What ‘Messiah’ teaches us about blindly following leaders
Let’s make one thing absolutely clear at first: This article is in no way meant to attack any beliefs whatsoever. I’m only talking about human nature in general over here. Also, there are going to be some spoilers.
Messiah is a new show on Netflix that depicts the resurrection of Christ, as written in the Holy Books of the Abrahamic religions. Undoubtedly, it garnered all sorts of attention simply because of the controversial nature of the content.
The season sheds light on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the first appearance of this mysterious figure, known throughout the series as Al-Massih/Messiah, is during an ISIS siege of the city of Damascus. He starts preaching to the people there that the enemy is going to be vanquished soon and that all they need is the word of God to get them through this ordeal.
By some infinitesimal stroke of luck (or divine intervention?), a sand storm of biblical proportions appears out of nowhere and engulfs Damascus, eventually vanquishing the hold of the enemy. While the storm intensifies, Al-Masih can be seen undauntedly standing on his platform to continue to preach as the people around him fade into panic and seek whatever form of shelter they can.
Thus, the story of Al-Masih finally establishes its roots in the minds of the people. Some have already accepted him as their savior, while others are still trying to figure out what exactly happened.
With a gathering secured, Al-Masih and his new band of followers travel into a desert with no apparent goal in mind. The first night of their arrival there, not much happens except one man getting anxious at his thinking and refers to him as the devil. There are obviously skeptics in the crowd but for now, no one deems it important enough to bring it up. That is in part due to their survival-like situation.
Soon enough, they reach the border with Israel and proceed to march forward while the base security calculates what this enigma will conjure up next.
Boldly crossing the border to the other side, Al-Masih finds himself arrested by border patrol forces and the word soon reaches the world that this surreal event actually took place. Al-Masih is now in the hands of security, his followers are flabbergasted, and the whole world is only beginning to get an eye on this mayhem.
Currently, the followers he brought with him are in awe as he has opened up a potential path into Israel for them. The belief they have in him is possibly at its peak now. One of the main characters in this group is Jibril, a young kid who has lost everything to war, bent on finding some purpose. To Jibril, Al-Masih is that divine purpose.
This is one of the places where we see just how fragile beliefs can actually be. No one from the crowd dares question why it is happening and what will become of next. They are inherently afraid. They are not thinking for themselves, they are only shown what Al-Masih wants to make them see.
The crowd is desperate for something as they’ve lost everything. People in better circumstances think better!
Do they now? What this scene depicts is how willfully people tend to subject themselves to the calling of an authority figure, or someone who seems to know what they are doing. This isn’t subject to the desert followers as soon after, Al-Masih makes his way into the States and we see how he faces a tornado and becomes a hero.
But first, let’s go through other ‘miracles’ that he performs before he gets there. Al-Masih manages to escape his cell which is revealed at the end of the show that a guard let him out and it was no divine calling. The news of his ‘escape’, soon reaches his followers who are now without question submitted to him.
Al-Masih then makes his way to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and causes havoc. Long story short: a child gets shot supposedly by Isreali forces and our hero resurrects him by touching his heart. The people who witnessed this are starstruck and proceed to record and share the event on social media and the news becomes viral, while he manages to disappear into thin air. Voila, another miracle.
The thing that troubles me is how the general population is heavily bent on belief rather than questioning and investigating what’s happening in front of them. Al-Masih performs about 3 miracles and everyone who’s seen him gives him a higher status without questioning the credibility of his actions.
We see this happen all the time, all over the world. If you’re charismatic, mysterious, and do something out of the box, people WILL become obliged to serve you. This is how partisans are made and reasoning with them is beyond the realms of possibility.
Dilley, Texas is now the stage for Al-Masih. A tornado rips through the town and destroys every structure, except the town’s Church. People record him at the scene of the incident and soon enough, the world matches him with the person who caused the scene in Israel. His celebrity-like status puts him in front of cameras and his plan is succeeding in every way.
The pastor of the church that is apparently saved by Al-Masih becomes devoted to him as he arrives just in the knick of time when the pastor is about to burn down the Church for possible insurance gains to get his life back together. People flock over there from all over the country and are mesmerized by Al-Masih’s overall quiet and mysterious nature.
