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Hidden Messages - 11/14/2008

If you haven’t seen the movie “The Dark Knight”, you should.  It’s a two-hour , action-packed blow-‘em-up, sometimes too violent film that’s on the dark side. That doesn’t sound like much of an enticement, particularly if you’re not into superheroes.  Nevertheless, it’s worth buying a ticket because of the messages it imparts regarding moral issues that every one of you are bound to encounter in the course of your lifetime.   

The first is that every human being has two  sides.  You’ve often heard me talk about the fact that each of us is two people - the impulsive, emotional kid  and the thoughtful, intellectual adult.  Well, in “The Dark Knight”, people are portrayed as either the good guy, the well meaning, idealistic person who’s committed to achieving moral goals, or the same guy who, given sufficient pressure, can become a corruptible, evil being, whose primary motive is revenge and self indulgence.   

As a result, other moral dilemmas follow.  The first:  If a good person does bad things to a bad person who truly deserves the punishment, does it justify the actions of the good person?   More pragmatically, can we condone vigilante behavior when it operates without due process of law?  Or, if we accept the fact that terrorists are bad people who should be caught and punished, should we then condone wire-tapping of their phones to apprehend them, even though it violates the privacy rights of individuals?  Some people have no difficulty answering these questions.  Pure and simple, good is good, bad is bad, good has every right to do whatever is necessary, as long as it is directed toward eliminating bad.  Accordingly,  we should condone the Inquisition, during which supposedly good, righteous, religious people utilized torture to punish “evil” in others.  But, you might ask, who is it that determines what is “righteous” or “evil”?

A second notion introduced by  this film is that we all need heroes, whether in the form of a fictional character, such as Batman, or an actual person.  But, when you create and expect them to totally care for you, does that serve to incapacitate you, to restrict the development of your ability to care for yourself and reinforce your dependence?  Think of a child who idealizes a parent and stays dependent on him/her throughout his life.  Does it inhibit him from becoming a self-sufficient adult?  Although I’m not suggesting that all dependency  be stifled,  I do believe that dependency  cripples people and, more often than not, disallows them from learning how to stand on their own two feet.  

Another thought is that, when there are no heroes to lean on, human beings often discover a little bit of a hero in themselves.  That discovery can not only facilitate their individual growth, but can later affect their families and communities, as well.  Thus, if only one hero comes from the masses, he/she enables the rest of us to say, “He’s human and I’m human, so I can relate.”  And, by virtue of that,  it builds up your own feeling of self-worth.  Isn’t that essentially what happens when Mark Phelps swims for eight gold medals for the U.S.A., or our basketball team wins in the Olympics?  Doesn’t everyone suddenly have a sense of pride?  Doesn’t it elicit a feeling of identification, a desire to improve one’s self and the thought  that, just maybe, “I can be a winner, too”?

In the film, two ferries, one filled with commuters and the other filled with policemen guarding mafia criminals, are wired to explode.  Each ferry is given a detonator and told that one boat can be saved if someone on that boat presses the detonator and destroys the other boat.  The questions that arise are, which boat should be destroyed, and who will press the detonator?  Considerations that arise are, isn’t self survival a priority?  Why should you give up your life for criminals?  If you’re a criminal, why care about the rest of society?   Or, does it stand to reason that you should sacrifice the lives of a handful of policemen to save the lives of a boatload of commuters?  You need to see the movie and decide what you’d do.

Still another dilemma the movie brings to the forefront is that even heroes such as Batman can reach a point where they justify their actions because of their good intentions.  The message is that power can corrupt.   Look at so many of the corrupt leaders in the world today and throughout history and you’ll find that, at one point in their lives, most of them had more noble goals and genuine concern for the downtrodden but, over time, power corrupted them and history repeated itself?   

The movie leaves you with the conclusion that there will be a sequel, that the battle of good and evil will be back again, in order to make millions of dollars in ticket revenue.  But, it also says that, throughout history and in each of your lives, you will always face a battle between good and evil.  Thus, you have to be on guard, not only from the evil in the world, but from the selfish, egocentric needs in each of us.  As a result, you need a system of checks and balances to ensure that your actions not only stem from good intentions, but are governed by rules and laws that  need to be followed, in order to stem the rise of anarchy, which can only lead to the destruction of every individual and all of society.  

“The Dark Knight” is a dark movie that presents questions and dilemmas that every human being needs to consider.  My suggestion is, see the movie, but don’t get lost in the superb acting, or the length of time it takes for them to say that there are two sides to every issue and to every individual.  Most of all, realize that you need to be aware of both sides of you in order to help you choose the “right side” to govern your feelings, thoughts and actions.  The question is, who determines which is the right side?

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