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.