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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Red Lotus = anarchists of "Korra"

Whoaaaa, Book 3, Episode 9 of Korra - "The Stakeout" ...shit went down.

I thought it would be ones of those episodes where nothing really happened, and I guess that was what the first half of the episode was kind of like. After that, just wow.

If my brilliant writing skills in this particular post have not awed you by now, let me touch upon the anarchist themes that have emerged within the show. DO NOT FEAR - there will be very few spoilers. Actually, if you have not watched this episode by now, shame on you!

While in the Spirit World, Zaheer and Korra have a Q&A session...

Zaheer discloses to Korra that the Red Lotus, which he and his friends are a part of, is a secret society "dedicated to restoring freedom to the world"  and it was "what the White Lotus was meant to be."

For those who do not know, the Order of the White Lotus was formed as a secret society to receive and share knowledge, transcending national and political boundaries. Their members trained Aang, Zuko, Katara, and Sokka, and helped to stop the Fire Nation from conquering the world.

Zaheer explains that after the Hundred Year War, members of the White Lotus came out of hiding and publicly served the avatar as "glorified bodyguards" who served corrupt nations. The Red Lotus, led by Xai Bau, broke off from the White Lotus.

He mentions that "bringing the spirits back should only be the beginning" and goes on further with the notion that "the idea of having nations and governments is as foolish as keeping the human and spirit realms separate."

This Zaheer backs up by trying to appeal to Korra by saying, "You have had to deal with a moronic president and a tyrannical queen. don't you think the world would be better off if leaders like them were eliminated?"

Korra declares that she may not agree with those leaders' choices, but that does not believe that getting rid of the world leaders will do any good, and that it is no reason in itself to do so.

Zaheer continues with his examples of corrupt leaders citing how the Fire Nation attacked Air Nation because of their selfish ruler.

Then he says probably the most anarchist quote ever from both Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra.

How could I resist?
Korra points out that that would not bring about balance, but throw the world into chaos. Zaheer replies with, "The natural order is disorder."

"New growth cannot exist without first the destruction of the old." He reveals that this quote was uttered by none other than Guru Laghima, an airbender. This actually remind me of "Winter Solstice (1): The Spirit World" - Book 1, Episode 7 - of A:TLA, when Aang learns that without the burning down of the old forest, the new seeds could not sprout.

Do you think Zaheer is taking this quote out-of-context? or was there actually an anarchist airbender?

"WE NEED A VIOLENT REVOLUTION TO UPHOLD OUR IDEALS OF LIBERTY AND EQUALITY!! Except not actually violent. I don't really want to kill anybody, and hopefully none of you want to either. By talking things out, meditating, and maybe an occasional rally, we could really get shit done!"

Kind of sounds like me...

Throughout history, we have seen factions of groups form after disagreements over authority, practices, etc. By the way Zaheer describes things (just by listening to his side of the story), I do not blame his resentment towards the White Lotus. It is the White Lotus' mission to preserve ancient knowledge, but if they changed it solely to serving the avatar, their reasons for forming in the first place are lost. In Book 3, Episode 8 - "Winter Solstice (2): Avatar Roku" - we learn that the Sages once served the avatar, but within the period of the War, they pledged their allegiance to the Fire Lord. When the organization forgets the purpose for its existence, it can easily fall down a slippery slope. While we can hope that there is no evil avatar, would it not be naive to believe that it can never happen? Would members of the White Lotus be able to realize it despite their blind loyalty?

I do not get how the Red Lotus' dreams of reuniting the Spirit World and real word and the overthrowing of corrupt governments came to be. Was this already an argument within the White Lotus? When saying that the avatar served corrupt nations, he seemed to be hinting that some members within the White Lotus had already noticed that before the split. How did the whole Spirit World idea become to be?

What I love about A:TLA and Korra is that their storylines and characters are not always so black-and-white as most cartoons can be. Zuko didn't turn out so bad, amiright? During Book 2, Korra realized that Unalaq was right to an extent when saying that spirits and mortals have no reason to be separated from each other. Now that the two realms are not completely isolated from the other, the Red Lotus is keen on displaying their middle fingers to the state...which involves kidnapping Korra.

In Book 3, Episodes 3 and 4 - "The Earth Queen" and "In Harm's Way" - I joked that the Earth Queen is reason enough to justify an International Criminal Court. Korra felt that the Queen had no right to treat her citizens in that manner, but Bumi pointed out that she does have the right. Bumi is correct, of course, since the Earth Queen is, well, the queen of Ba Sing Se. However, one does have to question why one person is even given the authority to rule over thousands of civilians. As we can see, tyranny is easily achievable with such a form of government, but how about with a democracy of sorts?

Like Republic City? Zaheer does not fail to mention the president of that land, calling him "moronic," which is better than being called "tyrannical." Even when elected (or so we can presume), the leader(s) of a people cannot seem to rule intelligently. We should keep in mind what Plato (or even what a Wikipedia article) has to say on the shortcomings of democracy.

Could there be a compromise made? Like, "Let's just get rid of the bad leaders!" The problem is how do you get around doing that? Especially through the Red Lotus' eyes? Should leaders be elected? Appointed? Be chosen through their bloodline? Just because there was once a great king or queen does not mean it will always be so. Can we trust the public to elect good-hearted and smart leaders, especially through the test of time? There may be a generation of politically-aware citizens, but then the next generation may only see the superficial results of self-serving politicians. It seems Zaheer is fixated on the notion that leaders cannot be trusted, lest they become self-serving, such as how the Fire Nation eradicated the Air Nation because of narrow-minded rulers.

I do agree with the quote, "True freedom can only be achieved when oppressive governments are torn down," but not within the context this was used. If I saw this quote but had not watched the episode, I would have thought that maybe Zaheer was a minarchist. While I could see a plot twist where the Red Lotus members realize their awful ways of achieving freedom and decide to become minarchists, it would not answer the question: Are all governments oppressive? or can all forms of government lead to corruption?

The Red Lotus, or at least Zaheer, believe that freedom is a preferable alternative to "balance," but how far into chaos would they expect the world to succumb to?

Do you think that taking down (oppressive) governments would bring balance or throw the world into chaos?

Do you believe that the natural order is disorder?

If you are a libertarian or anarchist who are fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, you should join this Facebook group.

EDIT: There is now this Facebook page - Red Lotus Reformed: Seeking Harmony.

MORE EDIT: I have written on Book 3, Episode 10 - "Long Live the Earth Queen" - includes criticism of Murray Rothbard.

EDIT: Had to add in this wonderful piece of art from my fellow Red Lotus Reformed admin, VoluntaryistVarrick.

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