Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

Government must have a conscience. When government loses its soul people become materials to be used. They can be "liquidated." People can be trained to kill without guilt thus becoming "assets." It is a tidy, antiseptic, orderly world. But if anyone develops a conscience, then it all falls apart. These themes play out very well in the final installment of the Bourne trilogy. Jason Bourne's quest to discover who he is rips the lid off of the darkest corners of the nation's psyche.

I admire the fact that the villains and heroes in the world of Bourne are complex. The villains are not megalomaniacs in leisure suits. No, they are people just like any of us. Most of them are civil servants who are simply doing their jobs. They believe in what they do without fanaticism, but many of them do not take the time to reflect on the implications of their work. Of course, some of the "villains" are the assassins, or more accurately assets. They are not complex. They are barely human. They are machine-men trained to perform task without question or reflection of any sort. They wait in secluded hotel rooms for their next assignment is transmitted to them via email from a "handler." The film portrays these assets as blank robots until one compelling scene toward the end of the film when Bourne, who was also an asset, chooses to make the other killer think rather than fight. It is a powerful exchange.

Likewise, the heroes of Bourne Ultimatum are people who are atoning for the sins of their own past. They are not angels. No, they are people just like any of us. They have simply reflected on the system in which they find themselves and dare to do what is right and moral even though it may be costly.

Since we all have the choice to act as hero or villain, we ought to reflect on our choices and then do all that we can to imbue government of the people, by the people, and for the people with a conscience and soul.

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