The 100 Season 4: The Individual's Value
The moral case for caring about the individual's value to society and allow for personal choices.
What is the individual's value to society?
What can society ask of its citizens in order to achieve the ends it wants? When does this need become too much for the individual to handle or a group of individuals to stand up to these requests? These are important questions to ask in looking at how to structure a society. More importantly, what an individual should be willing to do for the betterment of those they have to live with in order to function. If you don't, you run the risk of conflict and uncertainty about where we're going and what we want to do.
Previously, we looked at the importance of rules and why they exist, then we looked at how different sets of rules can conflict with each other and how to resolve them through the appointment of a leader. Most recently we examined how a leader can go too far in a totalizing view of how society can and should function. The crux of this being that the appropriate society has to centre around the individual and what they want. Otherwise you can become destructive in your single minded effort to get everyone on board with either a fascist or communist ideology.
But how do we understand what to value in an individual? What are the qualities which are important to foster in a society built around an individual? After all, even in an individualistic society, you still have to have broader goals for society to achieve. Finding ways to alleviate poverty and suffering from disease. There still has to be some kind of collective effort to achieve these things but without resorting to a simplistic framework of either follow the leader or be wiped out as a way to get there. So we have to look at what value an individual has. Especially when you need to save as many people as possible, such as in a potentially apocalyptic scenario.
This is something we've struggled with for the past 2 years in particular. Whether or not to value the individual's right to self determination at all costs. Or to do whatever you have to in order to ensure the survival of humanity. It's not an easy line to draw, even if you're committed to the individual's rights. Just like with an ideology which doesn't allow for descent, people will not always go along with what they're told is the best thing for them. They might have their own ideas about what's best for them, and want to go for that over the continuation of the human race. Doing so might lead to better outcomes for them. Give them the life they want, no matter how short that existence might end up being.
“There's nothing like a little pain to remind you that you're alive.”
We see this on full display with The 100 in season 4. Things have fallen apart in large part because they were able to bring down both Allie and Pike through a belief in the individual's right to self determination. Giving them back the choice for themselves, allows them to do what they think is right. But it comes into conflict with the survival instinct of humanity in the problem of being wiped out completely. So they have to rally each other to a common cause without succumbing to the type of thinking of Pike or Allie.
Survival is a powerful motivator but as we have looked at previously, it's not the only instinct. A need for personal connection and meaningful purpose means a lot to people. For some, it's an even more powerful need than the survival instinct. You can't just dismiss these fundamental needs in people, no matter how much you might want to. In order to have a society which values the individual, you have to respect their choices and desires. This might mean allowing some people to sacrifice themselves rather than forcing the sacrifice on them.
“You can't tell people they have no value.”
Jasper is the perfect example of how this works. His life has gone from bad to worse since landing back on Earth. He doesn't have anything worth living for, or so he thinks. The only thing he has is his ability to choose for himself how he wants to die. Something which he embraces wholeheartedly in season 4. It allows him to move beyond the concerns of survival and finding meaning in the simple pleasures of his own choices. An approach like this can be extremely attractive not only to him, but to others. Thus he's able to rally people to his cause.
This is the epitome of a leader who respects people's personal choices and the individual value. But the problem with this is that people can't always trust that this will have the best outcomes for everyone. Allowing people the freedom to choose for themselves might end in complete and utter disaster. Which means you can't always rely on them to make the right choice. A leader understands the way this plays out and has to guard against it. So they keep things from the people they govern. Sometimes for their own good and other times in order to buy time.
Clarke and Roan exemplify this type of leader. Their willingness to keep the truth of the apocalyptic scenario they now face shows how this works. However, it creates conflict within the individual in charge as well. As time goes on, more and more information about how bad their circumstances really are comes to them and the more they have to keep from those who've put them in charge. It forces them to make harder and harder decisions. To bend the truth in order to achieve a goal that so many people feel is their best option. But it has a cost.
“No leader starts out wanting to lie, or imprison, or execute their people. The decisions we face just whittle you down, piece by piece.”
