G.K. Chesterton said, "Children are innocent and love justice; while most of us are wicked and prefer mercy."
Thursday, May 21, 2009
This is very true. We're taught to value fairness. This is why there's the entire justice system - to make sure everyone gets what he deserves - nothing more and nothing less.
However, my philosophy class was watching A Clockwork Orange - this is the story of an inherently wicked young man named Alex who enjoys violence and debauchery to the point of getting off on them. He steals, fights, rapes, and even kills. He's a truly evil person and while that should be enough to make us turn against him, his role as "protagonist" (to use that word loosely) causes the reader/viewer to sympathize with him - at least to a degree.
He is eventually caught and imprisoned. While serving his fourteen year sentence, he begins reading the Bible. People (such as the chaplain) believe this is reforming him. In reality, he's enjoying fantasies of joining in on the perversion in the Old Testament and the crucifixion in the New Testament. Alex is chosen for a treatment that will condition within him a physical aversion to violence and rape - when he's faced with either, he feels pain and sickness.
Of course this doesn't mean he's actually reformed inwardly. Rather, he cannot act on his natural tendencies out of the desire to keep the pain and sickness at bay. This, in turn, results in him being rendered helpless. He cannot fight back against people who are attacking him for revenge.
The "eye for an eye" theory makes it reasonable for these people to attack him. He's kicked out of the house and beaten up. He stumbles to the closest house, which is the home of a man he stole from and crippled, whose wife he raped (she died shortly after that ordeal).
This man deserves his revenge - his entire life was turned upside down because of Alex and his "friends" (who actually get their own revenge on him). It's karma, right?
Yet, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Alex. He got out of prison, out of the treatment center, and the bad things just escalated. He left home because his room was rented out to a man (who I couldn't help but think was a jerk, even though what he was saying was true). He gets beat up by a vagrant who he beat up once with his friends. Then his friends, who he constantly forced his authority on beat him up. It's karmic justice.
But still, I couldn't stomach that. I felt sorry for this guy who had stolen, raped, and even killed. I kept thinking he didn't deserve it, even if he actually did. I wanted him to be shown mercy. So does that make me wicked because I felt pain for a wicked individual who reverted to his old ways in the end?