Friday, January 06, 2006

“Munich” – Multiple Perspectives

“Munich” creates a furor. It is the first serious movie on the topic of terrorism since September 11th and it is natural that it causes different reaction from different people. And it is also natural that people see different things from the movie. There are those who say that Spielberg is blurring the line between good and evil and advocate moral equivalence.

Dingo defends Spielberg:

This is how Spielberg does such a good job of delineating good from evil. The main Jewish characters show both remorse and confliction for what they are doing. This is the line between good and evil when evil is committed. Four men are sent to do a job. That job is an evil task. It was a justified task, but none-the-less, an evil one. Killing, no matter how justified or necessary, is never "good." An eye for an eye is a justification, not a furtherance of good.

An evil job is easily done by an evil person.

An evil job is never done easily by a good person.

Thus lies the difference between good and evil when the task at hand is evil itself. Even when the good are forced to commit justified evil, the good will question. The evil will just do. In the movie, the Palistinians justified their actions as a desire for a homeland, but the means are never questioned.

I think Dingo saw the movie different than I did. Dingo also is addressing the wrong criticism of the movie. I have no problem with Spielberg showing movie-goers that the act of killing, regardless of circumstance, is extremely unpleasant and that good people should find it distasteful. I, as a soldier who was in Iraq, understand that point more than most. For a year, I found myself in circumstances where taking another human lives was a distinct possibility. And now immagine yourself a Buddhist. Thanks heaven, I never had to.

That is not the criticism of “Munich” by most people I read either. People generally understand that the act of killing is unpleasant and emotional disturbing. And not only does an assassination unpleasant. Any killing, even killing in self-defense against an imminent threat is unpleasant. That is not the point of criticism.

Spielberg went beyond showing the psychological pain result from killing another human being. Spielberg repeats the Hollywood mantra that violence in all circumstance is futile. The main character did not merely fought the inner emotional/psychological battle result from his action. Avner toward the second half of the movie asked point blank what is the point of killing those terrorists since more violence men will just replace them. And I was shocked beyond word to hear the main character (a Mossad agent) said something so ridiculous that only a Hollywood elite would have thought of. He requested that instead of assassination, those terrorists should have been brought to trial in Israel. I was shocked but not surprise. Peaceniks have argued the same thing prior to the War in Afghanistan.

Bruce Thorton offers the best criticism of “Munich.” Go read the whole thing.
This popular take on the Arab-Israeli conflict is encapsulated in the phrase “cycle of violence.” The assumptions behind this phrase comprise a catalogue of modern moral pathologies. Most important is the therapeutic psychology that sees force not in moral terms — that is, as the instrument of a righteous or unrighteous choice and aim — but as a reflexive reaction to grievances and wounds to self-esteem. People who have been insulted, wronged, or denied various aspirations “lash out” in anger, provoking a similar reaction in those whom they attack. Thus the “cycle of violence,” a vicious circle that can be broken only by abandoning force and addressing the grievances that started the cycle in the first place.

…. The Israeli agents tracking down the murderers of Israeli athletes in Munich are defined for the most part by their agonizing moral doubts and ambiguities, incessantly reprising the mantra of “violence begets violence.” The Israeli bomb-maker makes a speech about how killing terrorists somehow compromises Jewish “righteousness,” which suggests that Jews can be righteous and worthy of our sympathy only as long as they remain passive victims, as they are in Schindler’s List.
There is a clear distinction between the internal struggle to maintain one’s humanity when facing an inhumane enemy and the surrendering to the same enemy because it does not feel good to fight him. The former is bitter medicine, the later is sugarcoated poison. Spielberg simple does not know the difference.

6 Comments:

Blogger Dingo said...

Yes, we saw the movie differently, but we are hitting on the same points, which I think most people are missing.

But, I don't think Spielberg was trying to say that violence is futile. But the point that violence begets violence is credible. In fact, we have seen a new bad guy pop up for every bad guy we kill. There will always be someone to fill the space of the last until the paradigm is changed. The fact that nothing has changed since the 60's is proof of that. You also have to remember that the Palestinians feel that Jews are the aggressors and they are just defending themselves. As much as people like to decry moral relativism, it still exists and effects how people act, like it or not. Additionally, Vendetta is an ingrained idea in that part of the world. Revenge is not just an option, but an obligation. The Greeks may have started it, but the arabs have perfected it.

As for the "righteous" there is a different between justice and revenge. The two are often mixed and confused. Was it "just" to kill the terrorists? Probably. Would it been more just to execute them after a trial where the evidence was shown? Definitely. Avner was sent to kill them, and was given no evidence of their guilt. Of course he is going to question his job. Wouldn't you if you were given no proof of guilt? Wouldn't you want to know that you are in fact killing the guilty?

9:08 AM  
Blogger sunguh5307 said...

Can we justify killing or violence of any sort? Ultimately no. We are responsible for the things we do, even if for a good cause. But the warrior bears this burden willingly, for the society he defends.

When I read about this I feel it's a slap in the face. Peace has a price that those who never fought for it can never appreciate. Those who think that they can live without violence I suggest they live in the real world one day, and see what happens when people can take what they will without recourse. They will. A credible defense will avoid violence, but sometimes it is necessary- the only 'cycle of violence' is what happens when we lose an appreciation for how horrible it is and no longer protect ourselves from it.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

"The former is bitter medicine, the later is sugarcoated poison. Spielberg simple does not know the difference."

Brilliant!

3:39 AM  
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