Viewing posts tagged ethics

Harry Potter and the Popular Consumption of Hegemonic Bourgeois Moral Ideology

Killing people.  It's a tricky one, isn't it?

We... (and, in this instance, by the word 'we' I mean that rather narrow band of people who produce and consume the artefacts of the Western narrative culture industries) ... we want to tell ourselves - in those bourgeois morality plays we call entertainment - that killing is WRONG.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The killing curse is an 'Unforgiveable Curse'.

"Make the foundation of this society a man who never would".

Luke can't be won to the Dark Side because he won't kill his father.

"Coward.  Every time."

"Stop!  I command it!  There will be no battle here!"

Etc, etc, etc.

But lookity here... our heroes kill people, or they support the necessity of killing people.  Even the 'moral' ones (i.e. the ones who aren't James Bond) do so.  Luke is nobly refusing to kill his father even as Han and Leia and Lando are killing loads of Imperial soldiers in the big battles.  The Doctor refuses to kill the threatened people of Earth even as the survivors of the Gamestation are fighting and trying to kill Daleks, and Rose solves the ...

Good Soldiers (Into the Dalek)

'Into the Dalek' is about good soldiers vs bad soldiers.

The pain of being a good soldier, the pain of the memories which a good soldier has, vs the anaesthetised mind of the bad soldier.

But, of course, what do we mean by terms like 'good' and 'bad'?

For the army, a 'good' soldier is a soldier who obeys orders without question, kills without hesitation, and doesn't let themselves be haunted.

A 'bad' soldier is a soldier who thinks about, and makes decisions based upon, things other than the orders of a superior... perhaps leading to their inability, or refusal, to kill on command.

In a soldier, morality is a malfunction.  A good soldier is a 'bad' soldier.  Because good people can't do a soldier's job, which is to fight and kill.

At least, that might be how the Doctor would put it, in his simplistic way.  The Doctor doesn't like soldiers.  As in 'The Sontaran Stratagem' he is rude and patronising to the soldiers he meets as a matter of course.  He refuses to take Journey Blue with him because she's a soldier.

But the soldiers on the Aristotle ...

Force Decides

Israel is currently killing hundreds of people in Gaza.  As they do from time to time.  To make something Abba Eban once said true by simply inverting his meaning: the Israelis never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace.  Though even that is too kind to them.  As even White House senior staff acknowledge, the Israelis don't want peace.  Give them everything they've ever wanted, and it still isn't enough - because what they say they want isn't what they want.  What they really want is to continue the war until they have finally completed the work that David Ben-Gurion left unfinished, and eradicated the Palestinians.  The mindset of Israel is genocidal, and becoming more openly so by the day.

It is now clear to a great many people that what happened to the Native Americans as a result of the institution and independence of the United States of America was a scandal, a holocaust and a tragedy.  The idea is so commonplace it's become a sentimental truism in pop-culture.  Well, Israel had not done very much that America didn't do in the process ...

A Town Without Context

On 'A Town Called Mercy'

The ends can justify the means, but there needs to be something which justifies the ends.
 - Trotsky

Jex experiments on people in order to create a cyborg supersoldier.  His motive is to end a war which is killing his people.  But were his people the attackers or the attacked?  That this is ignored tells us a great deal about the writer/s but deprives us of the possibility of making moral sense of the story.  It is ignored, presumably because it is considered irrelevant.  Yet, the whole point of the story appears to be the question of whether Jex is a bad man or a good one... with the answer being, of course, "yes".  But I'd argue that the wider social context of Jex's actions (beyond just saying that 'it was war') is as important as it is obscure.

The notion - that war is, as Jex puts it, "a different world" in which normality shifts drastically and morality becomes fuzzy - is, for a start, a somewhat glib truism.  Like all such glib truisms, it can be pressed into service (i.e. "Yes, an invasion will ...

Categorically Speaking

Kant's categorical imperative is an expression of the bourgeois liberal ideas of the 18th century, expressed as morality.  It is progressive in the sense that it attempts to derive morality from Reason.  It is part of the Enlightenment.  It also expresses the new, universal promises of the bourgeois revolutions in that it universalises (i.e. "All men are created equal").  It is based on the principle of universality.  What you do must apply to all people or it fails to be truly moral. 

However, it is also based on a bourgeois notion of rights.  The concept of 'rights' is a product of the rise of bourgeois property/trade relations.  One brings one's rights to the market place and, on that basis, one participates in the putatively level playing field.  For Kant, one negotiates the conflicts between these rights on the basis of contractual clauses.  If the Party of the First Part undertakes to do such and such, the Party of the Second part will be understood to be obliged to do so and so.  It is this which finally inverts the universality of the notion into an ...

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