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Faith is a very powerful thing. It can be a light in the darkness, a driving force, or a tool used to subjugate an entire nation.
Is it best to live with hope? Or with your eyes open to the true state of the world?
Final Fantasy X takes place in a world dominated by fear. Almost weekly attacks by a giant monster keep the people downtrodden, afraid to live at all. The people of this world are in dire need of faith. They are desperate for something to cling to, something that might deliver them from the evils of this world. The procession of high summoners, sorcerers who can summon powerful beasts called aeons, giving their lives in the battle against Sin in the vain hope of the destruction of Sin permanently, however, is nothing but a waste of life. Sin is eternal; it cannot be destroyed, the church claimed. Surely a false hope is better than a life desolate?
Now, for most of us here on Earth, this false hope must be an idea that rings all too clearly. The Western world seems to have collapsed in on itself of late. Those are not the only similarities between us, however. Fighting amongst races, religion used as a weapon to oppress, religious leaders living in luxury at the expense of the poor…This can all be seen right here; fear and greed reign supreme.
Sin first appeared after the bloody and catastrophic war between Bevelle and Zanarkand. That left a bright, sprawling metropolis in ruins, and many people dead. Sin appeared after this war, with the church of Yevon claiming Sin was punishment for the horrific war to discourage any such battle from happening again. The people of Spira were taught that the only way to get rid of Sin would be to atone for the crimes committed during the war and by a sacrifice of a person with the ability to summon aeons—their life taken to ensure a small window of time where Sin would be gone. This period is known as the Calm.
The emphasis on the penitence of the everyday citizens on Spira is heavy. Wakka, one of Yuna’s guardians, firmly believes if they are truly sorry for the actions of their ancestors a thousand years ago, and live a simple life without machina—machines to you and I—Sin will retreat and leave them alone, their sentence served. Yevon also speaks of shunning the Al Bhed, another race in Spira. The Al Bhed still freely use machina and do not follow Yevon, an act that causes them to be reviled by people all throughout Spira and attacked in force by the church to the destruction of the base they called Home; the only place they felt safe, away from the church that pinned the blame upon them for the war that tore apart the world. Wakka himself followed those teachings to the letter and was very prejudiced against the Al Bhed (the fact they kidnapped Yuna to stop her from sacrificing herself also didn’t really help here). On Earth, you merely have to look to the Crusades to see the similarities between the two realms. Years of bloody warfare waged against those who didn’t follow Christianity in an attempt to convert those who were different meant thousands of deaths, all because they did not follow the same god, share the same religious dogma. The persecution remains the same.
The Al Bhed are also used to teach a lesson to those who would advocate the use of machina in the fight against Sin. Operation Miihen was a large scale attack planned by the Crusaders and the Al Bhed—luring Sin to a desolate area and then attacking them with weapons machina. The church oversaw this attack, but only to watch it fail. Moments before the attack order is given, Maester Kinoc, an elder of the church, remarks to the Summoner and her guardians that he’s well aware the attack will fail, but the crusaders and the Al Bhed needed to learn that. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives lost to prove a point. This bears striking similarities to the Iraq War, where British forces were deployed under the pretense of searching for weapons of mass destruction. Hundreds of the Iraqi people were killed in the search when, in reality, it has been suggested that the war was merely about the large quantities of oil that can be found in Iraq.
The fear of Sin and the harsh teachings of Yevon to control the populous created a perfect environment for the Elders of the church to abuse the people and live in luxury, hiding behind messages that the only way to free themselves from this horrific monster was to live as simply as they could and give everything to the church. In reality, it was freeing themselves from Yevon that allowed Yuna to deliver Spira from this nightmare. Religion was used very much as a shackle to feed the Church and Yu Yevon—most of the church elders were no longer even alive, remaining unsent, so attacks from Sin held no fear for them. The same could be said of those in America who build Mega Churches with donations from believers and line their own pockets instead of helping those who need a hand. So who is the real enemy here? The monster Sin, or the ones holding the leash, stopping Sin’s destruction by continuing to adhere to traditional methods?
Obviously, deterring another earth-shattering war is something to be admired, but the means—by grinding the people down to the point where they are living in fear for their lives every day, unable to grow and evolve as a people because the Church are keeping an Eldritch horror to be used as crowd control, is nothing short of horrific. The abuse of power, of vulnerable people reaching out for something, anything, to help them through the day is inhumane. The disregard for life that doesn’t match who the Church deems unacceptable…In the face of this, it is clear to see—Yevon is the real enemy of Spira. A false hope provided nothing but pain and an abuse of power. The courage to push off the comforting blanket of religion allowed Spira to grow, to change, to evolve—to save themselves. Hope is nice, but with the help of your friends and the determination to do what is right, you can do anything. We can learn a lot from her determination.
I know that, today, faith and hope have never been in such short supply here in the real world. We are all facing some difficult times ahead, but we can learn from the courage of Lady Yuna and her guardians, and their determination to do whatever it takes to make a better world, even if it means defying convention and tradition and doing, instead, what is right. We all need to be kind to one another, regardless of differences. Like the Al Bhed and the Yevonites, we need to see these differences mean nothing and work together. We can make a difference. We just need to have faith in each other.