Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Breaking bad

I'm eagerly anticipating and simultaneously dreading the final episode of Breaking Bad next week.

I've also been thinking about what makes good people go bad. Or if we're really all evil anyway and it is when we choose moral choices that we are truly exercising free will. Philosophers and theologians since time immemorial have all been arguing about human nature, free will, and good and evil. I like best what Kant says about free will—that we are only really free when we choose to do good. That makes the most sense to me. Human nature is inherently evil so when evil things happen, we shouldn't be surprised. People think that free will is the power to choose between good and evil, but I think free will is the power to rise above our evil nature and do good. There's a difference. The former says we have a choice between two states, the latter says we already are actually in one state (evil) but that we strive to get out of it (be good).

That philosophy also makes the most sense to me as a Christian. In Romans 3:23, it says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." In Romans 3:10, it says, "There is none righteous, not even one." Basically, we are all doomed to sin from the moment we are born. That's why I don't understand parents who are shocked when their toddlers lie. "Who taught you that?!" Little kids don't need to be taught to do wrong. It is in our nature to be evil. So when we choose to do good, when we choose God, when we give our lives to the Lordship of Jesus, then we are saved from ourselves and become truly free!

But in Breaking Bad, it's about we're all good, safe, normal, middle-class people. And the question is how do good people become bad?

In Walter White's case, it was when he, a high school teacher, was diagnosed with lung cancer and he needed to make money for his treatment and to provide for his family. I confess: I thought there was nothing wrong with that. He's dying! His wife is pregnant! His son is disabled! He's just going to make crystal meth, y'all! It's not like he was going to steal, rape and kill. Right? Right? There's my evil nature for ya.

Of course, evil begets evil. Walt gets deeper and deeper into the drug business. Hordes of people die in his wake. And yet we still root for him because he insists that he's doing all of this for family.

It's all about family, every man in Breaking Bad says. When Walt falters in the meth business because his wife left him, Gus Fring says it is a man's job to provide for his family even if his family hates him for his job. The show is steeped in devotion to family—Tuco takes care of his wheelchair-bound, bell-ringing Uncle Hector, Todd respects his Uncle Jack, Walt begs for his brother-in-law Hank's life. As long as you're doing it for the greater good (your family!), then evil is okay.

Which brings me back to our own country. What about the Napoles family? What started it? I'm sure it started as a little deal. The same way our senators and congressmen maybe just started with a million or so. With us, it could be just bringing home office supplies because our kids need them for a school project, or lying about being stuck in traffic when you actually haven't left the house, or stealing a photo for a contest because you needed the prize money for your family.

When we give in to our human nature, even just a little bit, it's a slippery slope to hell.

Next week's final episode of Breaking Bad, we'll witness the complete hell that Mr. White plunges into. Or maybe his redemption, maybe even salvation. I know Walt needs to pay for his sins, but at the same time, I'm hoping he redeems himself. Because it's never too late to do what is right and be free from evil.

*all images from the Facebook page of Breaking Bad.

1 comment:

  1. Yours is the best piece on Breaking Bad I've read. I've never seen it, not even one episode. Now I really want to.
    I used to think we're all inherently good, but somehow while reading your post, I was thinking - we're all good, but the true exercise of free will is in doing bad things. It's the people who do bad who teach us about free will. They know it's not good, and family, friends and society will condone the act, but they do it anyway. Hmm.


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