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"Irrational man" and an irrational gorilla (2)

What is creative and what is not creative? Does killing another man merit the kind of creativity in say a movie by Woody Allen? In "Irrational Man," we see this exact morality take played out in Abe Lucas, who wants to eliminate a judge who upsets his own personal balance of life - his own justice and injustice.
 
We following the unfolding story line in the movie:
 
Lucas: I was right in thinking the killing would be a an act of creativity.
It would be a challenge to plan how to do away with Spangler perfectly.
Laying out all of options, I came to the conclusion that the only practical way and to get away with it was to poison him.
I was careful not to leave any record on my computer.
Every stage of the way was a risk that I must say was exhilarating.
 
(Spangler was a Rhode Island state judge in domestic court).
 
A great feeling of accomplishment came over me.
I didn’t write a vitriolic piece about well reasoned judicial abuse that would accomplish nothing.
I took direct action and eliminated a cancer.
The world was a finer place by some infinitesimal percentage.
The woman would never know she had a benefactor, but now, at her court hearing, there was every chance she would have a fair shot.
 
Jill: I think it is a little macabre to celebrate someone’s death.
Life’s ironic isn’t it?
 
Lucas gives her a book of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was bisexual and active sexually outside of marriage. She was known as a feminist.
The irony both in her life and for using her in the film is deep.
Millay’s middle name is from St. Vicent, the Catholic priest, and she wanted to be called Vincent during her school days. The principal of her school refused, calling her by any other name beginning with a V.
As a feminist, the Jill is the opposite of Millay, showing nearly complete deference to Lucas. On the other hand, she carries on what the audience assumes is a sexual relationship with both her boyfriend and Lucas, similar to Millay.
 
Lucas: What’s come over you, is that you are finally celebrating life, instead of death, with your crazy Russian Roulette.
My writing was flowing, the creative juices unblocked.
I was happy and enjoying a sense of well-being, enjoying an affair with Jill, something I’d been determined not to do.
And yet, I was carried along by the momentum of the sheer joy of living.
the thought that I’d once been indifferent to living seemed preposterous.
My name is Abe Lucas, and I’ve murdered.
I’ve taken a human life not battle or self defense, but because of a choice I believed in and saw it through.
I feel like an authentic human being.
 
Lucas: Today we’re going to discuss existential choice that life has a meaning you choose to give it. And we’ll examine John Paul Sartre’s insight. Hell is other people.
 
If hell is other people. Then the eliminating people who act like hell in your or other people’s lives must be heaven. In eliminating this judge, is not Lucas creating his own personal heaven?
 
Jill: Abe had a break through.
It was as if everything that had stifled his feelings had become unblocked.
 
Lucas: I’ve become very attuned to the essential joys of life.
Sights, sounds, taste of food and wine.
 
Today, for one moment, I thought it would be ironic if you had killed judge Spangler.
 
You couldn’t and you wouldn’t.
It’s got to be hard to kill somebody.
Especially to poison a stranger.
 
If I had to eliminate someone I would probably use a gun.
Cyanide is a whole other deal.
 
I enjoyed the whole conversation. It was like sitting at a poker table enjoying an intense conversation, confident that I had the winning hand, enjoying the thrill of the chance that I could be beaten with a straight flush or four of a kind.
 
Abe would argue that the judge deserved to die.
And something about the esthetics of committing a crime.
 
My theory is Abe Lucas.
The philosophy department.
Our mutual crush.
One thing that he had never experienced was what it would be like to actually kill.
 
I knew Abe had a very angry reaction to the unfair treatment by the judge of that poor woman.
 
Knowing I have a tendency to overdramatize, and yet, I could not help but . . . 
(At his home, snooping in his room).
There on his desk was a copy of Crime and Punishment with a quote by
 by Hannah Arendt (German philosopher) in the margins.
The Banality of Evil.
One of Arendt’s quotes was: Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.
 
Lucas: I made the choice to help that woman.
I always thought you had a first rate intelligence.
I always taught you to trust your instincts.
 
Lucas, responding to Jill:
Not everything can be grasped by the intellect.
If it feels right, it often is.
This was the meaningful act I was searching for.
I thought it was a very reasonable thing to do.
 
She hoped he’d get cancer.
What the hell is hope?
It’s bullshit.
You have to act.
 
Jill: You can’t believe it was moral what you did.
Lucas: Of course I do.
I consider myself a moral man who’s lived a moral life, who came to the aid of a woman suffering a great injustice.
 
