Monday, December 31, 2012

The Bourne Trilogy -- reviews coming in 2013

I mentioned in a previous posting that my brother-in-law has a Christmas movie tradition of watching Scrooged. Well, my family has a movie tradition also. We watch a trilogy each Christmas break. We’ve seen all the great ones over the years: The Godfather series; The Lord of the Rings (extended versions); Star Wars (both trilogies); the Man with No Name spaghetti westerns; and last year was Mission Impossible. This year we selected the Bourne trilogy (not including the new film with Jeremy Renner, which I may watch later, since Bourne does not technically appear in the film).

With this in mind, I am planning on posting three reviews in the first week of January about the Jason Bourne films starring Matt Damon. Since they are interconnected in a number of ways, each having a single predominant theme, the blogs will essentially piggy-back on one another, especially in the biblical interaction that I respond with. So, look for these coming soon to this website. (And my review/response to The Hobbit will appear in early January.)

Who knows, next year's trilogy might be the "Three Flavors Cornetto" trilogy, featuring perhaps my favorite film (and certainly most quoted in my home), Hot Fuzz (blue cornetto), along with Shaun of the Dead (red cornetto), and the upcoming green cornetto, The World's End, releasing in late 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Prometheus -- alien beginnings, atheistic musings

Director: Ridley Scott, 2012 (R)

Three decades ago, Ridley Scott directed Alien, featuring Sigourney Weaver as a cold-as-ice, kick-ass heroine who went one on one with a killer alien discovered on a distant planet. Over the years sequel upon sequel followed, with James Cameron’s Aliens being perhaps the best of the bunch. But none quite matched the innovation and sheer suspense of the original. But here Scott returns to his creation, to bring us a prequel of sorts. Sadly, it does not measure up to the original. Yet, it does raise a number of questions, some of which it even attempts to answer, but with deeply unsatisfying answers.

Like Alien, the star of the film is a female: Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) plays Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist, who with fellow scientist and lover Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), discover archeological writings on cave walls.  They deduce what they are: “Not a map. An invitation.” From whom, they are asked. “We call them Engineers. . . . They engineered us.” Apparently, these beings created us.

To follow up on this momentous discovery, Peter Weyland, a reclusive billionaire, funds an interplantery voyage about the spaceship Prometheus, to the planet that the cave-drawings point to, where seemingly these Engineers are from. He has his own agenda, though. And he reveals it early, to the band of travelers:
“There's a man sitting with you today. His name is David. And he is the closest thing to a son I will ever have. Unfortunately, he is not human. He will never grow old and he will never die. And yet he is unable to appreciate these remarkable gifts for that would require the one thing that David will never have. A soul. I have spent my entire lifetime contemplating the questions: Where do we come from? What is our purpose? What happens when we die?”
So, Ridley Scott through Peter Wayland, wants to give us an origins story, a cinematic cosmology. And we will come back to discuss his views a little later.

Like Alien, the crew includes a robot, David (Michael Fassbinder, Inglourious Basterds) in this case. There is also an ice-queen, though this time it is a suspicious superior, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), rather than the heroine. But Shaw is no Ripley, though she tries. And the villain is an alien, or rather two aliens.

There is so much similarity to Alien, but that is not surprising. The planet they land on is the planet from the earlier movie. As in Alien, Scott takes his time getting to the alien, choosing to build the tension slowly. Where Alien had the memorable birth scene in the ship, this has a novel cesarean-section alien abortion, which is not for the faint-of-heart. But, whereas in the former film he was merely creating a film, here he seems to have an atheistic agenda, even if his heroine has a faith of sorts, as evidenced by her ornamental cross.

On the planet, in the dark caverns an oozing primordial sludge moves with reptilian parasites. Scott may be alluding to the Darwinian sludge from which most evolutionists purport that humankind came from. Moreover, when the Engineers are found, we come to realize they are not the original creators. Like the metaphysical cosmological argument, we must look beyond for the Prime Mover. If these Engineers really made us, but are likewise creatures, we are left asking who created them. The chain continues ad infinitum into eternity past. There was a beginning for the Engineers, and they were not the idyllic gracious loving creators they were thought to be. Scott’s anti-religious framework emerges.

