Badly broken

Reports from Groups 2 yesterday, in both CoPhi classes, managed to arrive at much the same conclusion (or fulfill the same premise): villainy can be attractive, sometimes even heroic. The world is not black or white, for Walter White or Batman’s nemeses or anyone. Those who would reduce virtue and propriety to a set of invariable rules, or align morality and ethics with law and convention, are trying to simplify something inherently complicated.

I agree, in principle. We must live pragmatically and flexibly, not rigidly rule-bound, and always ask ourselves if doing the right thing is the right thing to do. When we return from Spring Break we’ll take that issue up with Immanuel Kant, J.S. Mill, and of course Willy James.

But…

If I got a terminal diagnosis tomorrow, and if my particular area of academic expertise happened to be as illicitly lucrative as chemistry or a comic book superpower might be in the “real world,” I’m still pretty confident I’d not turn to a life of killing and crime. And if I did, I’d definitely not feel “authenticated” or self-reliant or honest.

Walter White may have been a bland and decent guy victimized more by circumstance and bad luck than by a bad character, catching bad breaks before choosing to break bad. But make no mistake, he made bad choices. He’s no Existential Hero, no Sisyphus, no Ubermensch, though I do now understand why his story made such compelling television theater.

 Anyone inclinced to glamorize or romanticize meth-making as a lifestyle alternative for free spirits and autonomous revaluators of value needs to read real-life stories like those recounted recently in the newspaper. These are choices that ruin lives and subvert freedom. Ask the woman from Grundy County  who had it all blow up in her face. Literally.

Sorry, btw, about that Spoiler at the beginning late yesterday. But as a critic wrote,

When you give your lead character a terminal illness, usher him into the underworld and embroil him in ever bolder and more ambitious criminal plans, you create a man who is rushing toward the ultimate change — from being alive to being dead. Walter White is surely the most doomed character on television…

Yes, he was. That’s not the kind of change anyone should want to rush. Or push for.

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