In the latest Batman movie, the Dark Knight there is a scene with two ferries. Stop reading now if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to spoil the suspense. The Joker plants bombs on each ferry and tells the passengers of each that they can save themselves by pressing a button that will blow up the other boat. One of the boats is filled with criminals that Harvey Dent has arrested under RICO statutes, basically most of organised crime in Gothan, plus guards. None of these have been convicted or tried yet. The other is filled with typical Gotham residents trying to get away.
On the "civilian" boat many people immediately cry out to press the button. Those in charge are intimidated into allowing a vote on whether to murder 500 people. Admittedly many of them have commited heinous crimes, but a deliberate killing without even an attempt at a trial is still a murder. The vote goes something like 350 - 150 in favour of brutal murder but those in charge refuse to push the button themselves. They then hand the button over to on of the passengers who also cannot bring themselves to personally kill 500 people.
I have heard it said that this is a hopeful and positive thing, that it lifts the moral stature of the typical Gotham citizen above the dregs. To me not tripping the switch when you voted for someone else to do so is nothing more than moral cowardice overwhelming physical cowardice. Think about it, why do you vote for something? So that if everyone else is tied on the issue it goes your way. There is no other purpose in voting. If you are on Socrates' jury and you vote for Socrates to be killed and it's not going to be a tie otherwise your vote changes nothing. If it would be a tie otherwise then kill him. To then say "Well I'm not going to do the thing that actually kills him." is a lie, since you already have. Three hundred of that boats passengers tried their best to blow up the other boat when nobody knew who was doing it. None of them had the guts to do it out in the open. To me that puts them beneath contempt. To be a multiple murderer is bad enough, but to be one who doesn't even have the guts to pull the trigger himself? To be willing to sacrifice 500 lives but not your reputation? I call them scum.
That said the reason I would have voted no would be that of course the Joker rigged the triggers to their own boats (remember his "information" on where Harvey and Rachel were?). Whether the convict who threw the trigger out did so because it was the right thing to do or because he realised this we'll never know.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
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