep within, we all want to build (or just straight up usurp) amazing, slave-built structures before toppling them in a mad cackle and exercising our ability to play god.
No? Just me? Oh boy.
Anyways. Lelouch was an interesting main character, and I loved his ambitions and the sometimes brutal means he resorted to achieving said ambitions – yet, initially, his final gambit left me a bit… Wanting.
It’s not you, Lelouch. It’s not me, either. It’s the entire world.
I mean, sure, talk about ending it all in a flourish – from a writer’s point of view, it was a good ending. Bittersweet, grandiose and, most importantly, in the style of Lelouch: manipulated from cradle to grave by him alone. Plus, Zero Requiem is such a cool name. I mean, just say it. Out loud. Zero Requiem. Man.
Anyways; at first, I thought that the ending seemed too absolute, too idealistic – although technically speaking, there could have been a little period of peace and then it was straight back to warfare, proxy wars, diplomacy, allies and rivals – the whole political and military shebam.
Then I realized that it’s dumb to argue that, because it’s a fantasy world, and thus, realistic politics shouldn’t be taken into account too much – but ultimately, the idea that the world gets together and decides to decimate its arms after the complete dissolution of the world’s most rampantly fascist and immense superpower seemed like a stretch when compared to the rest of the show’s plot.
The idea that the world lays down its arms and destroys nukes is a very Japanese thing (at least the nuke part). This is part of Japan’s simple and obvious taboo against nuclear weapons – they themselves are the only nation to have ever directly experienced the true might of the atomic bomb, and it’s a general trope that if nukes are present in the story, they’re ultimately abandoned.
Let’s examine nukes in history. When Nazi Germany fell, the world was split bilaterally between East and West, the Soviet Union and the United States. Europe was in shambles, Japan was under American occupation, and Russia was recovering from a scathing Nazi campaign – the United States, with the world’s only functioning nuclear weapons system, was an immensely grave threat to anyone not directly allied to it. I mean, the power to wipe out Hiroshima and Nagasaki like that – it seemed too great to permit. I mean, what if the United States fell into the hand of a militaristic junta? Who would act as a counterforce against that?
Stalin, perhaps not with world peace in mind, built Russia up at the immense cost of human lives, and created a rival to the United States – things escalated, and NATO was formed. In response to that, the Warsaw Pact was created. At that point, the fear of nuclear war was high – and the seemingly oxymoronic, yet still logical concept of nuclear weapons as a shield against nuclear weapons became ingrained into the population.
Since then, even with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, nukes have never seen real action. Instead, wars are usually fought between countries and groups that have no real nuclear weapons, and countries with nukes just back one or the other side of the conflict.
It’s futile to argue the realism of abandoning nukes and having world peace simply because Lelouch is (apparently) dead, even if it remains to be a stretch that the solution to war was simply destroying Lelouch, who had become All The World’s Evil ala TYPE-MOON.
From an idealistic point of view, the creation of the nuclear bomb by the United States was a preventive measure – a race to ensure the “good guys” got it before the “bad guys”. Nukes, to Alfred Nobel, would be the ultimate measure to ensure peace – because with nuclear weapons on the playing field, war itself would be too detrimental to profit from, even from the cold, corporatist point of view. More idealistic would be the absolute abandonment of nukes, and the promise to end all war.
But, ultimately, we live in a world where power and control is the point of politics, where the world’s most famous democracy is an oligarchy with a huge military, and money does all the talking – there is a lot of money to be found in war and extortion.
At this point, I’ve diverted extremely from the show, yet admittedly, I simply wanted to use it as a springboard for a greater query for my own indulgence.
Could we, despite what has been said, simply abolish nuclear weaponry?
Even without ever being used, nuclear weapons are useful politically. They prevent most instances of conventional warfare between two nuclear countries, because either one knows that the other can simply press a button and send a nuke their way. At the same time, no country wants to do that, not only due to the moral implications, but the scientific ones, as well – the radiation from the bomb alone takes an extremely long time to wear off, and is horridly dangerous – plus, we can all imagine what a world post-nuclear war would look like. This has been established.
