War – war never changes. That seems to be a fact going throughout history, the methods of spreading war and fighting wars evolves constantly but the motivations never change. Greed, hate, fear and vengeance seem to be the main culprits when it comes to motives, many people have tried to reduce it all to one state of mind, as for example, Karl Marx saw all the worlds problems coming from greed while others point to fear. At the end, you can make an argument for all of them and that’s why in this article I will stay with the four motivations I mentioned: greed, fear, hate, and vengeance.
But to understand one of the main antagonists of the Naruto series Madara Uchiha we will mainly focus on fear and how in his specific case fear created his greed, hate, and lust for vengeance and drove him into seeking salvation in an illusion. But let’s step back and look at Madara’s life and the things that shaped him.
Madara’s Childhood & Seeds Of Fear
Madara grew up in an era of constant war, the life span of a Shinobi at the time was just under 30 years and it was dropping rapidly with more and more children being used in combat and dying leading to children below the age of 10 meeting death in combat. It was a time in which children who were Shinobi couldn’t exchange their last names out of fear of being attacked as an act of blood vengeance if one of your Clan members happened to kill a Clan member of the person you encountered.
Many children at the time started to question the adults, which included Hashirama and his brothers but also Madara who had already encountered great tragedy.
Most people know of Madara’s younger brother Izuna, he gave Madara his eyes for him to unlock the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan and Sasuke was said to resemble him, but what’s forgotten is that Madara lost three of his four brothers in his early childhood to the life of the Shinobi. At an earlier stage than Hashirama, he started to question the Shinobi world from the fear of losing his loved once. He became quite obsessive and even states towards Hashirama when they develop the idea of a Ninja village that he likes it because it would allow him to keep a close eye on his younger brother.
I want to make this point clear. The motivation behind Madara seeking peace and a new system for the Shinobi world wasn’t as selfless as Hashirama who truly wanted to just stop the spilling of blood of innocent children on both sides. Madara liked the idea of Hashirama but his driving force of pursuing that goal was his wish to keep his younger brother alive and to avoid experiencing the pain he went through when losing his other brothers. He was driven by the fear of loss.
Madara’s Adulthood & Skepticism
Tobirama, when asked by Sasuke, says the problem between Hashirama’s vision and Madara’s vision of a village was that Hashirama’s was too naive and Madara’s too skeptic.
People cannot show each other their true feelings. Fear, suspicion, and resentment never subside. – Madara Uchiha
What Tobirama meant with that related to Madara was that he was so pessimistic and worried over being betrayed that he couldn’t entrust people any form of real control and was so scared of being stabbed in the back that he preemptively stabbed people in the back. This only got worst when he lost his brother and his greatest fear became reality.
After Izuna’s death, Madara entered a stage that especially Tobirama criticized during their childhood. This stage was to continue fighting only for the sake of revenge even with Madara defeated and Hashirama offering to save his life for the sake of peace. Madara was only willing to accept it if Hashirama either committed suicide or killed Tobirama as payment for Izuna’s death. Now Madara stopped Hashirama from suicide accepting his willingness to die as payment, but his lust for revenge and fear of revenge and the fear of people striking preemptively like he often did was still alive.
Still, even after accepting peace and founding Konoha, Madara’s fears of loss moved from his brother to the Uchiha Clan as a whole. He quickly noticed the rumors that were spreading about the Uchiha’s gaining their powers through hatred. He started to realize the problem with the village. It didn’t lead to peace between the Clan’s it only set up alliances between Clans against others. He saw the already spreading rumors against the Uchiha and Tobirama the successor of Hashirama who believed them at the time and even said the Uchiha’s will always be trouble as a sign that one day the village would conspire against the Uchiha Clan in an attempt to keep peace and when it would come down to the lives of the Uchiha’s and the potential threat against Konoha. The Uchiha’s would lose.
He would end up being right which even Hashirama admitted looking at the act Itachi had to commit for the village. It confirmed Madara’s thought that the willingness to kill for the greater good would be a self-fulfilling circle of self-destruction.
Hashirama’s country was a shameful contradiction….Man seeks peace, yet at the same time yearning for war… Those are the two realms belonging solely to man. Thinking of peace whilst spilling blood is something that only humans could do. They’re two sides of the same coin… to protect something… another must be sacrificed. – Madara Uchiha
Madara’s Conclusion & Dream
After all that he came to his conclusion regarding the nature of life which he summarizes himself quite well.
The longer you live… The more you realize that reality is just made of pain, suffering, and emptiness… – Madara Uchiha
Quite honestly he isn’t alone in this thought since the European enlightenment philosophers have pretty much agreed on the fact that the basis of human life is in suffering and the lack of meaning makes it empty. Madara knew that already as a child when he said death is always at a shinobi’s door. He realized that even if true peace is established which he doesn’t even believe is possible the existence of natural death will keep the suffering going. You can live a perfect and peaceful life and you will still witness the death of family and friends through natural means and accidental means.
His solution and dream were an actual dream. After accepting the fact pain and suffering were unavoidable parts of reality he came to the conclusion the only way to escape the baseline suffering in this reality is to escape into an illusion in the form of the infinite Tsukuyomi. Through this Jutsu, he could give every person a perfect reality.
I just stopped the fate of this world. I freed people from pain, suffering, and emptiness. You’re getting in the way of everyone’s happiness. Our game ends here. I turned hell into heaven. – Madara Uchiha
The Problem With Madara’s Solution
At this point, you might be going through an existential crisis after realizing the valid point Madara has and might question how people could oppose him. The main opposition is something called existentialism.
Existentialism is a school of philosophy that was born out of all the problems Madara has with reality. The lack of meaning and the baseline of suffering isn’t something that has gone unnoticed and the best answer we got so far is existentialism.
It basically says that suffering being the baseline might seem bad but suffering and pain not only make us stronger (which is the power source of the Uchiha) it also gives us the needed perspective to understand peace and love. The reason we feel existential pain is due to the fact that we are self-conscious of our existence. Something animals aren’t, this results in us being plagued by existential angst but at the same time makes us understand all the great things about life. Pain makes us understand each other and appreciate happiness.
Now that we explained the need for pain and suffering on an existential level we have to talk about the lack of meaning in our existence and existentialism has quite an unhelpful and hopeful idea for that problem. It basically has the argument that the lack of meaning gives us the opportunity to decide our own goals and meaning.
He who has a why can endure any how. – Friedrich Nietzsche
Naruto is all about that, his meaning in life is to be acknowledged and become the Hokage and this dream lets him endure all the suffering he goes through in his life. You could even say the suffering and pain he has to endure to become Hokage is what makes it worth it. If you don’t have to go through some form of opposition to achieve a goal it can’t be worth much and the bigger the opposition the bigger the price and feeling of happiness when reaching it. Especially Naruto sees the infinite Tsukuyomi as a gigantic cheat that takes away all the value and work that makes achieving a goal worth it which you can only truly experience in the real world and not in an illusion.
Naruto and many others want to turn their dreams however unrealistic they are into reality while Madara out of fear of existence has given up on reality.