Movie-Dharma: Is "The Brave One" a Stranger?
Another "Enlightenment thru Entertainment" Dharma-Inspired Movie Review :Is "The Brave One" a Stranger?"The Brave One" is a film study of the true meaning of bravery. Who is really "the brave one"? Is one brave when one gives in to bullies, with the hope of being able to walk away safely? Is one brave when one retaliates on the spot? Is one brave when one forgives the "unforgivable"? Is one brave when one lets the law handle a pending case? Is one brave when one becomes an outlaw, who takes the law into one's own hands - by wrecking vengeance when the law seems ineffective in apprehending the guilty? Is one brave when one turns in a loved one in the wrong to the law? Is one brave when one surrenders for what was right in one's eyes, but deemed wrong by the law?
So it seems, on a case by case basis, it takes courage to walk away when one should, just as it takes courage to walk into a situation to resolve it when one should. It is better to walk away to skilfully resolve the situation another time if present conditions are not favourable, while it is better to do what you can when the conditions are already favourable. The lack of forgiveness weighs one down. To bear a grudge is to punish oneself. However, to forgive does not implies to condone wrongs done or to leave them unaddressed - for the wrong-doers require your compassion to help them realise the error of their ways, and to prevent them from doing wrong to more.
What if the law is ineffectual? No need to become an outlaw - for the "Middle Path" between letting the law settle it all and going above the law is to assist the law best you can with your extra efforts. But when the law truly fails, why you should fail too? A subversive idea to some perhaps, but as Stonepeace put it, "How can one keep the letter of the precepts if one misses the spirit of the precepts? One might have the break the letter of the law to uphold the spirit of the law (of the precepts)."
Is ending violence by using violence ever justified? Only if the violence to be ended is truly too violent to be not resolved by violence. In killing, what is the thin line that separates the wholesome from the unwholesome? It depends on whether when one "shoots to save" oneself and/or others, or whether one "shoots to kill" oneself and/or others - for a good reason of course. It depends on whether the mind is motivated by ill intentions fuelled by attachment, aversion and delusion. Even if a shooting is deemed legally alright for self-defence, it is never totally karmically alright if one's mind was heavily defiled. And why shoot to kill for defence when you might need to only shoot to injure?
On the belief that karma will deliver "moral justice" naturally... yes, it will eventually do so - with or without you. But sometimes, justice can be delivered through you too. Have confidence in "karmic justice" then, but have the right sense of active justice too - for delivering justice with compassion and wisdom in one's power is the way of the Bodhisattva. It requires wisdom to discern what is right or wrong in a situation. And because the Bodhisattva path requires the righting of wrongs with compassion, even necessary wrathful manifestations are out of good will to cease evil actions, to protect the goodness in all.
The key problem with hateful vengeance is that one eventually realises that revenge does not really bring happiness - just as war and capital punishment does not really lessen the grief of the bereaved. In fact, it only perpetuates grief - by passing on its burden to more families. The "pleasure" of exacting vengeance by killing is short-lived, as compared to a possible lifetime of guilt and regret. In a way, there are two kinds of survivor guilt - when someone you loved died on you, and when someone you detest died because you could not forgive.
When a vigilante's emotions while standing up for "justice" are no different from that of criminals, with the same intensity of hatred, the vigilante has become a mirror image of the criminal. This is probably one of the reasons why the law will always see outlaws as breaking the law - even when they deliver "justice" - as long as it is "dark justice" - justice meted in the darkness of getting personal. As long as there is no forgiveness of the guilty, whether they are punished or not, there will be no peace of mind for that matter. Another problem with vigilante action against criminals is that they might be self-righteous, erroneous in judgement - even if based on good intentions.
It is important not to take the wrongs done to us personally, especially when they are "random" crimes - be they petty or harsh. As Stonepeace said, "If those who offended you do not really know you personally, how can they hold anything really personal against you? If you do not really know those who offended you personally, how can you hold anything really personal against them?" There is a price to pay for taking things personally - you lose your personal peace of mind. As we see the main character (played by Jodie Foster) give in to the compulsion of killing to vent her anger, she says she has become a stranger, that there is no going back to her former self. Hatred estranges not just others, but the better side of us too. Why become a stranger to yourself? And why be a stranger to true bravery - that dares to go against the cowardice and hate within?
- Shen Shi'an