There is a nicer ideal to humanity, of course. A world where we get past cultural and national differences and sow universal brotherhood – at least over a large enough spectrum that all strife and inter-fighting would be minimal, a one-off event caused by a charismatic malice or some other actually malevolent force. Ultimately, people want to live a good life, and a world where everyone can live without the fear of starving or getting otherwise killed that would be a world without widespread war.
But, the realist always knows that that is the definition of utopia, and utopia is unachievable. Thus, because we cannot get over our differences and create a true world-wide union without ulterior motives, we have to remain constantly vigilant of each other’s actions, fearing each other, spying on each other, sowing political and societal dissent. War. War never changes.
The idealistic representation of a world without massively destructive arms after the death of Lelouch is unrealistic from a political point of view. I’ve heard that Sasuke from Naruto had a similar plan, but Naruto shot it down because, if Sasuke became the focus of all hatred and died, the hatred would simply be dispersed elsewhere.
In Code Geass, the enemy was war, the goal was peace and true representation of all peoples, and a world where nations unite against a single evil, watch that evil perish, and are determined to never follow in its footsteps.
But, I say that the world we live in is different from Code Geass’, not simply by virtue of a difference between reality and fiction, but also because in our world, war, terror and fear are sowed and promoted by people who stand to profit financially.
I don’t think we’re inherently drawn to constant strife – not today, where we have the technological and societal means to embrace humanity in all its colors and cultures; and no, extremism isn’t a culture, but a warping of it.
We live in a world where more money is put towards defense budgets than social systems, where something as simple as an attempt at universal healthcare is deemed radically left by actually powerful politicians in the country with the world’s largest military.
A world where a country is measured for profit and the growth of a farcical, empty and fake economy pushed by constant consumption and production – where cheap production and ridiculous over-consumption is celebrated and cheered on, despite the detrimental effects it has on our collective health, and the conditions of our ecosystem.
The media we consume dictates our views of the world – people build their world view not by what they see, but by what they hear on the news. In a world where the news is owned by people who have economic interests in unstable regions, manipulated markets, oil reserves and constant strife, its no wonder that despite the initial promise of nuclear weaponry somehow ending all war because we’ve finally achieved the point where war has more detriment than benefit (when was that ever not true), we’re still steeped in global war. War between tribes, war on terror, religious war; war, war, war.
Unlike before in our history, globalization is a truly achievable goal – but economically-based globalization is simply too open to exploitation of the environment and human lives. Everything in our world is based around profit, and that profit is good – but when there exist ways to make a lot of profit easily at the expense of desecrating actual human values, things are just going to go to crap.
I’ll indulge in divulging my own hope, and that is that we’ll find a common ground – that we’ll use our collective humanity as a basis for connectivity, and put our joint efforts into exploring the realms of science and the universe – and our very own natures, through art and entertainment.
Globalization is good, and it’s important. It will help us make tolerance and compassion key points in the very society we decide to live in. It will help us establish networks of free communication and distribution of data. It will help us proliferate sustainable solutions to energy needs and food production. It will help us design systems together to maximize the potential of every child’s education according to their needs, rather than try to create a system of workers. It will help us proliferate things like local farming, food production at home, water recycling, and a more natural, balanced diet of less meat, more vegetables. It will help us slowly create societies where incentives are found in taking pride for one’s work and accomplishments, and passions, rather than bank accounts.
But, to proliferate a form of globalization that takes us and the planet as a priority before profit, we have to provide an alternative. The rich are getting richer, and they’d like things to stay that way – being belligerent towards them will only mean they’ll use their wealth to ensure we stay poor and fight among ourselves. So, we need a solution wherein the rich don’t lose their heads. I suppose they’ll have to sacrifice a bit of their over-indulgence – and it’s in these logistics that idealism begins to fade. To change a global system, you have to get everyone to agree with you – or at least, almost everyone.
I think, as long as there’s a profit to be made from war, the trampling of human rights and the desecration of the environment, the pretty idea of abandoning nukes – and working towards utopia – will remain a fantasy. But, I’ll always believe in our ability to make little changes. Eat locally, support activism and the people’s voice, expose secret trade deals and tax fraud, and hold everyone – including the elite, accountable for their actions.
Getting back to Code Geass, though, I still maintain that it has a great ending. Also, Lelouch’s laugh is amazing.