Self-Condemnation and a Reflection on “The Imitation Game”

Judging oneself to be inferior to others is the worse act of pride,
because it is the most destructive way to be different.

I don’t know if I agree with the above quote, but it has a point. I also realize that what I’m about to say is not about being inferior to others, but being inferior to yourself, to the person you can be.


I watched the movie “The Imitation Game” a while ago.
It really opened my eyes to my own pattern of thinking.


— overview —

During the Second World War, a British man named Alan Turing came in charge of the task of breaking the German encryption code. It was deemed an impossible task, with millions upon millions of possibilities, and the encryptions changed daily. If they broke the codes, then the allies would know what the Germans were communicating to each other, promising them an enormous advantage over the Germans.

Turing invented the idea of software. He created the first reprogrammable computer to solve Enigma, the German encryption device.

The allies knew every attack that the Germans planned, every detail. They could have intercepted every attack. But they couldn’t. If they did, if they saved everyone, if they stopped every attack, then the Germans would know that their encryption codes have been broken. They would change their communication methods and the all the works done by Turing and his team would be lost. The allies’ advantage would be lost.

In the movie, a brother of Turing’s co-worker was on a ship that would soon be attacked by the German forces. The colleague insists that they inform the ship to deviate from their path, thereby saving everyone onboard, including his brother. Turing insisted that they COULD NOT do that. If they did, the Germans would discover their years of code-breaking work. The brother died.

Turing had a choice but given their objective to win the war, that choice was not the best option.

So for two years, until the end of the war, Turing and his team “played God” – decided who lived and who died. They did statistical analysis to save as many as they could. The whole time, Turing bore the burden of not being able to save everyone he “could.”

Ultimately, the revealed information assisted the allies to end the war years earlier than it would have, saving millions of lives.

Before his machine was functional, Alan’s team felt like they were making no contribution to the war effort, trying to solve an impossible code. Their boss was undermining the importance of Alan’s work, saying that he has accomplished nothing, he has made no progress, and he has nothing to show.

In Turing’s perspective, for a long time during the war, he was a war criminal. He was “killing” innocent people by not preventing preventable attacks. But he really could not stop them because there was a war to win. He could lose a battle for the sake of the war. This situation, in part, explains the problem of evil. Saying something is evil assumes that what happened was the worst-case scenario, which is something no person can say for with confidence. More than the actual event, what makes something evil is the intention to harm, that whatever (or whoever) was in charge did not care. Turing cared, but he had to make the best choice. In a limited frame, his decisions can be deemed heartless and evil.

There’s induced trauma, but there’s also just the trauma of living, of not knowing if you’re doing the best with what you have. More honestly, believing (or knowing) that you are NOT doing the best with what you have causes us to condemn ourselves. Seeing others doing better with less, seeing others living happier with less, seeing others producing more value with less than we are blessed with, is traumatic. This causes self-condemnation. We conclude that we don’t deserve what we have.

I think what I’m trying to say is that we don’t know. There’s no way of really knowing if we did enough. We can only keep living and keep working. We can only do the best that we can, not the best we could. After that point, we leave the questions of “did I do good enough?” to the still-mysterious forces of this world. There can’t always be a certainty, and at that point, we can only trust that the universe is benevolent and that things can come together for the better without our careful observation. So be kind to yourself. Some questions can’t be answered while we’re still living.


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