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Bound to Suffer -- The Philosophy of General Skarr

Updated: Mar 28

A squadron of airplanes flying above the seas.

Introduction: How WWII Birthed Fictional Villains

Most would probably agree that WWII has been a stain on humanity, from the loss of human life to the havoc it wreaked on the minds of those who survived it. It is because of these reasons that Nazism became the textbook example of evil. It even influenced our understanding of logic, adding another proof that it is relative to time. Justifiying something as morally wrong by comparing it to Nazism or to Hitler is known as the Hitler Card.

It also inspired the creation of countless fictional characters and organizations, from the Galactic Empire in Star Wars to basically any fictional tyrant that is associated with military symbolism involving oppression.

In this article, I'd like to analyze what I see as a representation of an oxymoron between the evils of Nazism and the scars it left on the world for many years to come; a trade-off that was packed into comic-relief with little depth but with significant symbolism I believe we can learn from.

Made of Scars

This is the philosophy, and the sad truth, I've found behind the character of General Reginald Peter Skarr, a forgotten side character who fully appeared in only two TV animation shows: the obscure "Evil Con Carne" and the childhood-favorite "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy."

To put it briefly, Skarr is a union of oxymorons structured in the form of a comic relief character. He's often treated with little seriousness by both the other characters, the creators, and the audience. He is evil, but too sensitive to ever pose a threat; he appears in a Nazi-like uniform (yes, in children's shows), but is actually British and never confirmed to believe in Nazism. He is smart enough to hide his attempts at overthrowing his leader until the very end, yet remains extremely dumb.

What I'm trying to convey is that the General is basically the "love child" of Hitler and an extremely unlucky, extremely unfortunate, traumatized man. However, his "ancestry" of Nazi influence is never explicitly linked to the traumas he endures. It's the traumas of being a butt-monkey, AKA comic relief, seems to stem from almost everyone and everything he encounters. From one-scene nameless characters whose sole purpose is to beat him up, to objects that harm him due to extreme bad luck.

His name, "Skarr," is both ironic, literal, and symbolic. Literal due to his scar, ironic due to him being the scarred one, and symbolic due to his designation in existence - the archetypal "Chew Toy," AKA, a being whose sole purpose is to suffer. His title, "General," is an oxymoron as well - he is important in rank but impotent in execution. Whether faced against heroes or villains throughout the shows, he will always lose one way or another, and no one loves him, including his mother.

What made Skarr the unfortunate being he was during the airing of the two shows? His "deal with the devil" was, according to his mother's demand, to join the military. This decision ultimately made him the unfortunate character he was -- an undermined henchman to a belittling dictator and eventually permanently, both physically and mentally, ill by the desire for evil and the actions that stem from it.

The Unseen Scars: A Reimagined Look at General Skarr

What I call the "tragedy" of General Skarr is better understood if we replace key aspects of his character.

The Traumatic Existence:

  • Military: Skarr's enlistment becomes his point of no return, one that involves a series of violence and defeats.

  • Evil as Mental Illness:  For Skarr, his evil could a symptom of a deeper issue, a mental illness shaped by his experiences. One that compels him to desire world domination. Despite "rebirthing" as a retired home owner, his ill desire for evil pulls him back, as an echo of his unique past.

  • Skarr/Scar:  His name, "Skarr," becomes a constant reminder of his traumas. It's not only a physical scar that's on his head but also the mental scars he had when interacting and facing off people from all walks of life -- and losing to them, often with no way to properly fight back, nor take revenge.

  • Bellitlement -- Ignorance: The constant ridicule Skarr faces becomes a symbol of ignorance, apathy and misunderstanding. Pain as such becomes a granted only he experiences as extremely harsh -- because it is, and directed at him.

A Rebellion Against Fate:

  • Usurpation: Skarr's attempts to overthrow his leader become a desperate rebellion against the cruel reality he inhabits. While he was successful at doing so one time, it was only temporary.

  • Fighting the Denial: After retiring from his evil ways, he faces with the struggle to return to his former self, the truth within him. His wish for world domination shows his desire to be far more than he currently is. To live a different life... One that may have him suffer the Drug Lord's Fallacy should he ever succeed.

A Curse, Not a Choice:

Through this lens, we see a deeper tragedy:

  • Some people, because of their specific, traumatized past, are more susceptible to mental illness, such as PTSD. These struggles are often met with misunderstanding, perpetuating a cycle of pain like the one experienced by Skarr.

