The Dark Knight: Thoughts On Morality And Ethics

Every so often you come across things that should make you question morality and ethics but also the assumptions that they rest on.


The recent set of Batman movies are a good example. Let’s take the Joker. In many ways the Joker is Batman’s foil from his silly personality quirks to his philosophy, morality, and ethic. The Joker views the world and its principles like justice, innocence, basic humanity as largely a farce. A fiction by which an entire world has been constructed held together on. In The Dark Night, Alfred say some just want to watch the world burn. I don’t find this to be all that accurate. I find that the Joker has a point to prove about what he finds to be our own collective self-delusions. To him there is no justice, there is no innocence, there is no basic humanity because they are conditional and will be abandoned when no longer convenient, which is precisely why Batman is so interesting to him. Just the fact that Batman exists signals an inadequate system of justice. It signals the justice along with these other constructions of what is “right” are concepts that must from time to time be renegotiated. How interesting must this have been to the Joker for a man to so perfectly embody the conditional nature justice of that which is right and then risk his life for the preservation of that lie. I find that Batman understands that conditional nature better than most having lost his parents but finds that the idea is worth aspiring to. That the costs to resulting from a failure aspire to the concept of justice as it is defined as too great. To the Joker that which is conditional is false and whatever consequence we bear are just the costs of the truth about ourselves.


Bane and the league of shadows on the other hand are about ethics and duty. Bane and Batman both believe in justice in a sense of what is right versus what is wrong and they both have sense of duty unto death to preserve that ideal. Where they differ is the process and procedure by which these things are applied. In the act where Bane begins his revolution and rails against the various injustices rallying the prisoners against the free and the poor against the rich. All the while planning to blow the city up in any way along with himself and his league of shadow compatriots tells us a lot. It tells us the judgment that league of shadows passes on a city they also pass on themselves for being its executioners. It shows that the oppressed and marginalized are not rendered innocent through their oppression. Its shows that according to them fear and death are the only means by which justice can be secured because everybody is guilty. Batman on the other hand whose existence signals failures within this system defends this imperfect deeply flawed process because the alternative is again untenable.


It surprised me (mostly because I think myself to be consistent and firm in my moral and ethical commitments) to the extent by which I related to these and how I didn’t so much see them as villain but more as people with a different point a view they didn’t mind making sacrifices for. To a certain extent many of us are bound by these automatic limiters on our behavior we like call guilt. These “villains” were free of the guilt imposed on us by the morality and ethics our society teaches. So when I think about Us and all we go through in this society should we lose our guilt with respect to the morality this society would impose. I’m not talking of self-defense, send them to the cemetery type of not feel guilty but to truly lack a fuck of about the social fabric. I’m reminded of Native Son when Bigger scares his lawyer because though he acknowledges that he shouldn’t have killed but world around offered him no other course and felt no guilt about it. Is such a thing what we want? A better question is that where we need to be to move forward?

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