In contrast, the Bible gives us an account of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).  This is a fundamental tenet of theism in general and Christianity in particular. More than this though, Christianity posits that Christ was pre-existent, the actual Prime Mover: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (Jn. 1:1-3). In these two biblical books, Genesis from the Old Testament and John from the New, we find a cosmology worth believing in.

If Scot has rejected biblical creation in answering Weyland’s first question, he reiterates this in answering his second question, namely, what is our purpose? In an interchange with the robot David, Charlie begins, “What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers. To get answers. Why they even made us in the first place.” David asks, “Why do you think your people made me?” Charlie answers, “We made you because we could.” David replies, “Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?” And Charlie understands, “I guess it’s good you can’t be disappointed.” For Scott, there is no purpose to mankind’s creation. If we consider creation, we can only be disappointed as there is no purpose, only random chance.

What is our purpose? The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks this as its first question (What is the chief end of man?). It gives us this answer: “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” This is a win-win: we glorify our maker and in doing so we enjoy him forever. This purpose is discovered in the New Testament, especially in the writings of the apostles.  Paul tells us, “with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6). Likewise, Peter commands us, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12). Clearly, we have a purpose, if we choose to accept it.

Choice and faith also crop up in Prometheus in the form of Shaw and her cross. At various points she has, loses and then regains the cross, symbolizing a faith of sorts. Indeed, when asked about religion she replies, “It is what I choose to believe,” indicating a choice that perhaps might be personal but also might be wrong.

Faith and belief are different. Faith comes from God and is rooted in Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Indeed, Paul tells us that there is a “measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3). If faith is given to us, belief is then choosing to act on that. Faith is the cause, belief is the effect.

The third and final question that Weyland asks (“What happens when we die?”) is never answered in Prometheus. Apparently, Ridley Scott has no answer to one of mankind’s fundamental questions. But Christianity certainly does. And the answer returns to choice and faith.

Jesus gives us the answer in a parable he told in his Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25). He contrasted the sheep and the goats, those who followed the Shepherd (Christ) and those who didn’t. The latter will be told, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41). Jesus concluded, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Thus, the two ultimate destinations are heaven and hell. Entry to heaven is determined by choice to believe and follow Jesus. Entry to hell is determined by choice to disbelieve and ignore Jesus.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a titan, a trickster who created man from clay and brought fire from the gods to man. The film Prometheus is likewise a trickster, that tries to lay out Scott’s non-Christian agenda. Discerning viewers must be on their guard against this parasitic alien invasion!

Copyright ©2012, Martin Baggs

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Scrooged -- ghosts of Christ and Christmas

Director: Richard Donner, 1988 (PG-13)

One of my brothers-in-law has a Christmas tradition: he watches Scrooged on Christmas Eve after the family gathering at the patriarch’s home. I don’t have this particular tradition, but wanted to watch this old film to put perspective into Christmas this year. Let it be said, I have not read the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol,” upon which this 20th century adaptation is based. But like everyone, I recognize Ebenezer Scrooge as one of the modern villains of Christmas, much like the Grinch.

In Scrooged, TV executive Frank Cross (Bill Murray, Fantastic Mr. Fox) is putting on a live TV version of the Dickens classic on Christmas Eve. But Cross is a personification of Scrooge himself, firing a coworker hours before Christmas because he disagrees with him, ripping down a kid’s drawing because it showed Mrs Claus with 11 fingers, despite the fact that it is the child of his secretary. Part of this is due to his upbringing. When we see his past, his dad Earl (Brian Doyle-Murray, one of three of Bill Murray’s brothers in this movie) tells him as a four-year-old: “All day long, I listen to people give me excuses why they can’t work . . . ‘My back hurts,’ ‘ my legs ache,’ ‘I’m only four!’ The sooner he learns life isn’t handed to him on a silver platter, the better!” And he learned, and passed on this humbug lesson to those around him.

Like in the book, Frank is visited by a ghost who tells him he is going to be visited by three more spirits: the ghosts of Christmas past (David Johansen), of Christmas present (Carol Kane) and of Christmas future. After the first of these, Frank calls an old flame, Claire (Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark), one he has not thought about or spoken to in a decade. She is chalk to his cheese. While he is controlling the world, she is saving it, working in a downtown rescue mission. His past comes out in his present advice to her: “Scrape ‘em off. You wanna save somebody? Save yourself!” What an attitude, on Christmas Eve even. He has no Christmas spirit.