Jill: Will you go to prison?
Lucas: I never will, because I’m a total stranger with no motive.
This will be just another unsolved crime.
 
Jill: How could you do it Abe?
Lucas: Is the world a better place without this rotten judge?
I ask you, is the world a better place without Judge Spangler?
 
Lucas:What do I do?
Jill: Meaning what?
I’m crushed Abe. I’m completely lost.
Meaning I care about you so much.
I can’t go on seeing you any more.
 
Lucas: Are you thinking about turning me in?
Jill: Yes I’m thinking of turning you in.
Of course I am.
But I can’t bring myself to do it.
This is crazy.
 
Lucas: I’m asking you to put your everyday assumptions aside and trust your experience of life in order to see the world we must break with our familiar acceptance of it.
 
The second I decided to take this action my world changed.
You saw it.
I suddenly found a reason to live.
I could make love. I could experience feelings for you because doing this deed for this woman gave my life meaning.
 
Jill: I think you think that you did something morally worthwhile.
Lucas: I did.
Jill: You can’t justify it with all this French post-war bullshit.
This is murder.
I don’t have the intellect to refute (your) arguments.
But I have to go with my instinct.
I don’t have to think about this. I feel that this is no good.
This is murder.
 
Jill: At times, I thought he was an original thinker, who could not be judged by middle class rules.
 
Posey: If it did turn out that he did it, I’d be surprised, but not stunned, not flabbergasted.
I’d still let him take me to Spain.
 
Lucas: I still felt justified in what I’d done.
I felt I experienced something unique and different from all my protests or charity work.
I helped a family and hurt only he who deserved it.
A man who took advantage of his power to hurt others.
 
Jill, later in his class after another man is charged with Judge Spangler’s murder:
What about all your talk about moral high ground?
What is there to think about?
An innocent man is about to have his life ruined.
All this talk about doing the right thing and what’s best.
I haven’t been able to live with myself and we’re talking about an innocent man who’s going to be prosecuted for this.
 
Lucas:But I had no intension of giving myself up.
A few months ago I got no enjoyment out of life,
I would have let the little game of Russian Roulette end it.
But my life had taken a new turn.
I saw why people love life and saw it as something joyous to experience.
I did get pleasure from living.
I didn’t want to commit suicide or spend the rest of my remaining days behind bars.
I wanted to live, to teach, to write, to travel, to make love.
The reality of letting another person take the rap for me paled in comparison with my natural will to survive.
I guess she was right when she said that one murder opens the door to more.
 
Jill, as an epilogue: The whole thing had been quite a lesson, the kind that Abe used to say, you can’t get from a textbook.
 
What are we, the movie watchers to make of this? Allen can’t get away form the moral element in story telling. But there is a telling in the music as well, that we can celebrate morality or evil. We did not see the disfigurement of Judge Spangler. But we did see the injustice of blaming another man for one’s own evil, the killing of another.
 
In light of this projection, what is out of bounds and what is allowed? That seems to be one of the questions that this provokes. Many progressive thinkers dismiss those they disagree with. And yet, when they are confronted with basic elements of good and evil, where do they go? Who will cover for them?
 
Allen’s movies are often provocative. It’s no less the case with a movie like this one that continues to confront what some would consider acceptable evil. If someone is considered to be destructive in what they say, is it acceptable to deny them basic rights or freedoms, like free speech and the right to assemble? Some would say yes. In fact, some act on this idea and attempt to block political opponents from assembling.
 
Opponents of Donald Trump and Milo Youanopolis take extraordinary means to deny these kinds of basic rights to followers of these people. 
 
What about sacrificing a young boy who falls into an enclosure so that an endangered gorilla can live? Many would say that since the transgression is the boys, or the family’s, they should pay the penalty instead of the zoo or the gorilla.
 
If the gorilla kills the boy for taking extraordinary means to get into the enclosure, many would say this is a just end to a mistake that was not the gorilla’s. Thousands of people believe this. More than 100,000 signed up for an online petition to charge the mother or family of the boy. As a compromise, perhaps they should pay for the cost of purchasing another gorilla, possibly the gorilla’s brother.
 
But is this so different than what Abe Lucas did, to eliminate a life that was offending other life, or precluding it from living a healthy and meaningful life? Life in movies is not the same as real life, real offense or the actual taking of another life.
 
© 2016 Larry Ingram

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