If you wanna get dig down to it, I think “religion” has less to do with beliefs in God, the afterlife, and such and more to do with our need as humans to organize. We want a hierarchy that makes sense on some scale. I have a place, you have a place, and it is determined by forces out of our control. It is the law not because said law has been determined to be reasonable, fair, or whatnot. It is the law because that is the decree. Some part of our minds is at ease when we make the leap from the line of thought that leads us to the conclusion. That leap was made for us. We do not need to get there ourselves. We can go about making other decisions.
The “catch” is that, as a species, we begin to make those connections with time. God no longer makes sense to everyone, and that idea begins to spread. Even those who believe in God don’t need God’s permission to follow those laws. But we still possess that need for organization. If spiritual forces no longer give us that sort of comfort, we look for it elsewhere, and the most logical place seems to be in government.
We created governments and bureaucracy so that we have a system in place to maintain a semblance of order and civilization. The ideal is that we vote for a handful of people to represent us, and we give them the power and responsibility to maintain this sense of organization while the rest of us can partake in other actions with our limited time on this planet.
These representatives create the laws we follow, and while we technically “rule” these people with our capacity to remove them from office after a set amount of time, in a way these lawmakers have taken the place of the clergy and their gods. We look to them to create policy and morality. The issues they press aren’t just political topics, they’re signifiers of identity and place. We believe in this political party, this political stance, or this political figure the way we’d believe in God’s dictates. The lawmakers make those leaps to the conclusions so that we may adopt them as our own.
The catch here is that all systems of organization soon become self-serving. Gods seem to exist to perpetuate their own existence rather than serve their creation, or in this case, the government exists to perpetuate itself rather than serve its creators. Politicians are more concerned about reelection or getting that lobbying position after “retirement.” Laws, constitutions, and judgments are no longer mutable things to be questioned, changed, and interpreted with changing times. They become tenants and dogma that can never be questioned. Business suits and high heels are the new ceremonial robes– visual signifiers that this individual is separate from the masses they supposedly represent. They speak to us through press conferences, tweets, and talk show appearances not as fellow citizens communicating with equals, but like some kind of new age Moses presenting new Commandments for us to obey. We’re not citizens or individuals, we’re statistics, demographics, and collateral damage. When disaster strikes, we’re measured and viewed in the context of productivity– “objective” means to calculate our political worth.
When things like Fukushima, hurricanes, climate change, and so on wrack the world, these situations are only made worse because in the need to maintain that organization, the figureheads we’ve surrendered to are more concerned with maintaining that order than defending the world from our Godzillas.
Shin Godzilla’s all about the absurdities of the way we choose to be governed, and the absurdities of how we crave to surrender to higher forces even when doing so is dangerous. It’s all filtered through a very Japanese take on these bureaucracies, but the general vibe is easy enough to “translate” to any country’s governing bodies. Yeah, Godzilla is destroying our cities and killing our people, but we have to make sure we deal with him in the “right” way! All the proper channels must be followed. Procedure and standards matter more than response and action. The greater good is not the will of the people, but the will of the governing body perpetuating itself even in the face of its own inevitable demise.
That organization that originated to save us becomes our destroyer. God is now Satan. Maybe God always was Satan, and we were fools to put faith in any given structure claiming to protect us.
The way things resolve in Shin Godzilla is both shockingly optimistic and rather dire all at the same time. All of the young, unwanted misfits who work thankless bureaucratic jobs band together and find a solution to their Godzilla problem. They’re able to cut through all of the old systems and find something new that works. It’s amazing that such hopeful action actually results in positive action.
But what’s so dire about this ending is how we get there. The only reason why these young idealists are able to carry through with their actions is through a certain amount of divine intervention– the old politicians are collectively killed by Godzilla.
It takes the literal death of the old for the new to take their place, and it’s only because said deaths happen while those new face are still new that they’re able to act on their ideals. Would this happen if the change was protracted over time? Is that spark of change and metamorphosis on a timer, and we’re more than likely doomed to repeat the cycle by remaining in the system?
Does real change only happen with the proverbial Godzillas strike and give us a timely opening?
That leads into all sorts of other questions about whether you need a Godzilla, and whether you should manufacture one if need be. That isn’t Shin Godzilla’s realm, but it is in the wheelbox of the recent animated Godzilla movies.
Their answer isn’t pretty.
Let’s hope reality is more like this.