No literary classic, this is still a funny film. Murray is perfect as the self-absorbed president who cares more for revenues than relationships. Allen is girl-next-door pretty, a good foil for Murray. Johansen is over the top as the first ghost, but Carol Kane steals the show as ghost of Christmas present, putting Frank in his place through careful use of fists and toasters.

Watching this film, I pondered the three ghosts and reflected what it would mean if they were of Christ not Christmas.

The ghost of Christ past points us back initially to his pre-existence. He was with God before the world was created (John 1:1-2). But after humanity fell (Gen. 3), God’s rescue mission kicked in, and Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem (Lk. 2:4-7). Giving up his position in the godhead, he humbled himself and took on humanity’s flesh (Phil. 2:4-8). Born, he grew until he could fulfill his mission to die on a cross in our place. Then echoing Frank’s words the crowds (Matt. 27:40), the soldiers (Lk. 23:36) and even another crucified criminal (Lk. 23:39) told him, “Save yourself”. But to do so would negate his purpose to save the world (Jn. 3:16). Death, though, did not hold him, and he resurrected on that first Easter day.

The ghost of Christ present reminds us that he lives with us even now. To all who would follow him, he calls into his family (Jn. 1:12). To these he gives the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26), the third member of the Trinity. This is the mystery of our age: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). We may forget him more often than we desire, but he does not forget us. He remains in us, an ever-present help (Psa. 46:1).

And then there is the ghost of Christ future. Unlike for Frank, where this ghost appears as the grim reaper carrying lost souls in torment, Christ will appear as the King of kings (Rev. 19:16), glorious in white. He will bring the armies of heaven with him (Rev. 19:14), and will defeat death and cast it into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).

At the end of Scrooged, after Frank’s interactions with his ghosts have transformed him, he declares to the cameras and hence to viewers all across the country: “It's Christmas Eve! It's... it's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we... we... we smile a little easier, we... w-w-we... we... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!” Why does it have to be like this for only two hours once a year? Can’t we act nicer through the whole year? If we follow Christ, we can. He can make us to be the people he always planned for us to be, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). He will make us Christ-like (Rom. 8:29). Let’s let him do that this Christmas.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Copyright ©2012, Martin Baggs

Monday, December 24, 2012

Book Review: The 5 Money Personalities -- tools for fighting fair and dreaming again

Authors: Scott and Bethany Palmer, 2013. (Thomas Nelson)

"It all starts with the vows: for richer or for poorer. . . . Every marriage starts with big hopes and dreams. . . . And then life happens." (p.3) The authors Scott and Bethany Palmer, experienced financial planners known as the Money Couple, begin their new book with these words that ring true. For those of us who have been married for some time, we can understand this. The authors go on, "And over time through no fault of your own those dreams you had for your life together get put on the back burner and, one by one, they start to dry up and disappear." (p.4) Then they follow up this opening section with this intriguing claim: "If you've lost track of the dreams you used to have, we believe you can get them back. We believe you can reclaim the life you envisioned, one dream at a time." (p.6) When I read this excerpt I decided I wanted to check out their claims.

This is no Dave Ramsey tome, though. The Palmers are patently clear about this in their introduction:
"Before you jump in, we want to be clear about something: this book is not a guide to managing your money. You won't find tricks for creating a balanced budget or tips on saving money. . . . This book is about you and your marriage, It's about the way your money and your relationship combine to create a Money Relationship. That's right -- you and your spouse have a Money Relationship, just like you have an emotional relationship, a spiritual relationship, and a physical relationship." (p. xiv)
So, if you are looking to make or manage money, stay clear. This book won't help you. But if you want to understand this Money Relationship and reclaim your dreams, this book might hit the target.
The heart of the book focuses on the 5 Money Personalities: the Saver, the Spender, the Security-Seeker, the Risk-Taker and the Flyer. According to the Palmers, we all possess a primary money personality and a secondary one. These contribute to our unique money DNA and determine how we see the world.

