I saw The Dark Knight Rises eight times this year. It might have actually been six times, or nine times I can't quite remember -- for all intents and purposes I say eight. My friends thought this was peculiar, naturally. Why would a 30-year-old man spend 30 hours in front of a movie screen over the course of a month watching the same movie over and over?
I realized what the answer to this question is while reflecting on the horrific tragedy in Connecticut: we live in a world much like the world that Christopher Nolan built. Only without Batman. And that is a terrifying thought. Fortunately, that last part isn't quite true. There are Bruce Waynes all around us. Tragedies naturally remind us that the Ra's al Ghuls of the world are very real. But they also reveal the capacity for unimaginable heroism that lies within us all. The lesson of Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy is that we need symbols to remind us of our capacity for goodness. And anyone can be that symbol. While we don't have a silent guardian watching over us, we do have heroes like Victoria Soto. While nothing can right this horrible wrong that has been done to our collective humanity, we should be comforted by the fact that a 27-year-old teacher was willing to lay down her life to save the lives of her students.
Evil exists. Some have scientific explanations, such as mental illness, others have religious explanations. Either way, one cannot ignore the fact that there is evil in this world. The most frightening form of evil comes in the form of misguided belief. That is what makes Ra's al Ghul so much more frightening than the Joker. The Joker comes from nowhere. His origins are a mystery. Ra's al Ghul, on the other hand, was a mercenary who lost the woman he loved because of the norms of an unjust society. His mission became to stamp out evil, even if it meant razing entire cities to the ground. We can sometimes thwart the Jokers of the world, but we cannot cure them. They are beyond our reach. But we can cure some of the Ra's al Ghuls, if we strive to stamp out injustice. Injustice is a virus. We cannot cure it entirely, but we can immunize ourselves against it.
The tragedy in Connecticut was horrific. But let's take a moment to reflect. Peaceful human civilization is improbable, miraculous, and wonderful. The fact that a society has emerged in which most people can safely walk down the streets is utterly astonishing. Western Civilization has overcome plagues, famine, and war. We are a resilient tribe. While we should mourn the dead, we should also be thankful to occupy the safest, most prosperous civilization in human history. This is no accident. It is because we live in a society in which the Victoria Sotos vastly outnumber the Ra's al Ghuls. But we should not be complacent.
There is plenty of room for debate over the role of mental health measures and firearms policies in preventing further tragedies. I'm not sure anyone has an exact answer. Frankly, I'm not sure there is one. But there are things each and every one of us can do to minimize the injustices that plague the world. Even just being an ordinary, decent member of your community helps. Children need role models. And the simple act of being an honourable person reinforces the trust upon which civilization depends. Sometimes, fate demands more of us than that. This is something we all should reflect deeply upon.
As Edmund Burke wrote: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." That isn't to say that each and every one of us ought to spend our entire lives rooting out injustice. But we should all be willing to do our part to make our communities better places. I'll leave you with a quote from the movie that sums up my feelings: "A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders, to let him know the world hadn't ended."