Monday, 21 April 2014

Why I chose to call myself ‘Valen’

WARNING: If you haven’t seen the TV show Babylon 5 but were planning to, this blog contains spoilers.

I don’t think I’ve ever explained my choice of pseudonym before, or if I have I haven’t done so fully, so I thought I’d explain my choice now, especially as I received the following comment from a right-wing critic on a comment stream on a piece on Your Thurrock that I didn’t even write:

All you need to know about Myles is that he calls himself Valen. Valen is a semi-messianic character from the Sci Fi show Babylon 5. And he calls me a loon!

That’s a very interesting, if incorrect, observation regarding the character from Babylon 5 and requires a look at the definition of the term ‘messianic’:

1.  (Bible) Bible (sometimes capital)
a.    of or relating to the Messiah, his awaited deliverance of the Jews, or the new age of peace expected to follow this 
b.    of or relating to Jesus Christ or the salvation believed to have been brought by him 
2.  (Government, Politics & Diplomacy)
a.    of or relating to any popular leader promising deliverance or an ideal era of peace and prosperity
b.    of or relating to promises of this kind or to an ideal era of this kind

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

 So, before I explain my choice of pseudonym, let’s correct my critic on the inaccuracy in his comment, shall we?

The character of Valen in Babylon 5 is not semi-messianic as the first definition, that of association with Christ, is more accurately laid at the feet of the character of Captain John Sheridan who died and rose again and became seen as the deliverer from darkness, personified by the Shadows.

The second definition hardly applies to Valen either because, although he was a great leader, he never promised deliverance or an ideal era of peace and prosperity.  Valen was simply a man who became revered as a great leader because of his great military strategies and his philosophical way of dealing with matters.  He was known as being “a Minbari not born of Minbari”, a revelation that would be explained in the third season of the show when Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, a human, was transformed into a Minbari by an alien artifact and travelled back in time.  Every prophesy attributed to Valen was actually Sinclair remembering the events that took place in his life as a human.  His philosophical way of dealing with things was a product of his upbringing and need to mediate.  His military prowess came from his unwillingness to see more death than he needed to see due to the events in the final battle with the Minbari before they surrendered to the humans.

Valen never promised deliverance because deliverance from the Shadows was already a historical fact to Sinclair during his human life.  Valen didn’t bring about an era of peace and prosperity; he brought about a military victory against an enemy.  The era that followed was relatively peaceful in galactic terms but there were still wars and strife and there was no guarantee of prosperity for the survivors of the Great War against the Shadows.  Valen did bring relative peace to the Minbari but this was simply due to the fact that he got the three castes working together because of his need to mediate.  He brought peace but never promised it.

Valen was simply a man, a human called Jeffrey Sinclair, who sacrificed his human existence to become a Minbari.  He didn’t choose that fate.  It was thrust upon him by events written a thousand years before his birth.  He was a human who knew that conflict is always supposed to be the last resort and tried wherever possible to find a non-violent solution to a situation.  He was a reluctant leader who was happy enough with his mid-level rank and who wished to protect his friends from an altered timeline in which they would be killed if he didn’t accept his role in a history already written.

Yes, I did call my critic a loon but, as he obviously has no idea about the character of Valen, I should also add ‘ignorant’ to his list of accolades.

So, why did I choose the name ‘Valen’ as my pseudonym?

I chose it because I liked the character of Jeffrey Sinclair.  He was a man of peace but also a great warrior.  He was a man who was willing to sacrifice himself for his friends.  He was a man who cared about the ordinary men and women under his area of authority.  He was a man who sought peaceful solutions to conflicts.  He was a man who endured great hardships and survived.  He was a man who was not afraid of standing up against his superiors when faced with injustice.  And isn’t that worth adopting the name of the person he became?

I think it’s a good enough reason to want to take the name of Valen because I’d like to be like that character and there certainly aren’t any real-life role models who come close to that integrity.

Valen is also a real name, not just a fictional one on a sci-fi show.  I may have been exposed to the name on Babylon 5 but it’s a good name that happens to be real too.

There are many rationales for choosing a specific name when one wants to change one’s name but I think that choosing a name because it sounds nice and because it represents an aspirational figure, even if that figure is fictional, seems like a pretty good rationale to me.

I have been a leader (and a good one if those I led are to be believed) but I have always been a reluctant one.  I prefer not to resort to violence but am not willing to bow down to those in power when I see an injustice.  I am a man who willingly sacrifices his privacy to offer people a glimpse into what it’s like to have depression and, as a result, sacrifice my ability to get a job because I can’t then hide my mental ill-health from prospective employers, leaving me at the mercy of stigma and discrimination.  I am a man who would willingly sacrifice himself for a friend or loved one.  I am a man who seeks a better way of handling society’s problems.  I am a man who endures hardship on a daily basis.  I am a man who does not offer promises of deliverance or an era of peace and prosperity.  I am a man who offers suggestions for a different way of thinking and wishes to provoke debate on important issues of the day.  I am Valen.

No comments:

Post a Comment