“Redemption, it’s a funny thing. Sometimes you have to go through hell to get it.”
By now, after a ‘healthy’ dose of Hollywood and perhaps even religion, we all familiar with what heroes are. We all know that helping others and fighting against injustice is morally (and emotionally fulfilling). Let’s say that I’m not disagreeing either, although, I sometimes wonder are ideals worth fighting for? I’m specifically referring to an action movie called, Hero Wanted. Before I dive into a debate on ethics…here’s the brief plot.
Hero Wanted: In a nutshell
A man has lost his wife in a past car accident. So right at the beginning we’re aware that he’s been dealt a major injustice and should be given a break. A freak accident occurs and he rescues a little girl from a burning car wreck. Events seem to move at a terrifying pace because soon after this, the ‘hero’ (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is caught in a bank heist. He witnesses a shooting of a woman who is, coincidently, similar-looking to his late wife. From then on his aim is to kill off the bad guys from the bank heist, and restore some sort of order/justice.
This is a tough debate to wrestle to the ground. I say this because the moral questions like “what is the right thing to do (at the time)?” has more layers. When you are a kid in school you learn about right and wrong. It’s the simple way of giving boundaries, and also showing that there are consequences for when boundaries are breached. So from early on we are being told that Newton’s 3rd Law (every action has and equal and opposite reaction) applies to the playground. I wish morals and/or ethics were that simple.
Here’s some questions and statements that show that ‘being right’ and doing the right thing, is sometimes wrong. The reality is we live in a society where being moral means that you’re gonna choose the best shade of grey you can find and stick with it.
“The best outcome is filled with the worst intentions.”
“Being right is a social evil thrust upon us.”
“You can be sincere, but also sincerely wrong.”
“Is what you see as right…universally acceptable?”
“The end does not justify the means. People are ends in themselves.”
Looking at the previous questions, I’ve got the feeling that I may be taking on too many debates at once, but I also enjoy a good mental struggle. So here’s what I make of the first statement. Also for the sake of readers, and the time I have to blog, I’ll be debating the following four statements in separate posts.
The Best Outcome
We can run into a bit of trouble when we set goals and outcomes. We forget the bits in between. In this debate I’m using a Kantian mindset of fighting moral acts with rational facts. It’s way too easy and immature IMO (in my opinion) to use the excuse ‘Because God/Allah/Yahweh/Buddha/etc said so.” It’s more work to try and survive without these great guys, but it makes you really start to think about yourself.
Back to the debate…I’ll back up my ignorant statement, with a slightly-less-ignorant example.
Let’s assume you are a tramp, all you’ve ever known is the trash cans, stale odours, yells from angry rich people, the wonderful taste of alcohol, and the cries of your starving children. You’re clearly below the bread line, so in order to survive you literally have to steal bread, or restaurant scraps. As a beggar money is scarce, so it’s understandable that stealing is something that keeps you and (and more importantly your children alive.) Some days you are lucky because you find fresh food, that’s recently been thrown out. Most days, though, you have to dig out rotten food from the bins.
Stealing starts making you more confident for two reasons.
1 It’s better than what you could get with the coins you receive
2 You eat better, which means it improves your health.
Now one day an old lady goes shopping late at night. She has a few medical problems, one happens to be insomnia. This means she sleeps lightly and gets up in the middle of the night to snack on something to help her sleep.
(If I could add some music, I would at this point throw in some stringed instruments, with bone-chilling treble notes.)
Mrs. Harpley (we’ll call her) dresses warmly and takes a walk to the local convenience store. Once there she grabs some milk, bread and chocolate biscuits. She is friendly and warm with everyone she sees in the shop. After about 15 minutes she leaves, and walks home.
You are sleeping on the corner of the road she walks down. Initially when she came past her foot steps woke you from your slumber, although considering the rapid pace she was gone before you could put two and two together. This time you are ready for her. You pretend to sleep as she walks past you. Mrs. Harpley walks a few meters ahead when you decide to jump up, and begin following her.
Mrs. Harpley doesn’t hear you coming up behind her. Her plastic bags rustle in the wind, and the constant tip tap-ing of her shoes throws out the sound of your bare feet. When you come close enough, you take out a rusted dagger, and bark at her in a deep voice. Mrs. Harpley spins around and a frightened yelp escapes her mouth.
“Gimme the bags,” you growl.
Before you have time to react, Mrs. Harpley has reached into her bag and pulled out a silver revolver. She waves it in your face. You’re stunned, but equally angry at this point. You continue to threaten her. She panics and fires off a shot into your leg. You cry out, swear at her. Lunging at her with the rusted dagger you plunge it into her. You stab her enough, and then make off with the packets.
Who was right?
Now time to ask who was right. Which character in the story committed a justifiable crime? If you’re asking a police officer this, the answer is straight forward. Murder is murder. If Mrs. Harpley had killed the beggar she’d be equally guilty. The law is not sympathetic to what you feel, or what you have been through.
The reason I put this example there was because it illustrates my initial quote perfectly. The best outcome for the beggar (putting the murder aside) was to feed his family. Don’t forget that he had to go through hell to get it. The point is that when you kill someone, you aren’t actually redeeming yourself or anything notable. I’m not saying that we should simply forgive murderers and rapists too easily either.
So what is my point then? Well the best outcomes can result to terrible actions/intentions, but it’s our job to pull our selves back from it. My father told me once, that courage comes from small decisions. So if you have a massive urge to murder someone, rather tell someone than run out and do it.
True courage = Genuine integrity
Courage is probably another cliché we’ve thrown into literature, alongside heroes, valor and pride. It’s a continual consciousness, and effort to stand up from your own principles.
Example 1: If someone is rescued from a burning building by a civilian, that’s courage.
Example 2: If you work in a factory that produces sweets, and you’re stash a bagful of chocolate bars, but at the very last minute decide to put it back and ‘grow up’ …that’s courage.
Two separate examples, does not rank these in terms of better or worse. The reason why the guy in the first example could save someone was simply because he’d done the work and small pieces of courage (like in example 2).
The final answer…
I’ve taken a while to answer the very first question, and you can blame it on the narration of Mrs. Harpley and the beggar. So are the best outcomes filled with the worst intentions? The answer is that they can be: but then a) you’re not fully conscious (or logical) b) you’re chickening out of a greater opportunity and c) you’re not standing for what a hero is really about!
Of course I’ve also left lots of think about and comment on, but that’s kinda my job 🙂