Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight and Reflections on Human Nature

Yesterday I saw the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, and would like to offer a few observations. First, the film is as good as the critics say, but my surprise arose from its philosophical depth, something one doesn’t normally expect in a movie of this genre.

Very briefly, and without going into too much detail, Batman is confronted by the Joker, played so effectively by the late Heath Ledger in what is essentially a battle for competing views of human nature. The Joker, a demonic figure if there ever was one, seems intent (and this seems to be his only motivation in the film) to spread terror, despair and cynicism throughout the citizenry, as if to convince everyone that goodness is no more a reality than Santa Claus. His delight arises from exposing the weakness of people, tearing through what he sees as mere facades of rectitude. Confronting and challenging this view, (as well as being challenged by it) are both Batman and another character, the crusading district attorney Harvey Dent, played very well by Aaron Eckhart.

The role of the hero and his/her importance to society is explored in depth through the ensuing conflict with The Joker, and I will offer no detail as to the final resolution offered by the film. However, aside from the entertainment value of The Dark Knight, it made me think once more about what it is people expect, want and need from their leaders. The observation is made in the film, in relation to Harvey Dent, that people need a hero, someone they can look up to, the implication being that such people have the capability of bringing out in others the best aspects of human nature. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is, I believe, where our elected leaders, for the most part, utterly fail.

The easiest and most obvious exemplification of this failure is to be found in the past eight years under the morally bereft Bush presidency. As he prepares to leave office, it is clear to me that Bush’s main ‘achievement’ will be a legacy of hatred, suspicion, cynicism and cronyism. The fact that Democratic presidential candidate Barrack Obama has thus far inspired a great deal of hope suggests that there is a hunger on the part of Americans to be raised out of the morass into which they have fallen.

However, Bush's spectacular failure as a leader should not overshadow the fact that a lack of vision and purpose on the part of our politicians is widespread. As I mentioned in my last post, Lawrence Martin nicely captured the malaise of the governing Conservative Party in Canada. Today finds a newspaper revelation that this same Government is preparing to bury a 500-page report by Health Canada about the relationship between global warming and ill-health. Because their stance on climate change is so regressive, apparently the report will be hidden on an obscure part of Health Canada’s website, once more demonstrating that the preservation of power over principle is the ruling political ethos.

I suspect that we can all be much better people than we are. However, as long as politics remains only concerned about the acquisition and retention of power, there is little chance of that happening

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