  • This burden of the past can lead some to rebel, often in vain, against their seemingly predetermined fate. Mental illness, like the past, can inescapable.

  • Joining certain organizations, which are bad for you, like the titular Evil Con Carne, becomes a point of no return and a scar that's here in our minds.

Beyond the Joke:

  • We may laugh at Skarr, the comedic villain in a Nazi uniform. But a closer look reveals a character cursed by his affiliation with evil, which altough addicting for him, is followed by extreme bad luck whenever he tries to achieve evil, and in general.

  • The problem with mockery comes with it biases us from understanding the people who are the "butt" of our "jokes" on a deeper level. This allows us to ignore their pain as sufferable and deem it enjoyable instead. That is the darker side of humor.

  • In some environments, like the military, mental illness can become a more-common condition. This internal struggle then becomes a source of unfair suffering, met with either mockery or ignorance.

A Product of Black Humor:

This reframing, presented in this article, reveals Skarr not just as a comic relief character, but as a product of black humor. He is a shell of a former evil, a chilling reminder of the true horrors of Nazism and oppression in general, which some audiences today reduce to laughter and internet memes.

In philosophy, we seek to understand reality beyond what it makes us feel, even if that feeling is good for us or spoils all the fun. As such, being part of an evil organization is not only bad for its victims but also for its members. It's why gang members can also be victims of their own gangs.

A Shared Burden

I don't relate to Skarr because he's a villain; I relate to the unseen scars he carries. Like Skarr, my family and people carry the weight of the Nazi era. I believe, through generations, the trauma has manifested as mental illness, passed down from my great-grandfather who lost his family, to my later grandmother who witnessed violence, to my mother, and perhaps even myself.

To see these scars one must deeply reflect on the past, and realize that our genes also carry trauma. As such, the wise thing to do is to avoid trauma, and doing can benefit not only ourselves but also our future children, who are there to carry our genes.

However, this subtle reality lies dormant because many people won't bother doing so, and will inflict trauma on us and on themselves as well. Like Skarr's retirement from his evil career, the best thing we could do is to live in peace, or at least try to. However, our ambitions, which often require sacrifice, like in philosopy, may get in the way.

Peace therefore becomes a liability for what we want to do and achieve. Even if we fail constantly, the very thing that resonates with us the most will deter us from giving up.

Despite the Pain

If it weren't for the Nazis' deliberate infliction of pain on humanity, countless lives, including mine, would have been spared a great deal of suffering, both during WWII and for generations after.

This is why I don't conceal or see own mental illness as shameful. For I know my traumas are not my fault. Even if the specifics of my theory are wrong, the core truth remains: The past can cast a long shadow, but the choice to whether to retire from our plans to avoid further pain, depends on our resolve and determination to endure that pain regardless.

Ancestral trauma and past trauma in general can potentially ripple through generations, impacting the mental and physical well-being of descendants. We are not entirely free from the past, even the one that predates our own existence. This lack of agency, coupled with the often negative reception of how past events can impact us, creates a profound sense of injustice and loneliness.

Final Words

We are, in essence, bound to a legacy of trauma, whether individual, collective or even organizational. The laughter directed at General Skarr, a character burdened by the weight of his "traumatized Nazism," exemplifies this societal disregard for the enduring impact of historical atrocities on individual mentalities, rejecting said individuals as either weird or insane.

By recognizing the burden carried by Skarr, and by extension, those like myself with a family history of trauma, we can begin to move towards a more empathetic understanding.

But for that, we need to overcome our own shadows. We cannot be there for others properly, if we have yet to deal with ourselves. As such, the elevated state of altruism can only be reached once we reign victorious over our own personal problems within... The very problems that cause egoism.

As such, Skarr was a sick man who worked in a sick environment. One that refused to deal with its internal problems, to allow greater collaboration and even harmony. This is why leaders are best to be altruists, and care for its members, if they want to not spread the very trauma they themselves experienced by the world.

Otherwise, they will never be fit to lead. They will only be fit to be incompetent, and to be defeated from outside and from within, thus hindering their own progression using the collective they're in

And that collective does not have to be the military but any collective that is led, whether you're a military officer, a CEO or a parent. You must cultivate the inner strength to be healthy enough to not spread the very own suffering you endured to others. To subordinates, to workers, to children.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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