Without getting into the plot too much, let’s finish up the discussion by talking about how he convinces people to migrate with him AGAIN on a journey of an undisclosed destination. A huge caravan joins the leading van driven by the pastor. This time, Al-Masih convinces the pastor to decide where they will go as he has convinced the pastor that he is a part of the great plan and his judgment will be final.
They end up arriving in Washington D.C and after preaching a humongous crowd at the Lincon Memorial Reflecting Pool, he proceeds to walk on it and amaze everyone once again.
In the caravan, there is a woman who has brought her daughter to get healed by Al-Masih. The daughter suffers from cancer and the mother disregards proven treatments and practically kidnaps the daughter from her husband who was completely against this plan in a bid to receive some sort of miracle. Needless to say, they don’t get much out of the trip.
Al-Masih now has a worldwide following and rioting has ensued in many places with people believing that the end is near, all without much questioning and reasoning.
While it may just be a piece of fiction, such partisanism is very destructive and needs to be tackled. It ruins one’s ability to think critically and when that’s gone, you allow people to take over you without being questioned.
Leaders with a partisan following
Donald J. Trump
Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States of America, has done an excellent job of gaining a following who are incapable of thinking with their heads.
Upon close observation of Donald Trump, it’s clear how he manages to woo crowds all the time. His vocabulary is stuffed with words that feature exaggeration and immenseness. Amazing, Tremendous, Incredible, Billions, Believe Me, are just some of the things you’ll hear him spew in almost every single public event.
What does that do? His followers have grown to believe that whatever this man does is right and he did a great job. He says words that people like to hear and almost always refrains from using statistics to prove facts because he knows that wowing people is easier than communicating through them with logical reasoning. He will attack anyone who dares challenge his claims, no matter how fabricated they may seem, and Trump has a history of lying. According to the Washington Post, Trump made 16,241 false claims during his tenure at the White House.
Let that sink in. The President of a country has been caught with that many lies, yet his followers are clearly in love with him. Where is their ability to reason? Why does it not occur to them that maybe their leader is not cut out the way they think?
Fake News is what Trump uses to denounce his shortcomings and that has become such an overused statement that it’s not even funny anymore.
The current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan Niazi, came into power when the country was suffering from turmoil. The previous Prime Minister, Nawaz Shareef, was indicted on corruption charges and finally sacked by the country’s court. He was one of the driving forces of this investigation and his followers finally had a reason to regain hope for this country. By convincing people that he will strive for honesty, something the country has not seen for decades, he made impossible claims to cheer the people that he has failed to deliver in numerous places.
With the country seeing inflation of record heights and basic necessities being driven further from the reach of the common man (Dawn News), the majority of his followers refuse to acknowledge the failures of Imran Khan and often resort to frivolous name-calling on social media just to fuel their ego. His followers belittle his oppositions followers for being naive in the face of the truth but have done little for their own image.
The Prime Minister of India is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and has not done well when it comes to keeping communal violence off the streets of India. His tenure in the government has seen a drastic increase in Hindu-Muslim troubles and he has not handled it well. Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory disputed between India and Pakistan since both countries gained independence has seen a great deal of violence.
India recently revoked a clause from their constitution that granted Kashmir special status and rights which has led to the area being under lockdown for more than 4 months (AlJazeera). The world is clearly able to see how the policies and actions of Narendra Modi have been anti-Muslim, but much of his followers fail to realize this fact.
What can people like you and I do?
If you’ve read till here, chances are that you haven’t been offended yet and might actually agree with some of the things I’ve said. If that’s true, then congratulations, you’re capable of analyzing situations without being completely biased!
If we can learn the ability to actually stop and think about why we follow certain people and if they actually live up to their claims without having biases, then we can remove this emotional problem and start thinking with our head.
Understanding the fact that whoever comes to lead us has personal gains out of power will remove the saint-like nature we associate them with and make them feel like normal humans. We have no problem critiquing ordinary humans and those leaders are ordinary humans as well. We just imagine that they’re special and therefore lose our ability to question.