Saturday, August 09, 2014

Is Any Man Truly Free?

Dostoevsky wrote about true freedom, the freedom to kill with impunity. Where Ivan's argument breaks down is in the commission of the murderer. When one is free and that freedom means killing without punishment or regret or fear, then there is no need for secrecy and no need to blame the murder on someone else.

Smerdyakov plans to murder his father and he tells Ivan what he will do. He fakes a seizure to set the stage for his own innocence after going to Gruschenka to deliver the message that the elder Karamazov will give her a gift if she comes to see him that night. Smerdyakov already knows that Dimitri attacked his father when he believed Gruschenka was visiting his father and promised to kill his father if he caught Gruschenka with him the next time.

The whole point is that if Smerdyakov were truly free to kill with impunity, he would not have stage managed such an elaborate frame for Dimitri to take the blame for killing their father. He would simply have killed the elder Karamazov and admitted the act to anyone and everyone because the law did not apply to him.

This same moral disconnect is present in Murder by Numbers when the two rich boys, Richard Haywood and Justin Pendleton, carefully choose their victim and set up their alibis for the time of the murder. The man who is truly free does not need to hide his deed because he fears no punishment. That man, or in this case those boys, would kill their victim in broad daylight in front of witnesses and walk away unscathed and unpunished. They killed with impunity.

Because neither Justin nor Richard was truly free, they must hide their crime and throw the police off the track.

I suppose Justin and Richard covered up their murder because the police would not see them as free men killing with impunity, but that moral hiccup proves that they are not free. They cannot kill with impunity because they are bound by the morals in which they were brought up and which they must follow or go to prison. They can claim from behind bars that they are free men, but they were never truly free nor could they ever be free, just as Smerdyakov and Ivan were bound by the morals and beliefs which inform their actions.

No man can truly be free to kill with impunity unless and until he kills without remorse in the clear light of day in front of witnesses and walks away without being punished. Saying a thing does not make it so. In other words, saying they are free to kill does not mean they are free to kill. It is this fact that nullifies the premise that killing with impunity makes a wo/man free.

When we seek to hide our actions we admit the immorality and crime of those same actions.

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