Shingeki no Kyojin, Chapter 51: The End is Worth the Means…Right?
The newest chapter of Attack on Titan leaves off where the last one ended, with the aftermath of the great battle that occurred. Mikasa is taken away with broken ribs and Erwin, with one less appendage, is attended to. And while physical clean-up is occurring, humanity’s military leaders are also cleaning up behind the scenes, figuring out what all the discoveries point to.
The most important of these revelations is uncovered through poor Connie. His experience in his hometown, combined with other evidence, suggests that the titans (perhaps all titans) were once human. While the manga readers have supposed this from early on in the series, this disclosure is apparently new to Levi, Erwin, and Hanji.
All three react with pain and discomfort. The moody Levi, in a rare state, vocalizes the inference that he’s become a master murderer. Erwin seems half-crazed, and more out of character than any of the rest. And Hanji…well, Hanji’s reaction might be most interesting of all.
While she seems hurt by this reveal, Hanji doesn’t react as strongly as the rest. The manga moves to the scene in Connie’s town, where Hanji, in apparently a kind gesture, order stakes taken out of the titan that was once Connie’s mom. And perhaps she’s calmest about all of this because Hanji has known what the titans were all along. At least that’s what I assume (to all those more fantaci readers of the manga, please chime in below).
The manga impresses Hanji upon as a genius. As such, she must have come to this conclusion long ago, and if not, she must have strongly suspected it all along. And yet, she continues to experiment with any titans she can get her hands on and she participates in their killings. She has decided that the titans are no longer at all the humans they once were, or that the salvation of humankind is worth exterminating these former/quasi-humans, or some sort of combination of these. Hanji has made her choice – her methods, and those of the rest of the squad, are worth the means.
Erwin, too, as the commander, must have suspected this. It must pain him to realize he’s sent so many men and women to death to attack and kill those that were once men and women as well. We already know that he long ago considered the cost of leading his troops to slaughter (sometimes assuredly), and he, as with Hanji, decided the end was worth the means.
Both Hanji and Erwin (I’ll remove Levi from this conversation as one who doesn’t seem to have considered the possibility of titans as formerly humans) may be correct. It certainly seems that extreme methods are necessary (if their methods can even be called “extreme”) to save humankind. But the question of whether it’s okay to achieve the end we desire through less than desirable means isn’t only a question for this manga, or even a philosophical exercise – it’d directly applicable for us.
When we pursue a goal, whether at work or in school or some other setting (sometimes as leaders), we have to decide whether what we’ll accomplish is worth the means we’ll expend toward it. For some, this becomes a very serious question, especially those working in situations where a lot of money and a lot of resources are on the line. Should we sacrifice our values to meet a significant goal, even if that end is something undeniably worthy?
Scripture is clear about what God feels about this. Above all, He wants our heart. He doesn’t care about the sacrifice, or if you will, the end-product. What he desires of us is our devotion and attention, and to do what is just, right, and merciful, even when temptation to do otherwise is strong.
The process matters, for it shows the heart. And if your heart’s not right, you could just become the enemy you never wished to be.