Downton & Judgement

My interest was sufficiently piqued to watch the first season of Downton Abbey with my wife after reading the fantastic 1000 word essay on the death of the american dream and the denial thereof featured in Esquire this month.

Over a brisk weekend soirée we breezed through the 7 near DVD quality, commercial free episodes via AppleTV. I must say I was impressed. (As an aside please don’t tell my wife. I have painstakingly created the illusion that by me watching the show with her I am doing her a huge favour.)

One theme from season 1 that really resonated with me was that of endeavouring to avoid judging others. It was poetic partially because it was in the context of some very nasty characters and trying circumstances. Alas! In the season 2 premiere, which became available this week, the nonjudgmental poetry and allusion to truth has been shattered. Here’s why ~

During the season 2 premiere a fair amount of effort was put into the redemption of some of the nasty characters from season 1. One character professes that he was picked on because he was different. Another confesses to losing her favourite brother when he was returned to the war front after a spell of shell shock. The direction and writing teams are busy creating excuses for the characters’ nasty behaviour, reasons to excuse them from harsh judgement. Herein lies the problem, this introduction of reasons and excuses misses and more importantly obfuscates the point of being non judgmental. The point is not to make excuses or to accept root causes. It is much less linear than that. It is not about cause and effect, or a mechanical existence where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, or where bad things have happened to good people which has turned them bad. Not judging others is about transcendence. Sparing people your judgment isn’t about them, it is about you and your acknowledgement and mastery of an autonomous externality. A mastery that can only be pursued through mastery of oneself.   That autonomous externality is everyone’s origin and no one’s excuse. Season 1 did a wonderful job alluding to this poetic truth, and sadly season 2 has already undone this meaningful allusion.

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