Table of contents

The Dark Knight

A note on chaos & law

We have noted the weakness of Batman’s attempt to save his city. We have assumed his purpose is reasonable, because it was decent of us. In the sequel, we can no longer afford that luxury. A much greater danger now confronts us. We cannot even avoid letting this man who wants to destroy the city speak for himself, for he says the unthinkable.

Upset the established order, & everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, & you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair! This is what the madman tells the prosecutor, who talked about his enthusiasm for justice. He reveals the contradiction between chaos & assigning or assuming responsibility, the basis of legal punishment & moral virtue. He drives the prosecutor insane by showing him chaos conquers cosmos.

Don’t talk like one of them, you’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me. They need you right now. But when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper. See, their morals, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these-these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.

We may unfortunately be doing the madman’s bidding: He says he wants to send a message. He means to educate: Life in the city is meaningless. He says he introduces a little anarchy: He aims to destroy political organization. He knows the city well enough to know its weaknesses. But is he proof that politics is impossible, or an illusion? He does prove that justice is abandoned when men are terrified by necessity.

If the city’s destruction aims to teach Batman that politics cannot save man from the terror of his mortality; that all his designs & contrivances hide, but cannot undo, his fate; then killing all & sundry aims to teach the individuals how they come from nothingness & return there. Agent of chaos suggests the madman has a way of life in accordance with insight into the power of chaos. He contrives, after all; when he says he does not, he is lying, mocking the prosecutor, who believes the lie, hoping to avoid considering the madman’s origin in the city.

The prosecutor would have to appeal to God to defend his claim to do justice in face of human weakness. That would judge the city’s way of life by standards less perishable than its own. Without God, Batman has the chance to learn something: Mankind’s recalcitrance to hear the truth. He must now learn to live by that insight.

Batman looking into the abyss