The Indifference of Good Men

April 2, 2007

“Never shall innocent blood be shed. Yet the blood of the wicked shall flow like a river. The three shall spread their blackened wings and be the vengeful striking hammer of God.”

For those of you who have an affinity for great films, I’m sure you’ve heard the above quote from “The Boondock Saints.” (ahem!) I was talking about this film with friends this weekend and we discussed the interesting dual plot of the film as well as the dual role of this particular film.

Many films that we see today can be easily placed into one category; such as action, drama, comedy, romance, etcetera. With “The Boondock Saints” you find yourself watching an action film, but what you may or may not realize, is that you can’t help but think about the moral of the story long after the film’s final scene. These types of films are the ones I like to call “dual plot” film because the film has one plot (good men doing bad things to bad people), but the story has its own plot, a plot that is intended to be played out after the film ends.

As my friends discussed the story plot (the one that occurs after the film), we began to wonder how our society would react to this type of behavior. At the end of the film, the director showed some clips of what appeared to be interviews with everyday people. These people were either praising or condemning the “Saints” for whatever reason they could think of. Some of the standard responses that you would expect to hear were:

  • The streets are safer without the pimps and drug dealers and murders.
  • What makes them any different than the murderer if they murder themselves?
  • It’s not like they’re killing good people.
  • Who gives these men the right to take life?
  • One day they’re killing murders, the next they’re killing those who litter.

I started to think about how I would respond if someone came to me and asked, “Do you think it’s okay for people to kill evil men?” Being a Sociologist at heart, I first begin thinking about the societal repercussions of such actions. Being a Scholar at heart, I then start thinking about history and how people have reacted to this behavior in the past. Being a Human, I finally think about how I would feel if someone killed my brother because they thought he was evil.

In the end, you have a mess of thoughts circulating, all tied together with one common thread. But before I tell you that common thread, allow me to map out the thoughts I had while pondering this question…

  1. How will society react? Right now, many people in the world view George Bush as evil. If he was assassinated, our country would likely respond in a most aggressive manner. The end result is a probable war and in the worst case scenario, World War III.
  2. How has society reacted? Hitler began pointing out “evil conspirators” against his own country and proclaimed that all Jews need to be extinguished to save their society. He began systematically “cleansing” and a World War erupted all across the world. Even stationary battleships were bombed in a country that was not yet involved in the war.
  3. How would I react? I can’t imagine that Saddam Hussein’s family was thrilled to watch video of their family member being hung because others thought he was evil. He may have been the most evil man in the world, but I’m sure someone, somewhere loved him and was devastated. But is it okay to take the life of one person to save the lives of many? That is what was done in this case, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t be vengeful.

The common thread here is that what one views as evil, another may view as a liberator. What one views as dangerous, another views as protective. Therefore, the only logical way to solve these types of issues is to come to a NON-UNILATERAL consensus. No one person should be able to decide the fate of any person. This is why we have jury’s and judges and courts of appeals and due process. If one person were allowed to make such major decisions as to the fate of another human being, our society would be nothing more than a blood thirsty peoples all vying for the “Top Dog” spot; so that we can execute our enemies.

In the beginning of this wonderful film, a priest is lecturing his church on current events. He tells a story of a young girl who was killed in broad daylight, and not one person who was around did anything to help. He posed a thought that was meant to sit residually in the back of your mind the entire movie. At the end of the movie when you try to answer that question, you may find yourself writing a blog about it and fiendishly searching for your own answer.

Since I can’t directly quote the Priest verbatim, I’m going to write it as I remember…

“Of course we must fear evil men, but there is another evil that we must fear more… and that is the indifference of good men.”

28 Responses to “The Indifference of Good Men”

  1. Gyal said

    Great post. This reminds me of the Stanford prison experiment, by Philip Zimbardo (or something), when he took normal students, half randomly selected to be prison guards, the other half inmates. (He was on Daily Show the other night too.) The experiment showed how normal, good people can turn sadistic and how environment plays a large factor in determining a person’s actions. Good stuff, you should check it out. Actually, I’d assume you already know about it with your Sociology background. The guy also has a book out which I’m hoping to check out one of these days.

    Oh, and that was a great movie!

  2. iamtheprofessor said

    I do remember this study. In fact, Adolph and I talked about it during my initial interview with him. Society plays a huge factor in how people respond to individualized experiences.

    Glad you liked the movie!

  3. Gyal said

    Really, you talked about it? I think I remember you mentioning that… Must have been a weird (yet interesting) convo eh?

