Friday, August 1, 2008

The Dark Knight's Willing Deception, or Die Truth Die

The Dark Knight (2008)

Spoilers for The Dark Knight and Final Fantasy X ahead.

Antilife fearfulness finds terror in the change in the world. Change, and the uncertainty of future change, inspires wonder, delight, love and amazement in the healthy mind. In the sick mind, it is this same change and uncertainty that inspires terror, and results in fantasies of absolutism, lust for the still perfection of death, and, simultaneously, inspires the self defense instincts, and lashing out.

To the sick mind, any force of opposition is (1) unified, and (2) unreasoning. I have discussed the unified quality in previous entries on ragnarism; in short, it involves the belief that all things which disagree with (or do not proactively, automatically agree with) the sick mind are somehow connected. This is the "with us or against us," "black and white" model of the world.

For purposes of the Dark Knight movie, the (2) unreasoning portion of the delusion is highly relevant. This is because the Joker is portrayed, like many villains before him, as a representation of chaos and disorder, in the tradition of Loki and the "mental patient" villain. I.e., the villain who cannot be reasoned with or pacified, because he has no goals other than sensation/carnage. The point is made very clear, as the Joker destroys money he has acquired, laughs in the face of being thrown from a building, does not mind being punched by Batman, etc.

This is an unrealistic villain, if an interesting character. Real human beings have motivations. For example, if you kill someone's family, they may want to kill you in return. If you punch someone in the nose, they may want to punch you in the nose. But the fearful mind sees no depth to the resistance of an enemy; no reason why the "enemy" might be resisting their desires. Ergo, the fearful mind sees its enemies as baseless and reasonless, beyond negotiation or understanding, and therefore worthy only of violence.

To move beyond the abstract: consider (with a groan) the American or Israeli mainstream perspective on "Islamic terror." Rather than viewing violence from other human beings as a result of violence against them, it is viewed as an unreasoning holy crusade to destroy. The national myth goes, "Islamic terrorists are unthinking madmen who seek only our destruction." This perception has been used for barbarians, communists, etc. whenever necessary for those with sick minds. This is why it is useless to: 1) debate or negotiate with more than show; 2) self-examine and concede; 3) show mercy.

Sociopaths exist, to be sure, and they may justify themselves as seeking sensation, if trapped and questioned. If the Dark Knight movie were simply about the Joker as a sociopath (or other unique individual), that would be one thing. Instead, the Joker serves not as an aberration, but as a representation: an example of the type of enemy that good people have to resist. The kind of enemy who destroys with no motive is presented as the natural reaction to someone who is noble, heroic and self-sacrificing.

I.e.: it is inevitable that the world become a fearful, disgusting, violent place that cannot be reasoned with or fixed, except through violence. Of course, this is ragnarism in its purest form: the reaction of the fearful mind, or violent lashing out at a hated world.

This is because the movie says that Batman created the Joker through sheer goodness. At the end of Batman Begins, the predecessor movie to the Dark Knight, the cops show Batman the first of the cards that the Joker has left at the scene of a bank robbery. They inform him that, because his noble Batman stint has worked so well, the criminals are already "adapting." In essence: try to live a noble life, and evil, chaotic forces will inevitably try to destroy you, for absolutely no reason at all.

This theme is hammered home in the Dark Knight. The Joker tells Batman that they are linked, and alike, and that Batman created him; other characters emphasize that the Joker is a necessary reaction to Batman. Because Batman began challenging the normal forces of corruption in the city (such as the mob), the world naturally created an even worse villain, which, unlike the mob, does not desire money or power, but simply unreasoning destruction. As a result, Batman is "forced" to become more authoritarian in his methodology, because to do otherwise leaves him vulnerable to the Joker (and villains in that mold).

The story might now sound familiar to you:

Because I am so noble, evil people with no morals or inner worth will try to kill me. I am thus forced to become cold, hard and brutal so that I can meet their challenge. It is not my fault when I take extreme measures, such as violating the privacy of large groups (which Batman does in the movie), or torturing captives who don't actually know useful information (which Batman also does in the movie). Rather, it is the Joker's fault.


