I watched a couple of good shows last night: one was a political satire show; the other was a space opera cartoon.
First up was the August 19, 2018 edition of Last Week. In the episode, host John Oliver mocked the zero-sum guru Peter Navarro, the White House economic advise who was found through a search of book titles on Amazon.com. Zero-sum, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the belief that “a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side“.
You know who else has a zero-sum outlook? Thanos. (Imagine the president being advised by an MCU villain. Actually, the White House might be more organized.) Thanks doesn’t believe in altruism. He can’t. If other people gain, then he loses. But he thinks he’s doing the universe a favour: if there were fewer people, whoever’s left would thrive. He just leaves out the part where he controls most of the resources and he gets to decide who lives and who dies. So, yeah. A zero-sum attitude plus egotism and seemingly limitless power equals villiany.
Later, I saw the Season 5 opener of Voltron: Legendary Defender. The rebel forces who pilot a mecha called Voltron have captured Lotor, a prince of the evil Galra empire. He briefly ruled the empire when his Thanos-like father was gravely ill. But Lotor was exiled for wanting to ease Galra’s tyrannical rule. Naturally, the Voltron side doesn’t trust him, but Lotor explains wants to return the the old days of peaceful coexistence. “This isn’t a zero-sum game,” he tells them. “Meeting the needs of the Galra Empire means bringing peace to the universe. That is the future enlightenment brings us, one of prosperity for all.”
Lotor may have been a product of idealistic governors who became corrupt over time, but he’s genuinely trying to change the system for the benefit of all, not just the powerful. When it comes to purple-skinned alien analogies, I’d rather the world have more Lotors than Thanoses.