  4. iamtheprofessor said

    We actually began speaking about it because he asked how I would react if I saw a passed out drunk, homeless guy on the corner of the street. I told him that I would probably first think about how that man ended up there and how society views him (not the individual, but the “person”). That’s when Adolph broke into the Stanford experiments. I believe we also spoke about the study involving the torture via electricity. I can’t remember the details, but people were asked to turn a knob that would shock someone in a room. They couldn’t see the person, only hear them. The study wanted to find out how far these people would turn the knob for money. Of course, the guy getting “shocked” wasn’t really getting hurt, but they didn’t know that. AAAAND THEEEN! Adolph and I spoke about ethics in studies and the do’s and don’ts of using humans in experiments.

    Funny, we never spoke about the job itself….Not that I can remember at least.

    • Ochiudo said

      The Electrocution-experiment is you are talking about is called the Milgram-experiment. (After Stanley Milgram) Philip Zimbardo was only assisting on that one. He wrote an incredibly interesting Book about all these, called “The Lucifer Effect”. He gives a twenty-minute talk on TED.com about this book and his experience with both the Stanford-Prison- and the Milgram- experiments, as well as the stuff he heard as an expert-witness at the Abu-Grahib trials.

      It’s well worth watching. The book is great, too.

  5. Allan said

    what was meant – to those who do not understand – ‘indifferent’ – indifference – .. meaning.. Good Men doing nothing about evil, is what we should fear.. In a video game ‘EverQuest’ if you ‘consider’ someone and they are ‘indifferent’ that means they are neutral to you .. indifference would mean they have no reaction or action to no matter what occurs.. but what this quote means.. specifically.. is they have no action against the evil that men do

  6. You bring up a good point in the video game where you consider someone, and they are “indifferent” or “neutral” to you; and that is exactly what we must fear the most – the neutrality of good men. If a woman is hit repeatedly by a man in public, and people that we consider to be good people simply stand around and watch this – it becomes a scary world to live in.

  7. Rob said

    sorry, wrong site, I was looking to order 2*9mm with silencers…

  8. Dean Joffe said

    The greatest film ever made and you people think that these three men should not of gone around killing like mass murderes. You are horribly mistaken, they are angels or better yet saints, see you on the flip side -rokko.

  9. Everyones entitled to their opinion but a few things: in your societal reaction area, 1. WW2 was first and foremost started by germanys aggression towards poland knowledge of the concentration camps wasnt revealed until the wars close so it had absolutely nothing to do with the breakout of the war, also it has been released that the US let japan attack pearl harbour because they didnt want to be viewed as the aggressors so again not the best point(the US cut off japans oil supply so they couldnt fuel their navy in there conquest of southeast asia effectively forcing them to attack the US) The characters in the movie also say at the end that they do not just switch on a whim what they consider to be evil, “do not rape do not murder do not steal” they warn the lower forms of filth not to cross into their domain. the best argument against it i can think of is that for something like that to become standardized and regulated it would be much like police officers, give a badge and a gun and some people abuse the power, so it would have to be left to radicals who can be just as abusive.

    • Ochiudo said

      “knowledge of the concentration camps wasnt revealed until…”

      uhm… Concentration Camps DIDN’T EXIST when the war broke out. They were all built during the war.

  10. Andy said

    I hate blogs… but this post was really good written. Thumbs up!

  11. andrew peter rope said

    your american your allways right no matter

  12. roman said

    Hitler was a mass murdering fuck head.
    His intentions are not completely known.

    These fictitious saints could be copied in real world.

    They didn’t kill because of race, religion, sex, marital status, or age.

    They killed people that were absolutely horrible for society.

    They know the difference between a drug dealer that sells to children and ruins peoples lives and deserves it, and a J-walker.

    They respect the laws of Man, but the story is saying that God wants them to do this. If God is real, and i believe he is, this story would have us believe that the term “god works in mysterious ways” is being taken to a personal level.

    People in society have no true fears anymore, they are disrespectful and rude and feel as though they can do anything or say anything they want. with subjects like the saints, the horrible people that dont belong in society would be dead or on the way to be, and the normal citizens that want to work, love, play, sing, have families and prosper, would have a split sense of safety and a sense of fear at the same time. a fear to keep their asses in line, and show respect to all in order to receive it.

  13. Bob said

    Great film.

    I agree with much of what you said but I have to disagree on this point.

    Your conclusion was based on how you would feel if you were close to the person who was killed for their actions.

    We cannot let the vengeful feelings of family and friends who are related to the evil person get in the way of justice.

