Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Was Osama bin Laden Lawful Good?

According to the System Reference Document (SRD), “A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act.”  Please note the words expected and required; a lawful good character conforms to certain expectations or requirements.  What are they?  What authority establishes these expectations or requirements?  Absent answers to these questions, we are left with a jejune tautology: a good person acts like a good person.  What authority is appropriate to define good behavior?  Is the verbatim word of God sufficient?  How many ways of interpreting the word of God are there?

The SRD epithet for Lawful Good is “crusader.” While bin Laden would vehemently object to that term based upon its historical context, the Muslim corollary – mujahed – has been applied to him.  Of course, the mere fact that bin Laden is a hero to some does not mean he was a moral paragon.  There are disturbed persons that believe Hitler was heroic, if not “good.”

The definition of a lawful good character continues:

She combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. She tells the truth, keeps her word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished.

Bin Laden was committed to oppose what he considered to be evil and he fought relentlessly.  He took steps to punish those he perceived as guilty (i.e., “the huge criminality practised by Israel and the United States”).  With regard to 'helping those in need,' bin Laden employed his formidable assets “to fund a number of infrastructure projects” in Sudan.

Lawful characters specifically, “...respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties.”  The SRD also states:

“Law” implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include close-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness [sic], and a lack of adaptability.

It is easy to attribute these 'downside' lawful qualities to bin Laden.  Note the “respect” for and “obedience” to authority.  Again, 'authority' (or at least its interpretation) is subjective.

With regard to “good,” the SRD declares:

Good characters and creatures protect innocent life...“Good” implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.

From an objective standpoint, protecting innocent life was not a priority for bin Laden.  Subjectively, however, bin Laden proclaimed that there were no innocents (among his enemies at least) and that the violence he propagated was necessary for “the purpose of abolishing tyranny and corruption.”  Bin Laden proclaimed the Islamic World was being victimized and that he was defending innocent Muslims.  At what point – if ever – is violence against non-combatants acceptable from a “good” paradigm?  What atrocities can be rationalized?  Destroying a nest of dragon hatchlings?  Razing a hobgoblin village?
Within the context of a simplistic game world, the alignment system of “the world's most popular role-playing game” is an assessment of morality, but when extrapolated to a realistic setting, it is easily strained through a filter of ideology.

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