In the midst of all the fighting in episode 36 (and other than those terrible, off-speed horses, the actions was amazing), we’re inching closer to the central question: what are the titans? There are many pieces that once put together, will present that answer, and one has to do with Reiner and Bertholdt. We know that they are enemies, but are they willing enemies? Sometimes, it feels like it, but when Reiner starts talking like he’s a soldier even after kidnapping Eren, or when the shifter trio look with horror as Marco is eaten, we know there’s a reason they’re doing what they’re doing, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
It’s a strange place being a soldier. Your job is to do what is told to you, without question. The system has to work that way, because when orders are questioned, especially in hostile situations, people die. Of course, those order are often (frequently!) wrong in terms of battle strategy and lead to casualties anyway. And then there’s the question of morality – can I really do what I’m being asked to when I know it’s wrong?
I come from a long, proud history of veterans. My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all served in war, and I have many close relatives that also served in the armed forces. I can’t imagine going through what they had to, and even more so, those who participated in events where civilians were killed, or other morally reprehensible things occurred. Tragedy for the victims, repercussions for the perpetrators.
I won’t confront such difficulties in my life. Yet, there are times when I have to think about what I’m doing, when I have to take a stand and go against the flow. In genocide education terminology, in bullying prevention programs, we would call it being an upstander. I can’t just let things pass me by – someone being hurt, racially charged language being used, bullying in the workplace. I must make my stand, or risk being a hypocrite, risk being part of the culture that allows for such to occur.
If I let things pass by, too worried or nonchalant to jump in, I become a perpetrator, too. I become a monster. I become my own version of the enemy of humanity – my own Reiner and Bertholdt.
3 thoughts on “Attack on Titan, Episode 36: Theirs Not to Reason Why”
“It’s a strange place being a soldier. Your job is to do what is told to you, without question. The system has to work that way, because when orders are questioned, especially in hostile situations, people die. Of course, those order are often (frequently!) wrong in terms of battle strategy and lead to casualties anyway. And then there’s the question of morality – can I really do what I’m being asked to when I know it’s wrong?”
My thoughts are a little disorganized this time, less an argument. But this is a solid post, TWWK, and here’s the train of thought it led me down.
Wars are, to a pretty great extent, all about the ends justifying the means. Which can often be anathema to Christianity. Christianity prizes doing the objectively right thing, because Christians believe there is an objective right and wrong. That’s why there have always been Christian conscientious objectors to war, because a Christian soldier would be forced into a Catch-22. There have been just as many (if not more!) Christian soldiers, however. This makes a kind of sense: you’re already part of a war, just by doing what you did.
” I can’t just let things pass me by – someone being hurt, racially charged language being used, bullying in the workplace. I must make my stand, or risk being a hypocrite, risk being part of the culture that allows for such to occur.”
Yeah, but this is a qualitatively different situation than becoming your ancestors becoming skilled, ruthless killers because they *had* to kill, because those were the orders, because it was either them or their enemies. You can’t resist the pull of that situation, or you will die. There is little room for complacency of any kind whatsoever. You’re either guilty or dead. When you and I stand for what’s right, we’re doing so because we live in a peaceful society built upon the violence of soldiers. Because we don’t live in a world where it’s possible to get killed for speaking your mind. I don’t know if the Titan “soldiers” believe what they are doing is right, but it must be necessary.
On the note of “soldiers,” and Holy War, and doing what’s right…I’ve always felt like I was…lucky. Like something, or someone, was negating most of the major negative consequences of how I grew up. Insulating me from the crazy that surrounded me, somehow. Like I, too, was a person who could do as I wished, who could be complacent, because of someone else’s violence. I also felt like there was something… off about this. Like whatever it was I was missing, it was important. But hunches aren’t provable things. At least, not in this life.
Thanks for your comments – this is a complex topic, and one I’m not real good at untwining. When is murder not murder? When is violence justified? When is speaking up during war okay? When is it okay during peace? But of all these things, what I fear the most is that Christians, at least in the U.S., love to mix up their home-grown values with their faith, and place the American flag at the same level as their love for God. I see it all the time, and I’ve been there, and it’s disturbing for people who claim that Jesus is LORD.
And thanks for sharing that last paragraph. Sometimes my mind will wander to similar things, but more of how I would react in my father’s shoes, how I would live during a more violent time and/or in a country is more unrest. I’ve lived an insulated life, and I’m at once thankful and uncomfortable. “God, I want to be thrown into the fire…but just some embers, and not real flames. Thank you for keeping from the bonfire!” And that gives me much pause when I realize what could be, what might be.
[…] I love All-Might’s explanation of heroism: “…meddling when you don’t need to is the essence of being a hero.” Simple and demonstrative, it perfectly reflects what a hero does, and also what the less-than-heroic do. They don’t interfere; they don’t involve themselves in others’ affairs. They won’t help. Non-heroes are the people who are bystanders, while heroes are the upstanders. […]