Thursday, November 19, 2015

After Paris: The Perils of Pacifism

Readers may be surprised to learn that I watch – but am not a fan of – the apocalyptic series, The Walking Dead (TWD). Of course I dismiss the notion of zombies as pure nonsense, just as I dismiss much past and current science fiction as nonsense. However, the series fascinates me because it presents, in spite of its ludicrous premise, moral dilemmas and issues related to emergency ethics. I can’t stand the graphic comic books on which the series is based. And in this culture, with its too visible protective and insular cloak of moral relativism and multiculturalism, there isn't much else to watch on TV.

So I’m left with a series in which zombie craniums are disabled with a squelch of a knife or by a bullet or by decapitation, and in which still-living human predators are gunned down without mercy. It says a lot about our culture that virtually the only place one might find interesting and challenging moral conflicts and compelling characterizations is in a TV horror series.

Yes, this column is connected to the Islamic raid on Paris on November 13th, and it’s about an element of “mercy” that has been introduced in the series.

In one of the very first episodes of Season One of TWD we are introduced to Morgan Jones (played by British actor, Lennie James), who saves deputy sheriff Rick Grimes (played by another Brit, Andrew Lincoln; James and Lincoln’s Georgia accents, characters, and on-screen persona are so convincing you’d hardly believe these actors are British) after the latter awakens from a coma to find the world gone to hell. He was shot by a criminal after a car chase through the Georgia countryside before the apocalypse.

Morgan’s wife has succumbed to the virus that has either killed most people or killed them and then turned them into zombies. His wife is now a zombie, and no longer the person he knew and the mother of his son, Duane. He has a chance to “terminate” her – she’s just another monster now, and he knows that – but can't make himself shoot her. She’s in his rifle’s sights and he can’t miss. But he is weepy and agonized by the decision, and does not pull the trigger. In a later episode it’s revealed that his “zombie” wife had cornered his son and bit him. He is compelled then to shoot her and also put down his son, who would otherwise have “turned” into a zombie. His inability to terminate his wife when he had the chance costs him his son.

His emotions conflicted with his knowledge, and his emotions won. He pays the price.

This is an overture to the character’s later development, which, in a sense, is a dramatized deterioration of his moral compass. Under the tutelage of a vegetarian/pacifist he encounters during his wanderings, he becomes an Aikido warrior. He can terminate zombies, but refuses to kill living men who are trying to kill him. He tells one character, and repeats it later:  All life is precious.” He becomes a kind of Zen master with his stick and is able to incapacitate his attackers, but not injure them in any permanent way, which is one of the ends of Aikido.  

In an episode in Season Five, Morgan is accosted in the wilds by two “Wolves,” scavengers who carve W’s on their own foreheads and on the foreheads of their victims. They mean to kill him, but he deftly renders them unconscious with his Aikido skills and leaves them in an abandoned car. Where and when did he learn the art?

Season Six, Episode Four, is an hour-and-a-half long dramatization of how Morgan gets his “all life is precious” mojo.  Searching for food, he encounters a man named Eastman (a suggestive but not very subtle name for a man enamored with the mysticism of Eastern philosophy), a former forensic psychologist who dealt with violent criminals. Eastman imprisons Morgan, and later they work together. Eastman teaches Morgan Aikido. He is a kind of “Doctors Without Borders” do-gooder who, after killing the criminal who slaughtered his family (pre-apocalypse), does penance and swears off killing anyone. The character, played by John Carroll Lynch, has the pinkish soul and guts of a bag worm. Where beforehand, Morgan obsessively and methodically burned the bodies of zombies he terminated, Eastman maintains a cemetery of zombies, learning the names of the zombies from their pocket IDs, and erecting crosses over their graves. Eastman is later bitten by a zombie and shoots himself. Morgan buries him in the cemetery and leaves.

Eastman turns Morgan into a stick-wielding peacenik. In a later episode, a pack of “Wolves” attacks the walled-off community in Alexandria where Morgan has reunited with Rick Grimes. The savages slaughter the defenseless inhabitants – men, women, and children – with axes, knives, and machetes, taking apparent delight in the literal bloodshed. Morgan goes into action with his stick. He comes upon a savage who has been dismembering one of his victims with an axe. He begins to subdue him, when another character (one of my heroines, Carol) simply shoots the beast. Morgan is angry. Carol moments later shoots another savage Morgan has subdued and is tying up. Morgan is angry again. Carol is shown killing every raider she encounters. Their lives are not precious to her. They deserve to be ended. They killed. They die. Her justice is implacable, nonnegotiable.

News of the Paris attacks, and what the killers did to their hostages in the Bataclan theater – slitting open the throats and stomachs of the victims, dismembering them, torturing them – instantly recalled the attack on the community by the Wolves. See Pamela Geller’s column on the horrors.

The penultimate part of the episode is when Morgan runs into a group of savages led by one of the Wolves who attacked him in Season Five. The Wolf recognizes him, he recognizes the Wolf. He talks the group into leaving, warning them that they will be shot if they don’t leave. Morgan’s Aikido skills are such that he could have taken down the whole group of five. But he convinces them and allows them to leave.

They later attack Rick Grimes (stranded outside the community) who kills them. Grimes of course doesn’t know that Morgan let them go free, and Morgan doesn’t yet know that they tried to kill Grimes. I wonder if that information will come out later on.

Morgan is still later attacked by the first Wolf who tried to kill him in Season Five. Morgan subdues him, Aikido style, and takes him prisoner, tying him up and leaving him in a basement. The Wolf promises Morgan he will kill him and every man, woman, and child left alive in the community. Morgan should kill him. He doesn’t.