    Who decides justice? This is a more complicated question. I don’t know the answer. My faith says vengeance belongs to God. My life experience says that if I subscribe to a biblical view then I am God’s plan. I’m just one one of those Christians who believes everything is handled for us so I don’t need to use my brain or take action.

    So, I don’t truly know who decides justice, who should carry it out, or how far that justice should go. IE: Taking another human life.

    For now, I guess justice is handled by those with the biggest guns or some other means of enforcing their particular morality.

    I think this has always been how it’s done and I suspect that no matter how pretty we make it, we will always be enforcing our own morality with whatever power we have. Even if we claim we are not.

    There you go, my thoughts are clear as mud.

    I appreciate the post. You’ve prompted me to think…

    Bob

  14. Bob,

    I appreciate you taking time to read my post. You bring up some interesting ideas in that mankind has taken it upon themselves to be a judge of what is right and what is wrong.

    What I find interesting is how our values and morality have changed over time. Barely 150 years ago if you were caught stealing an apple it was marginally acceptable to shoot that thief.

    Today, we have laws and a “Supreme” court that is here to tell us what we can and cannot do. The idea that a community finds an action acceptable while the larger governing body finds it illegal is where I see a lot of interesting discussion.

    Thanks again!

  15. Bob said

    Yes, this conversation can spread into all kinds of areas. For instance, drug use. As a conservative I believe the government should have very little power to tell me what I can do in my own home. FYI: I’ve never tried a drug. This is all theoretical for me.

    But the idea of government telling me that I can’t do it is offensive.

    Then I struggle with the idea that making it legal might have side effects where innocent people die.

    So I don’t see a right or wrong here as much as who has the power to enforce their morality.

    This is why I’m all about the motives and implementation of our government. All politicians say things that sound good on both sides. it’s like a boxer and her head fake. You can’t look at the head but you have to keep your eye on the core of their body which is more honest about the direction they are going.

    Anyway, like you and now I say…this conversation can go all kinds of directions.

    Recently some of my friends have taken a more Pacifist stance. That is why this topic is near and dear to my heart. I cannot tolerate a pacifist stance where people are suffering and I can do something to help.

    Even if it’s not my place, if I have the power to intervene and enforce my morality then I will. If a man is raping his wife, according the Sharia law, he is allowed, but if I can I will stop it. If the Sharia law subscriber can stop me he will…

    It kind of make you think that we are really living in chaos… I mean, you could argue this point.

    But if you look at the world there is a lot of order. I’m amazed by it all.

  16. We should be careful about how we portray Sharia or Islamic Law. Much like Christianity, there are varying sects of Islam. Each are guided by unique translations of the laws and traditions of their holy text. In all religions there are examples of those who abuse the power they hold and use it to their advantage.

    In a male dominated institution it is easy to see why some may think it is acceptable for a husband to rape his wife. However, it is stated clearly in Sharia that a husband must be kind to their wife.

    It is also of relevance to point out that in Sharia, the victim is NOT to be blamed and the act of committing rape is punishable by death. You’ll find that to be strikingly similar to the condemnation provided in Deuteronomy 22:25-27. Reading further, you’ll find the next two verses outline the punishment for forceable sex upon a virgin is to pay the father and marry the daughter.

    This is an example of how taking a text and applying all of it in a literal manner can result in a gross distortion of the reality that most followers practice. At one point in time, however, this was acceptable and practiced. It is obviously not practiced in large anymore, and is largely unacceptable – but that is where each branch of the religion finds their differences.

  17. Bob said

    I always thought that Deuteronomy verse was odd. Seems like simply paying off the father is a bit barbaric but then again I have different values now than I might have had 4000 or 5000 years ago.

    I hope not! But we are influenced by our environments.

    I believe that according to Sharia law there must be at least 4 male eye witnesses before a rape charge can be legitimate. Also, a husband is welcome to rape his wife anytime he wants.

    Maybe this isn’t how Sharia is portrayed in America where we would never tolerate such practices but this is how it is practiced around the world.

    I think that one of the things people try to do in our country is suppress speech or speaking up against evil because we are becoming moral relativist.

    One of my values is truth and granted it is truth from my point of view so I will never pretend that Sharia is good if practiced a certain way or that Communism is really just an economic system. The truth is that it is evil because of the impact it has on people.

    I encourage people to not be afraid to name the enemy when there is one, to call out bad behavior when it’s seen, and to reward openly good behavior.

    Anyway, this is what I see happening. An unwillingness to speak what is true from our perspective.

  18. Anonymous said

    Is a murder not evil? A rapist not a sinner? A drug dealer not a virus tearing a community apart? With in the movie they say don’t steal, kill, or rape, because if you do you may find them behind you one day. I commend those actions some people have taken their life and became so evil their existinse is harmful to others and that is where the line should be drawn.