It was the motivation for the American "Cold War" as well as the "War on Terror." The sick mind cannot imagine an enemy who is not obsessed with it. Thus, the Joker is obsessed with Batman. His entire life and career are based around the battle with Batman, which he expounds on at the end of the movie. Similarly, the American narrative imagines that Islamic terrorists spend all day lustfully hating the United States for its superior technology, morals, women, etc.

The most dangerous conclusion in the Batman movie comes at the end, when Batman lies about Harvey Dent (two face)'s murders, in order to trick the ordinary masses of Gotham into believing that Harvey Dent was a perfect saint who did not succumb to evil. Of course, being the noble hero, Batman accepts responsibility for Dent's murders. This is supposed to be a good thing because then the people of Gotham can go on believing that Harvey Dent is wonderful, and that they need this "hope" in order to carry on.

The message here is striking:

1) When a hero seems to have done bad things (such as Batman or the United States killing innocent people), the hero is actually innocent, but is just accepting responsibility in order to protect us all. Thus, it is rude to pay attention when a hero kills innocents (or commits any other sin of your choice).

2) In order to go forward with their hollow, meaningless lives, other people need to be lied to to give them hope. They need this hope because they are trapped in an endless cycle of violence from which they can never break free.

The "endless cycle of violence" and death is the worldview of the sick mind, yet again. The necessity of lying to people in order to prepare them for death and destruction is the next stage.

For those familiar with Final Fantasy X, consider Lady Yunalesca as an example. By killing her own husband to temporarily defeat Sin (a monster which regularly killed thousands of people), an action spawned of fear, Lady Yunalesca believed that she was giving Spira hope. Tainted by this fear, she refused to believe that Spira could exist without Sin, because her fear caused her to believe that life could not exist without being bleak and violent. Because she felt life had to be bleak and violent, she considered it merciful to help other summoners carry on a tradition of sacrificing their guardians, and themselves, to "fight" Sin--even though they could never totally defeat Sin that way. The summoners' quests gave the people of Spira "hope," because although everyone was participating in a great lie--a lie that killed countless Spirans over the ages--the lie nonetheless gave "hope." And so, Yunalesca felt justified in trying to murder Yuna and her guardians in order to stop them from revealing the truth--and to stop them from destroying Sin and breaking the cycle (spiral) of violence.

Yunalesca's perspective is, essentially, Batman's perspective from the Dark Knight, which is the same perspective of every sick, ragnarist mind throughout history: life must be brutal, fearful and violent, and only through lies can we give people enough hope to carry on. If we strive for a better world, where the killing can stop and people can live in peace, we will fail, so there is no point trying. It is better to simply deceive them: to give them a grand quest against an enemy; a quest that can never be won; and in that quest, they will have hope and purpose, and make it through the bleak night. And I am a noble, wonderful person for giving them that hope, even as they live on in violence.

And so, we hunt terrorists, or clown murderers, or communists, or whoever the hell else. Somehow, it never seems to end. Sin claims more people, and our leaders promise us that our soldiers next noble war will be the cure for what ails us.

They're lying, and some of them know it, but those ones congratulate themselves privately for giving us hope to carry on in such a bleak world. The others are just dumb, greedy and afraid, and want to lash out. There is always someone new to kill, and always brave soldiers or false causes to place our hopes in. Harvey Dent, the murderer? Batman, the liar?

Why aren't we good enough for the truth, Lady Yunalesca? Why can't you explain to us how Harvey Dent was a good man who was driven over the edge? Why can't we learn from his mistake and be better ourselves for it?

Because, under absolutism, Harvey Dent cannot be a good man once, and a man in error later. He can't be both, says the sick mind, because the sick mind believes that thoughts are static and controlled--he must be one or the other. And so, the fearful mind refuses to grapple with change and uncertainty, to its own demise.

All this aside, the Dark Knight was an enjoyable movie. The acting was quite good; the technology was interesting. The director and writer managed to artfully dash through rapid-fire detached scenes without making the breaks too jarring--a required skill in an arena where cost cutting is more important than art. And, if you accept the comic book world as fantasy alone, the Joker (and his suggested inevitability) makes for a nice adventure.

Spoilers for The Dark Knight and Final Fantasy X above.

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