A leader who is forced to make these decisions, won't get out of it unscathed themselves. They will continue to do worse and worse things. Sometimes to the point of being indistinguishable from someone like Pike or Allie. Or at least people will see the leaders that way. It's hard to see how they wouldn't when they're lied to and pushed into decisions they otherwise wouldn't want to make. This doesn't mean that these lies and evasions aren't serving the greater good, or at least geared towards making sure that humanity ultimately continues. But they don't exactly inspire confidence in a leader, or the decisions and the motivations behind it.
The worse the decision, the less clear the motivations become for what it is they're trying to achieve. It's harder to justify adherence to the idea of the individual's value when your own motivations become suspect. You question whether or not anyone is worthy of survival at all. That it might be better to allow humanity to die rather than keep going under such harsh and uncertain circumstances. Under such conditions, some people will cling even more firmly to their beliefs, while others will abandon them completely in favour of their own needs. While others will seek to completely eradicate themselves and everyone else around them. Just to end the cycle of violence.
“First we survive, then we get our humanity back.”
Luna's transformation is a powerful example of this. She began her journey in rejecting violence completely. She chose to end the suffering by leaving any circumstance which might require her to harm someone else. To offer people sanctuary from violence so long as they left it all behind. But the path of violence never leaves anyone alone for long. It follows even those who wish to avoid it or end it. As violence reaches her, she learns to embrace violence for its own sake. To give herself over to it so completely that all she cares about is destruction. The eradication of others, of humanity itself, and ultimately herself.
She's the opposite of Jasper. While he offers them choice and a rejection of violence, he doesn't come to the conclusion that violence is the answer. He doesn't give up on his view, even to the point of his own destruction. Whereas Luna seeks to take away everyone's choices completely. In her embracing of violence, she revels in a lack of choice. Seeing no value in anyone's individuality, not even her own. Neither of which are likely to end all that well, and for them, it really doesn't. Both of them wish to die from a complete lack of desire to have value.
So what's the solution? How do you find a way to respect an individual's value without resorting to the destructive behaviour?
“If you think you have the best idea, you have to convince people, not lie to them, or lock them up.”
The answer is you give them all the best options you can. Let them know what happens if you choose each, the consequences for themselves and for other people if they don't make a choice at all. At least then, you know that whatever they're choosing, it's of their own free will. That the choice they're making is their own and they've learned to live or not live with the consequences. When they do, it leaves a leader open to convincing them that their choice is the right one. Following the person who best represents what they want.
“We make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have. Then hope that there's a forgiving god.”
So long as everyone is willing to respect the choices they made, you avoid conflict entirely. Or at least you minimize the amount of conflict everyone is likely to encounter. In essence, you create the most amount of value and save the most amount of lives without sacrificing other people's value to that society. Then it becomes a question of whether or not you can live with the consequences of this way of thinking. Knowing that giving people the choice of what they care about most and living by them will lead to people dying.
“How many people do you have to save before you forgive yourself?”
If your decisions lead to people's deaths, does the number of people you save balance that out? If you're trying to save 100 people and to do so you have to sacrifice 50, maybe that's enough to keep your conscience clean. It might allow you to move beyond the tragedy and feel better about the decisions you made to get there. Perhaps even allow you to see the ultimate value of the individual. Restore your faith in humanity and give you the hope you need to offer people the choice.
Trust that this is the best path forward, even if it doesn't seem like it at the beginning. If doing so would live on your conscience for the rest of your life. Assuming you end up making it that far and convince people to move forward. Because life is worth preserving, even when it doesn't seem like it does, and does nothing but destroy others.
This is the fundamental value that an individual can provide to society. The ability to inspire others towards a common cause. Show them a better way to go about things. A way of preserving your own dignity and moral worth among all the destruction and pain and suffering it can end up causing. While this can be accomplished in the short term through totalizing ideologies like fascism and communism, once the bodies start to pile up, it can devolve really quickly.
The only sustainable way to function is to centre the individual and their ability to choose above all other considerations. Only through such a way of thinking, does everyone deserve to survive.
There's more than one way to idolize the individual however, and some of them aren't exactly the best solution. But we'll get to that when we explore things in season 5, which is available to paid subscribers now. You can also check out believing in the common good and season 6 as well.
Check it out on Netflix.
In addition, I would love it if you’d subscribe, whether it’s the free version or the paid version doesn’t matter, it’s going to mean a lot.