  19. Andrew G. said

    I have spent my lifetime striving for social equality. The one thing that i have found in my time, how ever short it is at this point(24 years), is that everyone who practices any sort of action religiously considers themselves “in the right” in some manner or form. This problem will always remain. This thought is not limited to people of certain belief or organisation, it can be applied to all persons.

    I have found an organisation that I believe have very good intentions and who are hopelessly mixed up in very sad conspiracies and interesting Nicholas Cage movies. If you have not guessed what I am getting at yet I am talking about Free and Accepted Masons. Now before you jump to the popular assumption that we are a negative influence on society, remember that we have 22 hospitals across the US providing “low to no cost” health care to minors who need it.

    The reason i bring up the Masons is that they recognize the fact that not everyone in the fraternity is of the same opinion or belief, but we share the same common goal: peace through unity. That unity being each individuals religion, monotheistic in nature i.e. Christianity and Islam, because the people who practice these religions can agree on very major points of life practices(stealing, murdering, and defrauding each other).

    What I am getting at is that no matter what anyone believes there is always going to be a fault in their process of thought or belief.

    Isn’t it wonderful to be human?

    I guess all we can do is to hope for courage to do what we think is right, and that what we take action on is honorable.

    Thankyou for starting this thread.

    Andrew G. 3rd Degree MM
    Lodge #65 F&AM of Wisconsin

    • Andrew G. said

      “who are hopelessly mixed up in very sad conspiracies and interesting Nicholas Cage movies.”

      These conspiracies are not true. From raping people in rituals to being involved in the over throwing of governing bodies. I didn’t write that portion very well.

      thank you
      Andrew

    • David Malloy said

      (From the Author)

      I wrote this post a long time ago and am thrilled to see that it’s worth a read to this day!

      At the end of the day, we find ourselves talking about a society’s ability to coexist when so many “truths” exist. The societies with the most turmoil are the ones with the smallest population of open mindedness and an abundance of ignorance.

      I find the Masons to be an interesting fraternity as they appear to cover such a large swath of people from the very religious to the atheists and agnostics as well as politically liberal and conservative. As with all groups, a common thread must exist for the group to survive. I’d be interested in learning more about the history and future of this organization. If you’ve got any information you can freely pass on, I would happily indulge!

  20. hannibal said

    I myself am a inactive free mason. Before your thoughts begin to wonder why I said inactive; it is not because I no longer support the organization but because of the individuals who were in my branch whom are entitled by the organization which is based on christian beliefs. Were not living an intentional life. Anyone who may not know what intentional living it is basically focusing and living your life in a godly and biblical manner. The bad part of it is that I allowed myself to fall into their morals of hypocrisy. I realized this is a problem as is explained as the indifference of good men to be feared the most, as I feel God had impacted it upon me.

    To get to the point no matter what “good” is being done it is God who will deny their charity or deeds based upon the purity or spirit it was given.

    Also read your bibles, knowledge is power to defeat the evils of this world for the unclean one also shares intelligence to deceive you. Just because good deeds are done it does not make the person godly.

    Last thing to clarify I am not casting judgement upon the masons as a whole. Only making a case of these individuals who made a vow to god but not setting example as I know and have grown up seeing done by prior masons. Our nation is falling to its own morals or lack thereof.

  21. deanoreb said

    We THINK, therefore we are evil.

  22. hannibal said

    Wrong. We think, therefore we are thinkers. If we think God is good, virtues and morals are good; does that mean we are evil? Not hardly.

  23. K.Knight said

    The problem that all of the human family encounter when it comes to justice is that like art, it is subjective to the eye of the beholder. Justice should be objective but it is not. A member of the KKK or The Black Panthers have a difference of opinion when it comes to the “value” of the color of ones skin yet people who do not share their “Values” will have a different opinion and there lies the problem. A Muslim society like a Christian one have different sects and share a different “value” system on certain tenets. Unfortunately equality only exists in a group or society that share the same value. I find it interesting that The Bible tells the story of an elite group of people called Zion, that God called a prophet by the name of Enoch to call the people to repentance and to teach them that they must be obedient to God’s law that was given to him and to be of one heart and one mind. The story goes on to state that the people that followed Enoch and took heed to his council prospered to the point that they were lifted up to heaven. “One heart and one mind.” that was the key, America, the world, all the human family must be of one heart and of one mind in order for justice to be to truly be just in the eye of the beholder.. Until that day comes, we will have a difference of opinion for better or worse. we can only act upon what we believe to be just.

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