Further, they posit that every decision in our marriage relationship is impacted by money, whether it relates to spending or saving, affording or dreaming. Whether we like it or not, money is there, an ever-present undercurrent impacting how we get along. Buy money, like religion and politics, is something we rarely discuss with others, even spouses. By discovering our own two money personalities and then those of our spouse, we can then see how they interact and lead us into financial arguments. With this knowledge and self-understanding we can begin to build a plan, not a budget, for how we approach money and spending. In so doing, the Palmers argue, we can recapture our dreams.

The book is short, at 180 pages, and is written in an approachable and easy-to-read manner. There is little of academic depth here, and that is one criticism. It could stand some references, or support for theses, like why are there 5 money personalities and not four or six (or even more). Yet perhaps this is nit-picking, since most readers will come to this for help, like visiting a counselor. Such people don't really want chapter and verse. They trust the expert and simply want tools to function better in their own lives and situations.

That said, the authors introduce us to several tools. The first is "the reveal," where we find our two money personalities and share with our spouse. They even offer a free yet simple quiz on-line to help with this. Even though I had correctly pegged my two money personalities, when I took the on-line quiz I was surprised to find they were reversed in terms of primary and secondary, and this helped me understand some of my financial worries. This tool is foundational to the rest.

So, too, is their concept of financial infidelity, where we keep some financial secrets, big or small, from our spouse. This forms the root of the financial arguing that often leads to divorce ("money has become the number one cause of divorce in the United States"), but can be nipped in the bud with the use of transparency and their other tools.

The final three tools are the Money Dump, the Money Huddle, and the E.N.D. The first is an exercise of looking at the pros and cons of your finances and then sharing one con with your spouse. The second is an intentional monthly connection point for 45 minutes, focused on your Money Relationship not your specific bills and budgets. And the third tool describes how to Huddle. The first 15 minutes is spent on Evaluation two simple numbers: "how much debt you have and how much you have in savings" (p.135). The second 15 minute focuses on Needs, those that relate uniquely to our own money personalities and impact our mutual Money Relationship. The tool allows us to be vulnerable and build trust. The final 15 minutes winds up with Dreams. Here is where we share our dreams and plan to make one or more happen.

These tools seem so obvious, almost common sense. They center on communication. But in our busy society, with differences between husband and wife, we may find it difficult to open up with our spouse, either through time or temperament. The beauty of these tools is that they encourage us to make the time and take the opportunity for such sharing. And for good measure, they give us the Stop (reacting out of anger), Drop (your financial assumptions), and Roll (up your sleeves and work it out) technique for fighting fair in financial arguments.

The book is intended to be read with your spouse over a period of 90 days. This is to force reflection and discussion, and to instill new habits in both. I must confess that I have not done this, since I was under a deadline to write this review. So I cannot comment on the efficacy of the tools, even though they appear practical. However, I am planning to go back and reread the book and work the exercises at the start of 2013 -- a New Year's resolution I intend to honor. And I am hoping to dream again!

Note: I received a free copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing but was not influenced to provide a positive review

Friday, December 21, 2012

Manhattan Murder Mystery -- life and death of marriage

Director: Woody Allen, 1993 (PG)

Woody Allen reprises her neurotic New Yorker role (“claustrophobia and a dead bod – this is a neurotic’s jackpot!") in this spoof of murder mysteries and film noir classics. Filled with rapid-paced one-liners, the comedy comes thick and fast. Teamed with Diane Keaton, his co-star from Annie Hall, this could almost be a sequel to that Oscar winner a decade on.

Allen plays Larry Lipton, a New York editor married to Carol (Keaton) who is thinking of getting into the restaurant business. Their marriage is on auto-pilot; their love-life a faded memory. But a late-night interaction with elderly neighbors Paul (Jerry Adler) and Lillian House (Lynn Cohen) in their apartment leads to drinks and discussion. The next day Lillian dies of a heart attack, but Paul seems too cheerful, too ready to move on. And Carol suspects foul play. She wants to investigate this “Manhattan murder mystery” despite Larry’s pleas to ignore this and let it go.

