the circular runner

the Batman shootings: evil, revenge, and me

In life, observations, teaching & education on July 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm

I don’t usually post on Fridays, but I just saw some footage from the Colorado shooting, and I wanted to write something. I needed to.

I will admit that about the same time James Holmes decided to enter a theater in Colorado guns a’blazing, I was watching a Korean revenge film about  sociopath and about a cop who decides to break all the rules in order to seek revenge.  Usually, revenge movies are a guilty pleasure for me, and Asian revenge movies are so over the top that I wouldn’t ever say I am moved by them intellectually.  But this Korean movie, called, I Saw the Devil, was different.  It was over the top and sometimes, the characterization of the sociopath was akin to those old silent movies when the villain wears black and twists his mustache, but the thing that kind of made me stick with the movie was that it focused less on the criminal than it did on the police officer.  If I had to summarize the movie, I’d say it was a look at the fact that there is no solution for evil, or if you prefer, against a person completely devoid of morality.

Ironically, this movie reminded me of The Dark Knight, which also dealt with the same notion.  Heath Ledger as the Joker, you say what you will about his acting, but that character is truly horrifying–not because of what he does, but because he feels nothing about what he does.  You can imagine that the Joker would give as much thought to breathing as he would to brutally killing a person except that brutally killing someone probably gave him some pleasure–but then again, maybe not.

There’s a scene in The Dark Knight when the Joker talks to Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and lays out his thoughts on violence.  Watch this scene and tell me if this isn’t scary.

It’s scary because there is no ideology, no firm ground to share. There is only randomness, violence. It makes me shiver, and yet as a movie-goer, I’m drawn to it because there is something awesome about it–awesome in the Biblical sense of the word.  Awesome in the sense of being awestruck with horror because there is nothing one can do to fix this kind of person.  Revenge is not a prudent motivating force, but part of the reason we like revenge movies is that they restore order to the world–at least they attempt to.  They give us a sense of justice.  But the randomness of the Joker, the randomness of this shooter in Colorado, is just that, randomness.  And revenge does not bring about justice.  The immoral person does not feel, cannot feel, guilt, which is kind of the point of seeking out justice, isn’t it?  That’s the lesson of The Dark Knight and I Saw the Devil.

And yet, the answer is not apathy.

Earlier this week, right outside the projects in which I teach my GED classes, there was a drive-by shooting.

this does not look like the site of evil, does it?

No one was hit, though there were dozens of children at the playground across the street and young couples with their dogs were there, too.  The shooters, no doubt, are not evil, even if what they were doing could be called that.  They were not being random.  They were going after a kid for some reason no one knows exactly.  The only reason I bring this event up, apart from the fact that I have not really talked to anyone about it, is that the responses of my young students was almost all the same: indifference. The shooting, the bullets and all the harm those bullets can do, has been internalized by the young people I work with, and they don’t see much point in getting upset by it.  I don’t think my kids are evil for their apathy.  But I do think it shows that they have been harmed by the evil I’m describing.  They do not feel.  They don’t imagine that there are places where random violence is not a daily thing to witness.  Or maybe they do, but they don’t see themselves living in those places.

And maybe they have no reason to. I’m not sure I believe in the devil, at least not as certain religious people like to describe him, but if he did exist, last night, a little bit of hell was visited upon the town of Aurora, Colorado and those people in that theater saw a glimpse of the devil for themselves.

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  1. What really happened in the Batman Shootings is the natural outcome when people are promised something of value, after successfully completing a difficult task, and that promise is nothing less than puffery nor more than. . .a lie.

    I have estimated that within the past 1.5 years over 190 young Americans, after a most successfully completed degree program and being only able (at best) to secure positions that they were vastly overqualified to hold, have committed suicide. Now, most folks, when pushed to wits end, will suffer though, some end it all and some attempt to end all.

    Stop lying to people about the, fictional, benefits of higher education and this one problem will be ended; it’s just as Noam Comsky states, “If you don’t like terrorism, stop being terrorists,” or as the musical comedy artist Tor Hershman puts it

    of course, that would require an actual civilization thus is impossible.

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  9. […] if you go to the post before this one and you look at the first comment, you’ll see a rather novel take on this tragedy.  A man named Sam Harrington, a first-time […]

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