So I’m reminded again
of what I think I’ve mentioned before—
that who people are—
who they become in being—
is itself reward or punishment—
though rarely perceived or interpreted as such.
Now it really doesn’t work well
in a movie setting,
when the villain is wreaking havoc,
and you imagine the ultimate confrontation
between villain and hero
with the hero saying,
“Who you are is, wow, punishment enough.”
It’s not as emotionally satisfying an experience.
as what James Bond might do—
or Jason Bourne—
or any other action hero or heroine worth his or her salt.
But neither is momentary emotional satisfaction
an effective or desirable model for dealing with violence and evil.
And the emotional satisfaction at the end of one movie,
I’m sure you’ve noticed,
so often simply creates a greater act of villainy
to begin the sequel.
And isn’t that part of our problem?
That’s the model we have for dealing with violence and evil.
Not just in the theater
where some kind of cathartic release is expected,
but in the world.
Let’s defeat evil by might
by whatever means necessary
(it’s evil, after all).
And it’s not just that we inevitably create the sequel
the next group of angry people,
the next collection of resentments,
the renewed desire for retribution,
it’s that it doesn’t work because
who we become to prevail precludes victory.
How much moral credibility can we lose
in the effort to fight evil,
and retain the mantle of righteousness?—
(a phrase that sounds admittedly corny,
yet justifies so much.)
Time and time again, we settle for apparent, so-called,
pyrrhic victory that doesn’t mean much in the long run,
and yet it remains our model.
And thus the priority of momentary emotional satisfaction
trumps the possibility of transformation
and defies hope even as it defines insanity:
doing the same thing over and over and over again,
thinking the results will be different.