The initial structure clearly comes from Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but Allen focuses on comedy rather than suspense. He references Billy Wilder’s film noir classic, Double Indemnity mid-stream, and closes the movie with scenes from Orson Wells’ Lady from Shanghai. In between there are any number of subtle references to other Hitchcock classics as well as to his own earlier films.

As Larry retreats into his neurotic timidity, Carol reaches out to Ted (Alan Alda), Larry’s recently divorced best buddy who coincidentally has a thing going for Carol. He is happy to indulge her amateur detective dreaming as it puts them together for extended times. At the same time, Larry clearly flirts with Marcia Fox (Anjelica Huston), a writer who comes on to him. Eventually, all four team up to solve the mystery of Mrs. House’s death.

The plot sounds silly and with other directors it probably would be. But Allen, who co-wrote the script, brings his characteristic dialog to bear and this makes the movie. At one point, trying to stamp his authority on his marriage when Carol wants to go out snooping in the middle of the night, he says: “I’m your husband; I’m commanding you to sleep. Sleep! I command it. I command it. Sleep! I forbid you to go. I’m forbidding.” When she ignores him and goes, he gives up:  “Is this what you do when I forbid you?” Classic Woody!

As funny as this is, Manhattan Murder Mystery surprisingly offers a commentary on the life and death of marriage. Carol describes their marriage as an old shoe, worn and comfortable, but not quite worn out. She tells Larry, “You’ve gotten stodgy in your old age.” The sad thing, is he is not old; he just lives like he is. He epitomizes the old fuddy duddy, always afraid of something new, ready to settle back into the cocoon of tranquility he has crafted.

Ted and Larry contrast each other. Larry offers little to the marriage. He represents boredom. Ted offers intrigue and interest. As a man interested in a conquest, he represents the bedroom. With him, there would be activity and excitement. With Ted there is simply sleep!

Rolling Stone, in their review, said: “Larry and Carol have lost that ability to surprise each other. Their marriage is a truce.” That may be so, but it is headed for the same cemetery that Mrs. House was supposed to be buried in. It died long ago and is merely waiting for burial.

Marriage needs nurture. It cannot survive without spice. Comfort inevitably leads to stagnancy and boredom. A healthy marriage must evolve and grow as the spouses evolve and grown. It requires an emotional investment.

From the very beginning God created marriage as a “one-flesh” relationship (Gen. 2:24). This refers to the closeness and intimacy of the husband-wife relationship. It is special, and images the relationship between God and his followers (Eph. 5:32). A growing marriage is characterized by the ever-deepening sense of closeness and intimacy.

Moreover, this one-flesh concept points also to the idea of loving spouse like loving yourself. Paul tells us, “husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28). In a healthy psyche, we all love ourselves. And this means we want to make ourselves happy. In a healthy marriage, we should seek to make our partners happy. When we do so, we are growing the marriage and ultimately making ourselves happy, too.

Finally, a healthy marriage needs some spice and surprise, something out of the ordinary. When Larry eventually gets into the spirit of the mystery (after some pangs of jealousy), he begins to regain a sense of life and joy. And this in turn spurs desire on the part of Carol. She sees in Larry what brought them together. Now, Ted is no longer an attraction. He can be with his series of conquests, moving on when the attraction and the spice fades.

How is your marriage? Is it growing, blossoming like a flower to fill each room of your home with a sweet fragrance? Or is it in a truce, ready to die? If the latter, it’s time to find your own Manhattan murder mystery and rekindle the fires of romance. It’s never too late!

Copyright ©2012, Martin Baggs

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ethics of Surveillance: a comparison of two Gene Hackman thrillers

Two films I watched over Thanksgiving week revolved around the theme of surveillance. Since both films are related in the main actor, Gene Hackman, I thought it would be worth comparing and contrasting the two against the backdrop of the theme.

The Conversation, directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1974, is a subtle thriller, whereas Enemy of the State (EOTS), directed by Tony Scott in 1998, is a loud and non-subtle action film. Coppola is a master of the epic, such as his Godfather trilogy, but ratchets things back in his film to give a psychological character study of the effects of surveillance on the voyeuristic viewer himself. In contrast, Scott makes fast-paced, glossy action films with panache (e.g. Top Gun). Scott’s superficiality contrasts with Coppola’s depth.

