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The Dumbledore Conundrum

I’ve spent the last month reading Lord of the Rings with an old friend of mine. We go chapter by chapter and discuss weekly. I like to call this an “intentional reading” of the text (which sounds much better than “two person book club”). I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this experience, but one thing that I cannot let go of, even though it doesn’t apply to LotR, is what I’ve been referring to as “The Dumbledore Conundrum”. It’s a thin straw that I’m grasping, as the only thing that Gandalf and Dumbledore have in common is that they’re old wizards, but every week I want to talk about it. After many discussions with my poor friend Grant in which he has to remind me that Dumbledore and Gandalf are nothing alike, I decided to take to the internet to work out my Dumbledore issues.

The Dumbledore Conundrum (as it will soon be widely known) is when an older man chooses a younger man’s fate without the younger man’s consent. It’s how Dumbledore decides that Harry is going to die, without telling Harry about the sacrifice that’s required of him. For most of my life, I have accepted this as a narrative device – after all, aren’t some people wiser, don’t they have more information and a better perspective over the situation and we need them to make decisions? Recently I’ve been evaluating that opinion, I’ve been wondering if there’s any one person who should get to decide the fate of others. I’ve been wondering if any group of people should have that power. It seems to me that anyone who has that power doesn’t deserve it, because deciding that you get to decide makes you unworthy of deciding. I seriously talk myself in circles over this. Then Grant asked me – what about in a war? Don’t soldiers follow orders on the assumption that someone with more information is making the correct choice?

I’m sure Grant meant to prove his point with that argument, but it only made me dig my heels in more. War is EXACTLY the same situation. Young men are asked to go and put their lives on the line based on the assumption that someone with a better perspective of the situation has issued the orders based on the greatest good. The Greater Good. The phrase that has been used to justify genocide. A phrase that I have never been able to get behind, even when it’s being used for something I believe in. For instance, I can’t get behind people that say it’s ok that Trump followers don’t want the vaccine because if they get wiped out it’s for the greater good. No. Just no. For so many reasons that I won’t get into because this blog is about media, not science (I am not really qualified to speak on either but…) I just can’t support anything that uses the phrase “The Greater Good”, probably because I don’t trust any one person to decide what the greater good is (because fuck the patriarchy).

The Dumbledore Conundrum has been a narrative device for ages, some older (usually more powerful and/or richer) man gets to decide the fate of a younger man (who usually has burgeoning hitherto undiscovered power that could rival that of the older man) because the older man “knows best”. Many of our favorite heroes are sent on quests to their death by some form of “mentor” that fits this description. We’ve just accepted it as a way to get the story going, but has that led to us accepting it in real life? We allow a government to decide when we go to war, when the young men of our country will die. They say it’s for freedom or justice, but it could just as easily be for money or power. We need to stop letting people decide our lives for us, because they could be deciding how we die and for what cause.

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Categories: Manic Monday

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