At the end of that episode, after the attack is over and bodies are littering the streets – the bodies of the Wolves and their victims – Carol and Morgan pass each other on a street. Carol gives him a wordless cold shoulder. I love that scene.

But “all life is precious.”

No, it isn’t. Morgan has to learn that lesson the hard way. Carol, or Rick, or some other character, will need to point out to him that while he considers the life of a killer precious – one assumes for the sake of whatever potential “good” the killer may find in himself or in the lives of others – killers do not hold the same indiscriminate value in the lives of others. Killers who kill for the sake of killing – for the sake of destroying the good for being the good – have forfeited any title to life and even of being human.

Letting a killer go because his life is inexplicably “precious” frees him to kill again, and again. Is Morgan retarded? Has Eastman’s Eastern philosophy put sand into his mental gas tank so it can no longer function? Isn’t it obvious that by freeing the guilty, the guilty can destroy again?

So, as Brendan O’Neill writes in a hard-hitting Spiked column about Paris, no sooner have all the bodies cooled and been collected after the November 13th Paris attack by Islamic jihadists acting out their Islamic, nihilistic, “no life is precious” philosophy, than the apologists begin harping on how precious and understandable the killers’ lives and motives are, proffering every rationalistic, evasive, anti-life, anti-reason excuse under the sun to help justify the sadistic butchery of 120 people.

Less than 24 hours after the barbarism in Paris, the bodies of more than 120 concertgoers, Friday-night revelers and children barely cold, and the apologies has already begun. They couldn’t even wait a whole day, these cultural appeasers, whose kneejerk response to every act of terrorism is to ask what we the wicked West did to deserve it, or to argue that we the wicked West will make things worse with our response to it. The simple fact of our existence makes us ripe for murderous assault, apparently; and the folly of responding to such assaults with either police activity at home or military activity abroad makes us riper still for attack. We’re damned if we stay still, damned if we take action. Our citizens must die because our nations are nasty.

The apologists and appeasers of whom O’Neill writes would sooner see the destruction of the West by Islam than chance to say a single bad thing about Islam and its agents of death. We're asking for it – by virtue of our simple existence? We exist; ergo, we die, and die as painfully as the Islamists wish, at their leisure? They imperil our lives, but we mustn’t be judgmental?

The direction TWD may be taking – unless Morgan’s pacifist outlook is corrected – is not promising. The producers and directors of the series may be infected with the virus of non-violence against the violent. There’s a new character yet to be introduced to viewers; his name is “Jesus.”

Who are the real, living zombies in our culture today? The moral relativists. The multiculturalists. The apologists. The enablers. The abettors. The moral egalitarians in the MSM and in politics who would rather flay Western civilization for its alleged “crimes” against Islam and barbarians than defend it.

Pamela Geller, in her November 15th Breitbart column, “The West Has Lost the Will to Live,” drove home this point:

Obama has aligned with the jihad force. In Syria, Egypt and Libya, and worst of all, now Iraq. He has blood on his hands. He has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Christians, the blood of our soldiers. By abandoning Iraq, he takes on his hands the death of every soldier who gave life and limb in Iraq to defend this country….

If you have an ounce of self-esteem, when someone comes at you with a gun, you answer with force. If he is out to destroy you, you owe it to yourself to defend yourself. We need to understand that the left is as dangerous, if not more so, than the suicide bomber, for obscuring this basic fact—because leftists have the legitimacy of the mainstream, the imprimatur of respectability, and they wield this spurious legitimacy like a club to destroy all opposition to their totalitarianism….

We need to go to war against the left. We have to get that into our heads. We have to accept that terrible reality. They want to destroy our freedom. They want to destroy our country. They want to steal our children. That’s war….

Pamela Geller has not lost the will to live. Neither have I. Neither has Daniel Greenfield or Robert Spencer or Brendan O’Neill, nor countless others in this country and abroad. We are the West. Before we're confronted with an AK-47 killer or suicide bomber, we must confront those who claim that our lives aren’t precious enough to defend.


revereridesagain said...

Those charged with the responsibility of defending their own and the lives of others, being willing to put their lives on the line in defense of positive values, must know that people on whom they depend for backup share the same commitment. Rick, as the group's titular leader, knows he can expect that from his real warriors including Carol, Daryl, Michonne, Glenn and some of the others. He has rightly observed that the wobblers will inevitably get themselves killed and put others at risk in the process. He now has a big problem in Morgan, who has already nearly got him killed and is harboring a murderous Wolf in a basement because "all life is precious".

Morgan's Aikido/pacifism is meant to sooth his damaged psyche, as was Eastman's. If you would enact justice on the murderer of your family, you just shoot the bastard between the eyes. Putting himself through an ordeal of sadism alien to his nature left Eastman so mentally scarred that he tried to make himself over as a saint to live with what he had done.

Morgan, by contrast, knowing that putting his emotions above reality brought about his son's death, seems to attempt a variation of "suicide by cop" by becoming so morally wasted that no longer cares if he lives and wants someone to put him out of his misery. Instead, he gets schooled in Eastman's path of self-purification. But Eastman was a hermit, and his pacifism was less likely to impact anyone but himself.

Morgan will soon be confronted with the impact his refusal to adopt a rational moral code and kill the killers may have on their victims. He resents and rejects Carol's implacable justice even in the face of so evil a being as that Wolf in the cellar. The future of "TWD" may turn on whether Morgan does learn the lesson that not all "life" is precious.

I also noted how the Bataclan massacre mirrored the Wolf attack, down to the hacked up bodies and the trails of blood across the floor of the theater. There are times when it indeed feels as if we are living in some alternate "TWD" world in which Muslims are the "walkers".

Edward Cline said...

Thank you, RevereRidesAgain: I shall be posting your comments on Facebook anonymously.