The films are as much a product of their times as they are a product of their directors. The Conversation was set against the backdrop of the close of the Vietnam War (1975) and the Watergate conspiracy and scandal (1972). It was a time of gloom and doom in the United States and warranted quiet introspection. Not all was what we had been told. Misinformation seemed to be the name of the game. That comes out in Coppola’s film. In contrast, the late 1990s was a time of explosive technological development. Cell phones were beginning to become ubiquitous and their second generation technology would be replaced by third generation in 2001. The dot-com bubble was expanding rapidly (before popping in 2000). It was a time of hope and trust in technology even as it gained ground toward becoming omnipresent. Scott’s film bears that gloss and glitz, the sheen of technology. It’s loud and long, another feature of Hollywood films in this era.

Both films feature a quiet, private main character played by Hackman. In The Conversation it is Harry Caul, a pathologically private person who won’t even tell his girlfriend where he works. In EOTS it is Brill, an ex-spy who understands the uses and abuses of technical surveillance and lives off the grid to avoid such abuses. (Indeed, EOTS uses images of Brill from The Conversation as younger versions of Brill.) Both have workplaces in semi-abandoned warehouses, where they keep their own technical gadgets protected in locked cages.

The effects of the privacy on Caul were detailed in my blog of The Conversation. They were crucial, leading to his isolation and loneliness. I did not dwell on this aspect of EOTS, but Brill, too, has chosen to live alone, apart from any friends or loved ones due to his paranoia of the danger he would bring to others if he formed relationships. Such privacy severely and savagely damages the psyche. We see this in The Conversation in the concluding scene and Brill tells us about it in EOTS.

In The Conversation, Brill has to work with three audio recordings to discover what a young couple is saying. Using reel-to-reel tape, he manipulates each, adjusting the sound levels of each to get the real conversation. Scott uses an almost identical scene in EOTS. Three thugs with microphones try to capture a key conversation. Here, though, the technology has changed. Reel-to-reel tape has been supplanted by digital devices.

Despite this parallel, the main plot devices in the two films reflect the technology of the times. Coppola’s film is centered on the audio tapes capturing the conversation, while Scott’s film focuses on a digital videotape capturing a murder. One is auditory, leading itself to a misunderstanding due to contextual misapplication; the words are disconnected and lack overall meaning in and of themselves. The other is visual, leading to clarity and no misunderstanding if actually seen.

That brings us to two ethical questions regarding surveillance. The first relates to its foundation. The second relates to its responsibility to act. Is it ethically appropriate to undertake surveillance? To ask this another way, can we use modern technology to listen in or capture videos of other people? Clearly, if we are in public we cannot be prevented from using our gadgets and gear to record others. (How we use these recordings is a different issue – see the second question below.) Traffic cameras do this all the time. But if go one step further and plant devices, bugs or hidden cameras, in other people’s property or places we violate their privacy. That cannot be condoned without authorized permission, such as a court order for a federal wiretap.

If we have conducted surveillance, assuming it is ethical, do we have an ethical duty or obligation to take action based on this information? Do we have a responsibility? In The Conversation, Caul interpreted the conversation to indicate the young couple would soon be murdered, and he struggled to decide on what to do. Ultimately, he chose a course of no action. He did not take personal responsibility and murder occurred. Should he have done differently? Absolutely! But where he does take action is only in his dreams. In his real life, he falters and fails. If we invade others’ privacy, even in public, we bear a responsibility to take action if we believe a crime may occur. Such action might include taking the evidence to law enforcement. If law enforcement is involved, it might include taking it to the press, or even to those about to be injured.

What about unethical surveillance? Suppose we bug a building or plant a hidden camera and discover a crime or one soon to happen, then what? Well, this is an unlikely scenario, since if we are willing to commit such a crime, we would be unlikely to feel any qualms of social responsibility.  More likely, we would take action determined by our own personal agenda; in other words, what would help me! That was the case in EOTS, when certain players in the NSA turned rogue and tried to destroy the surveillance evidence gathered via legitimate means. Their illegitimate and unethical surveillance was used to try to destroy and further their own goals. But hopefully, this is a scenario not applicable to any of my readers.

Copyright ©2012, Martin Baggs